Forty shades of green


Despite a great awareness of the importance of recycling, Bridget Fitzsimons looks at how students seem to be turning a blind eye to the issue.

The world in which we live is completely occupied with the subject of the environment. With films like An Inconvenient Truth challenging us all and developments on the ever-growing hole in the ozone layer bombarding us, issues pertaining to the environment are as relevant as they have ever been, not to mention quite fashionable. Yet are these issues hitting home amongst students?


Recycling is often seen as quite a dull task, because after all, who wants to spend their time rummaging through rubbish, sorting plastic from paper? In reality, recycling is hugely important. In reusing that which we now consider rubbish, less waste ends up in unsightly and unhygienic landfills.

Most things – from paper, to glass to steel – can be recycled. Recycling has been recorded as early as in Ancient Greece, but really came to prominence during World War II, where massive efforts were made to recycle due to extreme shortages of materials, especially metals. In the United States, recycling metals was seen as a task of great patriotic importance and citizens were heavily advised to contribute to the great American cause.

Both at home and at university, we are advised to recycle everything, with particular emphasis on paper and plastic. Compost heaps and glass recycling are encouraged in the home. But does anyone really recycle at UCD? Paper recycling facilities are widespread on campus, with plastic and glass receptacles being less so. Recycling facilities exist on Merville and Belgrove residential communities, but have yet to be brought into Roebuck.

Students’ Union (SU), Environmental Officer, Kimberley Foy says that this semester is when she will bring recycling into focus in the university but the question must be asked why this was not done before. She explained that “what I tried to do was stay away from recycling because it’s like this whirlwind which just drags you in. I thought ‘let’s stay away this semester and deal with it next semester’.”

Recycling can seem boring to some, but Foy is determined to make a difference in UCD. She plans to carry out surveys to see what students really think of recycling, and what changes they’d like to see.

“Complacent attitudes will not be in any way helpful in making UCD a more environmentally friendly place”

Foy admits that there are problems with the recycling facilities on campus. The fact that there are no facilities for students in Roebuck means that many just don’t bother recycling. While Foy acknowledges that there are no plans for installation of services in Roebuck, she expresses that “first what we need to do is find out what the students want.”

Foy also believes that problems lie in the recycling company that the college use. The company mixes all the refuse it receives and sorts through it itself, eliminating the need for people to separate themselves. Foy believes that separation should still occur on campus, to get students into the habitual act of recycling and separating their paper from their plastic.

Foy believes that this will cause students to go home and “say to your mum and dad that you put compost in a compost bin and there’ll be less waste. I think it’s a worthwhile exercise.” She believes that habitual recycling is the key to getting students to carry this exercise with them wherever they go.

“If students want to change companies that is definitely something I will look into,” Foy comments.

While Foy believes that “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” she seems to be alone and is constantly told that it si “just not possible to change” the recycling company.

This seems to be the key with recycling on campus. Divisive and complacent attitudes will not be in any way helpful in making UCD a more environmentally friendly place. Education is key. There just doesn’t seem to be that much of an emphasis on green issues. Foy has promised a survey to find out what students want to do to help UCD become a better place for the planet, and advertise green issues better, but is this enough?

Staff and students need to become educated on issues relating to the environment, so a bigger programme to advertise and emphasise environmental issues seems like an obvious step to take.

Studying, printing academic material and note taking probably wastes so much paper on a daily basis in campus, that more paper recycling bins seems like a logical step. The fact that no recycling bins exist on the Roebuck residences is also a clear problem. No student will want to drag a big bag of bottles down to Merville after a night out, or a party, so easier access to recycling bins for Roebuck residences will help educate and encourage students to recycle. It seems that those living in Roebuck have absolutely no incentive to recycle at the moment.

While some people may see recycling as dull and overexposed, the fact remains that it is an important exercise. The only world we have is slowly succumbing to the wasteful and careless lives that we live, and unless we do something, future generations will be forced to pay for our mistakes.

University is the logical place to start, as habits established in college will be brought home and the recycling message will spread beyond the UCD campus. All that is really needed is direct action on the part of those in power, and UCD will become a cleaner, greener place to learn.