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EcoReps help launch grant-funded plastic bag recycling campaign

March 3, 2016

The University of Rochester is one of four New York colleges and universities to receive a grant to fund innovative environmental projects as part of the College Council Grant Program, conducted by the New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR3).

With this grant of $2,747, the University will immediately begin implementation of a three-part plan to help reduce, reuse, and recycle plastic grocery bags. The plan was developed by five University EcoReps. As a group of 30 in total, EcoReps are freshmen guided by two upperclass student leaders in a yearlong course that combines environmental education with strategies for engagement. EcoReps in turn promote awareness among the fellow students in their residence halls about issues such as waste reduction and energy conservation.

“We realized that many plastic bags, although 100% recyclable, were being thrown away. We knew that something had to be done about it,” said EcoRep Sarah East.

“We want to do something about it and spread awareness,” said EcoRep Lucinda Hinojosa, “Education on how to be more sustainable in this aspect is a main goal of ours.”

The most immediate phase of the program will be evident at Hillside Market, the main convenience store on River Campus. Here, clean, lightly used plastic bags will be an option for shoppers to use. Upon checkout, customers will be asked if using these “eco bags,” instead of a new plastic bag, is acceptable. Later in the year, customers will be able to contribute their own gently used plastic bags to Hillside Market as part of the recycling program.

Secondly, the EcoReps will promote reusable grocery bags at major events on campus. Students can receive a bag upon signing a pledge to be sustainable whenever they buy groceries. As a 30-day trial, Hillside Market will also offer a 5 percent discount to anyone who brings their own reusable shopping bag.

Lastly, the University is collaborating with the national refuse company Waste Management to send plastic bags away in batches for recycling processing. Drop-off bins will soon be made available on River Campus for University community members to donate used plastic bags, which are recyclable, though not through standard on-campus or curbside recycling.

The College Council Grant Program is competitive, with applications reviewed by a committee comprised of NYSAR3 members. Projects funded had to involve initiating, improving or expanding source reduction, reuse, recycling, composting, or food waste management projects on campus. Projects also needed to create awareness and interest among students, faculty, and staff, and involve an education component.

NYSAR3 provides statewide leadership on waste reduction, reuse, and recycling issues and practices to improve New York’s environment, and serves as the primary education and training resource in the state on these issues.

In addition to this grant program, the College Council provides a forum for New York’s colleges and universities to exchange information on common challenges and best practices.

For more information on recycling at the University, visit: https://www.rochester.edu/sustainability/recycling/. For more information on EcoReps, visit: https://www.rochester.edu/sustainability/ecoreps/.

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Category: Student Life

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