Student group continues with sustainability


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A recent program supported by officials both on-campus and off encourages community members to increase sustainability efforts.

The University of Iowa Student Government kicked off its campus-wide recycling campaign Tuesday after months of planning — the next initiative under the UI 2020 sustainability goal.

Students could approach tables in the IMU and Main Library to learn recycling tips and send letters to their landlords asking them to make recycling opportunities available.

One Iowa City business owner said he is happy to see progress come from the UI.

“I believe our future is in the students’ learning new and improved ways to help the environment,” said Andy Ockenfels, the CEO of City Carton Recycling, who noted that the business is 100 percent supportive of UISG’s most recent sustainability campaign.

UISG sustainability liaison Jeffrey Ding, along with UISG City Council liaison Alec Bramel, organized the event. Ding said it was a way for the organization to gauge the demand for multifamily recycling programs citywide. 

Ding said he hopes various landlords will notice the demand and respond in a positive way, making recycling more convenient for their tenants.

“We’re just hoping to increase the recycling culture of Iowa City,” he said.

UI senior Ian Smith, who participated in the event, said he and his roommates attempt to recycle cans but are not always able to find the time to travel to a recycling center.

“It would be better for us to recycle rather than throw [everything] away, if there’s an option,” Smith said.

UI recycling coordinator Eric Holthaus said making recycling a convenience is necessary for improvement to occur.

Ding said reducing waste produced by students is an important part of the campaign because he sees current waste as “a loss of both environmental and economic value.”

According to the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center’s manual to help improve recycling practices, the value of recyclable material in the landfill is $1.5 million annually. Additionally, 120,000 tons of garbage is dumped, and 75 percent of this could be recycled or composted.

“I am slightly frustrated … in the fact that we haven’t pulled more waste out of the Iowa City Landfill,” Ockenfels said.

One of the biggest recyclable items, corrugated cardboard, he said, is found in 10 percent of the landfill. This number surpasses the statewide percentage, which sits at 7 percent, and exceeds the Cedar Rapids landfill, which barely reaches the 2 percent mark.

“We are taking the easy road and doing what is more convenient rather than what makes environmental sense,” Ockenfels said. “[We should] try to work on a solution that is beneficial to all.”

He said UISG’s campaign is a step in the right direction.

“There is a lot of education and discussion needed among all the stakeholders involved,” he said. “If it takes a student group to start a conversation, then we have to listen to the future leaders to work with the students.”

Smith said that as a chemical engineering student, he understands the need to improve the environment and thinks this campaign could inspire the necessary change.

“[This issue] definitely pertains to the school and community,” he said. “It is a group effort to protect the planet, so as many people as possible should be willing to protect it.”

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