Four colleges compete in plastic bag collection

Gillian Mazur, Staff writer

Whether giving students free reusable tumblers or providing a straightforward recycling system, one thing Mercyhurst University prides itself on is that it is generally known to be a green and sustainable campus.

This semester, Mercyhurst’s Sustainability Office, MSG and the Sustainability Club have partnered with Trex for a special sustainability project.

Trex is the maker of eco-friendly deck supplies and creates benches made out of plastic bags for college campuses.

If Mercyhurst can recycle at least 500 pounds of plastic bags, the university can win a free, eco-friendly bench made out of the bags from the students.

The person behind the exciting new project is Sarah Bennett, Ph.D., who oversees the sustainability efforts of the college.

“In many conversations I’ve had with students, they’ve asked if we could have a plastic bag recycling location on campus since these cannot go in the single-stream bins,” Bennett said. “I was able to find this program that Trex offers and thought it would be a fun way to introduce the campus to plastic bag recycling.”

Freshman Vocal Performance major Abigail Wise is looking forward to the project.
“Everyone on campus goes shopping at one point or another. I think the competition is great because every student ends up with a plethora of plastic bags in their room. This gives the students the opportunity to help the environment, and free up some space in their room,” Wise said.

Additionally, the university knows that students are not shy to competition. The Sustainability Office, MSG and the Sustainability Club have decided that a fun and friendly competition between the four different colleges is a good way to get more people involved.

The winning college will not only receive bragging rights, but also an engraved plaque with the college name.

When asked about predicting the winner, Bennett was unsure.
“Zurn has the environmental science major, but the Walker bin is located closer to many staff offices, and Hafenmaier and Ridge are really big colleges. I think it will depend on how well we can motivate each college.”

This program will allow students to recycle plastic items that cannot normally be recycled by the mainstream system. However, for Bennett this is ideally a short-term initiative.

“I’d like to note that recycling these bags is great because it keeps them out of landfills and the environment, but it would be even better if we could encourage everyone to reduce or eliminate their use of plastic bags by purchasing reusable grocery bags. That could be a good next step,” Bennett said.
Faculty, staff and students alike are encouraged to participate.

The Hafenmaier College will located on the main floor of Hirt. The Ridge College will use the location of the first floor of the CAE. Zurn College will use its lobby, and the Walker College will use a space in Old Main.

It is requested that all recycled items be dry and free of dirt, food and other debris.

The items that may be recycled in the special bins include grocery bags, stretch film, bread bags without crumbs, package wrap, dry cleaning bags, bubble wrap and Ziploc bags.

Donations will be accepted through the end of the semester in the spirit of sustainability.