A trash can at the Student Success Center overflows with reusable material. The university offers recycling and composting bins around campus and encourages students to educate themselves on how to properly dispose of their waste.  

With about 350 trash and recycling units on campus, many assume that students don’t have a problem throwing away their trash. However, some students believe that’s not the case.

“Littering continues to be a problem on campus,” Jason Rexrode, resource recovery supervisor for JMU’s Office of Recycling and Integrated Waste Management, said.

According to Rexrode, the majority of littering takes place in parking lots during weekends. Tailgating accounts for some of this litter, but it’s mainly due to higher foot traffic from athletic events and visitors.

“We feel the number [350] is adequate,” Rexrode said. “Whenever a request is made for more units we usually accommodate depending on location and other factors. Plus we try to place units based on foot traffic patterns.”

Most of JMU’s trash and recycling cans can be found around dining halls, food courts and other meeting places on campus.

While some feel that the number of trash cans is sufficient, others have a different perspective.

“I don’t think there are enough trash cans on campus,” Brooke Pearson, a sophomore accounting major, said. “You can walk for several minutes from Lakeside to the Quad — up the hill, not the stairs — and not pass a trash can. This is also the case walking from Festival to Duke Dog Alley; you only pass about one trash can.”

Pearson also said this is a problem because it only takes about 20 minutes to walk across campus and the limited number of trash cans can cause students to litter.

“I think putting in more trash cans would help this problem,” Pearson said. “If people walk for a few minutes without seeing a trash can, they will be more inclined to throw their trash on the ground. I’ve seen this happen before.”

In addition to trash cans, JMU also provides recycling and compost bins on campus.

According to Stephanie Hoshower, director of Dining Services, one of JMU’s fundamental goals is to become a leader among universities in maintaining future generations’ human and ecological health. Hoshower also said that Dining Services shares and supports this goal.

“We must follow a strict contamination standard, which means that if the percentage of contamination in a load of compostable material is too high — 5 percent or higher — we must send the entire load to the landfill,” she said.

According to Hoshower, the most common sources of contamination are chip bags, sushi containers and outside trash that doesn’t come in compostable packaging.

“One of the most common practices is for customers to put their empty chip bag in the compostable to-go container. Encouraging customers to sort these items is very important,” Hoshower said.

JMU’s switch from Coca-Cola to Pepsi products has helped eliminate the amount of non-compostable wax cups found in the food courts, but Hoshower still stresses that it’s important for students to sort their waste.

“It has been imperative to teach them [the diners, who are mostly students] why it is so important that they take the time to separate their waste in the retail locations of Festival, Top Dog and P.C. Dukes, and how to sort properly,” Hoshower said.

Hoshower also said that Dining Services depends on students to correctly sort their waste so that the JMU community can make a positive impact.

Some students, however, believe that raising awareness of JMU’s goal would help make a bigger impact.

“If more composting bins were added to campus, including outdoor locations, people would be more likely to bring their trash over rather than throw it on the ground,” Pearson said. “If students are more aware of JMU’s goals, they will be more inclined to support the efforts being made.”

Additional resources may be beneficial to further support JMU’s efforts to go green.

“We find that students embrace the process of recycling and composting, and we have witnessed the growing interest through our tonnage. When the program began in 2010, a total of 150 tons of compostable material was composted; in 2013, we composted 376 tons,” Hoshower said. “This number will continue to grow if we don’t litter and separate our trash into the correct bins.”

Contact Rachel Petty