UCD Sutherland School of Law is set to receive recycling bins next week, in addition to a couple of composting bins. The infrastructure will be installed throughout the academic building with the hope that students will make proper use of the facility. This decision came after nearly a year of campaigning by a group of law students involved in bringing about the change.
Although the Agricultural building already has some waste separation facilities in place, the move in Sutherland is being treated as a field experiment to determine whether these should be expanded throughout campus.
The University Observer spoke to Katie O’Dea, UCDSU’s Environmental Officer, who shed some light on the parties involved in this move. She said that a group of law students had worked with UCD Estate Services and with the Green Campus committee. “It was a long process of filling out paperwork and stuff like that to convince them to invest, as it’s a significant amount of investment to bring the new bins into Sutherland”, she stated.
Besides finances, a major barrier to expansion of such services across UCD is the high rate of contamination in the bins. Students and other users of the disposal facilities do not seem to be significantly aware about the correct way to separate waste and may, moreover, be unmotivated to do so. Such incidents have also led to the failure of segregated waste initiatives in the Science building some time ago. A vast majority of people do not realise that most take-away coffee cups are not fit for recycling due to the presence of an inner lining of plastic for which there are no available recycling facilities in Ireland at the moment.
Though skeptical of contamination from waste by incorrect disposal behaviour by individuals, the Estate Services are keen to initiate and support campaigns to spread awareness amongst users regarding correct waste separation. Estate Services are also willing to multiply the number of waste segregation facilities on campus if the campaign is effective. The residences on campus are already provided with streamlined waste management systems. With adequate infrastructure in place and correct user behaviour, there is scope for improvement in waste segregation methods on campus.
Even as the establishment of new facilities in Sutherland is a relative success when it comes to student-led initiatives in UCD, it is a long road to make the University a green campus. UCDSU seems invested in bringing about more pro-environmental changes on campus, with Union President Barry Murphy envisioning a plastic-free campus by 2020. O’Dea noted that, “the SU didn’t have anything to do with the decision. It was these law students but now that it’s being implemented, we’re helping them promote it. We’ve just launched our Eco-UCD social media platforms and we are working in conjunction with these law students to spread awareness and gain a bit of momentum behind the move.”
Currently, SU shops have a discount scheme in place for those who bring their own cups and there is a focus on promoting carpooling to UCD. Such incentives are in no small measure a step in the direction of making UCD a greener campus. However, students, staff and visitors to the university must be un-paternalistically directed in a manner that will lead to success in future pro-environmental endeavours on campus.