Column: Don’t crap on my lawn

By Jenette Sturges

There’s a magnificent view from my third floor window. I can see straight out to Frat Park and watch guys play football shirtless. My roommate isn’t so lucky. She sees the parking lot across the street and gazes on mounds of garbage heaping out of the dumpster and onto the ground below.

Luckily, we are far enough away not to smell it, but walking out of our house inevitably leads us into battle against the flies that swarm the neighborhood. In response, the Champaign City Council passed a resolution in April that allows the city to issue 24-48 hour warnings for property owners to clean up messes overflowing from dumpsters. Failure to do so will result in the city clearing the trash at the owner’s expense, typically between $500 and $1000.

In some cases, it seems to be working. But the major months for moving on campus, May and August, are still particularly offending to the senses, despite the number of warnings property owners have received. Before, everyone had just assumed that the only reason the waste was never dealt with was because nobody really cared about it – property owners do not reside on campus properties and tenants are too busy packing and unpacking to notice the stuff they’ve left behind. But now, even with fines being dealt out constantly, the piles and the stench remain.

The problem is simple. There is just too much garbage and fines are never going to change that. However, a short trip to the other side of campus paints a much cleaner picture. That’s because Urbana possesses one public service that Champaign does not: U-Cycle and a large-scale curbside recycling program.

It is unrealistic to expect a large apartment building to contain their trash to a comparatively sized dumpster if that dumpster also includes plastics, paper and metals that can all be recycled – my house alone produces a dumpster filled with garbage once a week. But currently, Champaign only has a program for single to quad occupancy dwellings, leaving almost the entire Campustown area devoid of curbside pickup. While Champaign has a drop-off site for paper and plastic that is open at all times, it is simply too far for car-less students.

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    At the start of a huge energy crisis, it seems both backwards and irresponsible for an area as urban as Campustown, which acknowledges its waste disposal problems, to not have curbside recycling – especially when you consider that recycling only one aluminum can saves the same amount of energy required to run your television set for three hours. It is also difficult to understand why the city refuses to provide a recycling program while they currently are funding and implementing a rejuvenation project on Green Street and elsewhere in Campustown. Lack of adequate waste disposal infrastructure will only further exacerbate the existing problems.

    What may be of interest to poor college students, is that recycling can actually make you money. By saving aluminum Coke cans and glass Captain Morgan bottles and taking them to local recycling centers, you can actually save money towards more Coke and Captain. Mack’s Twin City Recycling, located on Lincoln Avenue in Urbana, pays forty-two cents a pound for aluminum cans. It might not seem like a lot, but after a few parties, one would at least make back enough money to buy another couple cases.

    While this information is only useful to students who have the means to take their garbage to the recycling center, it’s still a huge step in the right direction and will alleviate many garbage problems. Cleaning up the streets through personal recycling will inevitably restore some pride to Campustown, an area perceived as a burden by the rest of the city. But if the city of Champaign really wants to clean up their act along with their streets, they need to stop handing out fines and start giving out green bins.