A recent survey conducted by MatieMedia on the recycling practices of 38 Stellenbosch University students, found that while many students are concerned about the impact of their waste on the environment, there remains room for improved eco-consciousness.
Only 16% of students reported that they avoid buying single-use plastic bottle products, such as bottled water, and only 19% of students confirmed that they recycled their plastics. The highest percentage of students, at 32%, reported that they buy plastic bottle products at least once or twice a month, and 70% of students emphasised convenience as their main reason for buying plastic bottle products.
Tom Lillyman, a co-founder of Sustainable Brothers and Sisters (SBS), which promotes environmental sustainability amongst students, argued that “the apathetic behaviour that many students hold towards recycling on campus […] is primarily a result of […] the disconnect we have to our waste”.
Lillyman encouraged students to ask questions about their waste, such as “where does it go? [Or] how is it treated?”
He also argued for greater transparency and collaboration at the University to make the drive towards sustainable living more successful.
“I believe collaboration among various interest groups is essential, [the] University and Municipality need to work together in order to achieve a shared set of goals pertaining to sustainability.”
MatieMedia’s survey also found that while no students reported having a complete disinterest in recycling, only 50% affirmed that they were definitely interested in recycling and its benefits.
Megan Hamilton, an Environmental Manager at SU, emphasised that raising environmental consciousness at the University was the responsibility of every individual on campus.
“We are all accountable and that includes everyone; the University as a large consumer and the individual student as a smaller consumer”.
She also encouraged students to take initiative to be eco-wise by implementing daily habits, such as reusing plastic bottles, buying reusable coffee cups, or using lunch tins for food.
Hamilton stressed the incorrect use of recycling bins as one of the biggest impediments to recycling on campus. The three-bin system on campus is designed to separate recyclable, non-recyclable and food waste to ensure that uncontaminated recyclables can be diverted away from landfills.
However, Hamilton reports that people are not throwing their waste into the correct bins.
“Often the recyclables that we could have diverted from [the] landfill have been dirtied or contaminated by the other non-recyclable waste. If you throw the non- recyclables into the recyclables waste it can contaminate the whole bag of recyclables”.
Lillyman added that one of the most damaging daily habits students can have is the use of single-use plastic products, such as bottled water.
“The consumption of single-use plastics such as plastic bottles and straws is having an incredibly harmful effect on natural systems […] I’d like to see a consciousness shift throughout campus whereby students become more aware of the inherent harm of single-use plastics to our environment”.
– Holly Charlton
If you would like to be involved in any up-and-coming environmental awareness projects by SBS, or would like some tips on how to live a more sustainable lifestyle, follow this link to SBS’s Facebook page: