UCD is the largest university in the country. The college overflows with more than 33,000 students and easily another extra thousand or more staff. We’re not a university so much as a large town. And as a town, shouldn’t we make it our priority to function in the best possible way? I’m making a very simple but significant proposal: UCD should introduce recycling bins to its campus.
Currently we have no recycling. That means that every Ballygowan water bottle, unwanted class notes, or can of Redbull goes straight into the general waste bins, either to end up as landfill or very likely floating in the ocean. Now, this might not seem apocalyptic when you think of it on the individual scale. But we’re not talking about individuals; we’re talking about over 33,000 people coming in and out of campus every single day. This has a real impact on our waste levels and environment.
So, for all the eye-rollers who can’t be bothered with the environment (it’s another generation‘s problem, right?), why should we make the effort to get recycling bins on campus? It’s not the 20th century anymore, recycling is environmentally sensible and sustainable. Aside from this, not having recycling reflects badly on UCD. Universities are historically progressive places; institutions that prosper with knowledge and lead the way in the realms of science, politics, philosophy and everything else under the sun. UCD is not exempt to that. In fact, it has a record of leading the way in social changes.
In 1979, the SU promoted the legalisation of non-prescription contraceptives by illegally selling condoms to students despite a potential court case. UCD has also been throwing its support behind many matters of politics and equality such as LGBTQ rights, Ireland’s homelessness crisis, and (more controversially) the Abortion Rights Campaign. If our college can represent us and be so progressive with these matters, what’s stopping us from leading the fight for environmentalism?
There are many, many changes that the college could make to seriously decrease its effect on the environment. Although there is already an encouragement on the college’s part for students to ‘go green’ and cycle into classes, we could be doing so much more. But we can’t do everything at once, so why not start with a simple change: recycling. It’s not a radical suggestion. It’s pretty obvious actually. But the difference it could make could be substantial.
According to Ireland’s Green Party, 110 million tonnes of plastic gets produced every year, with nearly half of it going to landfill. Worse still, the UN claims that 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans annually. By 2050, it is predicted that 99% of seabirds will have ingested some sort of plastic and, horrifically, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
I understand that these numbers can seem overwhelming at times, but this is where UCD’s size can have an advantage. If over 33,000 people recycled their rubbish everyday, instead of it going to landfill or oceans, that would be a fantastic contribution by the university.
But there’s more to it than that. If we show other colleges that we will once again lead the way in yet another movement, they will almost definitely follow suit. We shouldn’t underestimate the influence that our college has, and the reach of the messages we could send. We have the potential to lead the way in fighting climate change in Dublin. First step: recycling.