Coca-Cola, student groups work to increase participation in recycling programs

By Melissa Silverberg

Recycling is becoming the focus of programs both on the University campus, as well as at large multinational corporations like Coca-Cola.

The Coca-Cola Company recently announced a long-term goal to recycle or reuse all of the plastic bottles or cans it puts out in the U.S. marketplace, said Kirsten Witt, spokeswoman for The Coca-Cola Company.

“Long term, our business depends on Coca-Cola operating sustainably,” Witt said. “That means being as efficient and as environmentally responsible as possible.”

Coke plans to invest in recycling infrastructures, such as building a plastic bottle recycling plant in South Carolina that the company hopes will be completed by the end of 2008, Witt said. This plant will be the world’s largest of its type and will have the capacity to recycle 100 million pounds of plastic, which is the equivalent of 2 billion 20 oz. Coke bottles.

“We are very excited about all of these plans. The biggest problem is increasing collection,” Witt said. “It is smart business and the right thing to do.”

The company also has plans to build 30 centers around the country to help collect and recycle Coke bottles and cans, especially at large sporting events.

University recycling falls under many different categories of responsibility. There are recycling programs in both the cities of Urbana and Champaign with different regulations and standards, according to city Web sites. There is also a recycling program handled by University Facilities and Services, recycling in University Housing and a recycling student group named CORE, which stands for Community Organized Recycling Effort.

“We have a very intensive, complete waste management program,” said Tim Hoss, coordinator of Campus Waste Management. “It’s not just about paper, cardboard and cans; it’s more than that.”

While the recycling program is already in place, it is sometimes difficult to promote it to students and see that they are following through, Hoss said.

Students are also taking a hands-on role concerning recycling in the campus community, said Cassie Carroll, co-chair of the student group CORE.

“Our main goal is to promote single-family recycling in Champaign and Urbana,” Carroll said. “We try to educate the community, campus and Champaign with recycling resources around the community.”

The group tries to help people know where and how to recycle especially for people living in apartments on and off campus or in the city of Champaign, Carroll said. While University Housing has a recycling program with bins in its dining areas and around the residence halls, there is no such program for other student housing, such as apartments and some Greek communities.

“We are promoting a greener mindset on campus,” she said. “We want to make it easy for students to recycle.”

The group works on many different outreach projects and trying to get students aware and involved with recycling. On March 1, CORE will be participating in a campus cleanup along with Students for Environmental Concerns, Volunteer Illini Projects and other campus groups. The campus cleanup will start collecting aluminum cans around campus at noon following a day known well for drinking around the University, Carroll said.

Carroll added that CORE will be working on a larger project, “Greening Green Street,” which will launch in the fall of 2008 to help the main campus street live up to its name.

These projects, as well as those being implemented by Coca-Cola, are part of efforts to get people involved in the process of recycling. Many recycling promoters agree that while they can start a recycling program, the most difficult part is getting people to participate.

“The main problem is getting people to actually do it,” Carroll said. “We are trying to change a society’s mindset.”