By Jonathan Soder, Features Editor
When freshmen returned to campus for J-term in January 2018, they were met by over 100 new companions. Those companions were all approximately 4 feet 5 inches tall, clothed in black, blue and red and shaped like soda bottles.
The bottles riddled the campus like seeds on the face of a strawberry, and wherever students turned, there was sure to be another bottle greeting them.
Still found around campus, these bottles are self-proclaiming “Pepsico Recycling” stations which represent an effort of Facility Services to increase “environmental stewardship” on campus by minimizing garbage output. However, despite their eyecatching form, trash is still thrown in the recycling bins.
“Recycle companies can only tolerate a small percentage of contamination in the recycle stream before they reject the whole load and it ends up in a landfill despite all our efforts,” Facility Services Manager Robert Marquardt said.
The Pepsi bins are a second attempt on the part of Facility Services to encourage students, faculty and staff to recycle.
Former recycling bins were black and had two holes at the top to separate metals from papers. Placed adjacent to the trashcans just as the Pepsi bins are now, these bins attracted even more non-recyclable garbage because of their non-descript design.
In the lower GC alone, there are currently three recycling bottles. Two sit up against columns next to the garbage cans, and one resides by the water fountain. Others are spread across campus.
“There are about 100 Pepsi Recycle containers across campus,” Marquardt said. “They are strategically located to be highly visible and in locations that are convenient for students, faculty and staff to use. We have extra cans and would welcome any suggestions from our customers as to where they might be best utilized.”
Strategic placement is only part of the recycling effort though. The rest is left to those utilizing the bins.
“Be aware of your affect as individuals,” facility services supervisor Dave Gilmore said. “Don’t put your trash in recycle containers. Make suggestions when you see recycling opportunities being missed.”
Facility Services employees drew inspiration for this approach to recycling from other schools they heard from at several Oklahoma Association of College and University Physical Plant Administrators (OACUP-PA) meetings.
“Their students had embraced recycling as a way to eliminate landfill issues,” Gilmore said. OBU’s primary reasoning for seeking out recycling techniques is for “creation care.”
“We believe that Christians have responsibility to care for God’s creation and that OBU should have goals in that area,” Marquardt said.
The new initiatives began last year under former director of Facilities Management George Haines and includes involvement by Aramark and student workers.
“Right now, we have Aramark collecting the recycling from offices, classrooms and our other facilities. Our utility crew workers bring the plastic and paper to a single stream dumpster at F[acility] S[ervices] and the cardboard to our recycling house on Bonita Ave,” Marquardt said.
Gilmore reported an increase in recycling since the implementation of the Pepsi bottles.
This is in large part due to their visibility but also due to the increased emphasis on recycling overall. Prior to the current system, there was little regard for recycling on campus.
In the long run, OBU aims to become a Zero Landfill campus, which means that no waste from campus would end up in a landfill. Instead waste would be recycled or taken to a waste-to-energy camp if it is un-recyclable garbage. This would be the prime benefit for the university Gilmore said.
“There is no monetary advantage to recycling,” Gilmore said. “The goal of creation care leads us to our contribution of limiting the effects plastic has on the environment [by] limiting what is put in landfills. Today, all of us are far more concerned about the effects on the environment than past generations.”
In fact, transitioning to a Zero Landfill campus will be a financial test for OBU, one which the university believes is worth the effort on everyone’s part.
“Keep in mind the word sustainability and what it actually means,” Marquardt said. “To be successful, the sustainability effort will require all of our community’s citizens to become educated, aware, and involved.”