By Neal Kirmer
When I was roughly 12 years old, my mother started a program in our community called Youth Pride. This organization was to be comprised of local youth who would participate in civic activities. We would clean up the ditches of a local highway, plant gardens and decorate for Christmas.
The one thing that this organization did that had a major impact on our community was to start a recycling program. One Saturday out of every month a semi-trailer containing large bins would be dropped off next to our local library. It was then our job to sort through all the various boxes and bags that local residents would bring and put the materials in the corresponding bins. We would even drive to local businesses and community members homes who were unable to bring the recyclables themselves. The organization no longer exists but that trailer still shows up every month and the community still brings their boxes and bags.
This sparked a lifelong love of recycling. There is just one problem with that … Lawton does not have a recycling center. For that matter neither does Cameron University. This has frustrated me to no end.
Usually you can expect a place of higher education to have, at the very least, bins for recycling plastic bottles. You know, the blue ones that are usually located next to the regular trash bins. Not at Cameron. These containers are nowhere to be seen and have not been seen on campus for some time.
And forget about a drop off point for larger items like cardboard or cans.
Isn’t it the popular opinion that college campuses are bastions of progressive ideas, populated by liberals that hold walk outs every other week to bring light to the plight of whatever endangered species looked cute on Instagram that morning? Yet a recent poll of Cameron University students revealed, that while 90% of those polled had a favorable view of recycling, only 80% would recycle if the opportunity was presented to them.
Cameron has had a recycling program in the past. According to Bob Hanefield, Director of Physical Facilities, the university started a program around 2011 and ended the program sometime around 2017.
“From the outset of the program the custodial staff were finding non-recyclable materials mixed in with the recyclable materials.” Hanefield said. “As time went on, it became apparent no group was “shepherding” the educational part of recycling.”
The University has also started the “Go Green Committee.” You may have received a survey via email recently that was dispersed by the committee. The committee will be looking into potential green initiatives that can be implemented around campus. Chris Drew, Director of Student Housing and Residence Life, is chairperson of the committee.
“Hopefully our survey will lead to some recommendations” Drew said. “It is going to take some work and effort, and potentially some funding [to implement green initiatives].”
The United Nations calls climate change “The defining issue of our time.” We have known for decades that recycling was something that we needed to do in order to help our planet. Recycling is the most basic thing that an individual can do to help combat climate change and yet you cannot find an easily accessible location to take you recyclables.
Why can Cameron University not bring in a trailer like my tiny town of 750 residents did in the 1990’s? How is it that one woman and a handful of preteens could start and manage a recycling program for years but a university full of educated adults can’t get together a few blue bins for plastic bottles?
For Cameron University to progress forward they need to adopt progressive ideas. When potential students come to visit campus, I imagine most would be more impressed with the University if they could show some sort of progressive and forward-thinking initiatives. Cameron could be an example of how we should treat our planet instead of going with the status quo.