Southern addresses student concerns about environmental consciousness on campus

"The university is committed to recycling and protectinig the enviroment; however, this can clash with their commitment to keeping costs as low as possible for students." (Photo sourced from: Google Images)

During last semester’s Town Hall meeting, students raised questions about recycling practices on campus, specifically expressing concerns about the use of Styrofoam in the cafeteria. This article further explores those questions. 

According to Tom Verrill, senior vice president for Financial Administration, Food Services uses 15 to 20 cases of Styrofoam products a week. The cafeteria recycles cardboard, plastic bottles, aluminum cans and as much food waste as possible, Verrill wrote in an email to the Accent. He explained that Food Services is always looking for better packaging options. 

“Last week Teddy Kyriakidis, the Food Services director, met with the owner of the composting company we use,” Verrill wrote. “He informed him that he is working with some large distributors of compostable products to negotiate lower product pricing so that these alternatives can be more affordable. Teddy assured the distributor that we’d switch over if they could offer them at comparable pricing.”

According to Verrill, the university is committed to recycling and protecting the environment; however, such ideals  can clash with the organization’s commitment to keeping costs as low as possible for students. 

“The university is committed to doing what we can in the way of recycling and protecting the environment,” Verrill wrote in an email to the Accent. “We consider those efforts within the context of their cost, trying to balance the importance of environmental sustainability with the also important goal of keeping the cost of attending college as low as possible for our students.”

Student Association (SA) President Kenneth Bautista, senior business major, said SA Senate has headed an Eco Initiative Committee for the past two years. However, this year, Senate has not formed the committee, choosing instead to focus on other things.

 Bautista said he made an effort to address some of the recycling needs on campus by speaking to Kyriadikis  about the possibility of using recyclable to-go boxes in the cafeteria. His concerns centered around the Styrofoam containers, which he believes are used too excessively. 

“So, I went to talk to them, and I came up with options of possible things we could do,” Bautista said. “And to be honest with you, I didn’t get the energy. … I brought up options of [how] we could do paper instead of Styrofoam, and instead of saying, ‘Okay, what can we do together?’ The reply was more of, ‘no.’ So, I don’t know what to do next in that area.”

“Food Service uses 15 to 20 cases of Styrofoam products a week.” February 3, 2023. (Photo by Mila Bales)

Bautista said that Kyriadikis informed him prices of recyclable materials are much higher than what the cafeteria regularly uses, so Bautista offered to make up the difference with SA funds. 

Additionally, in 2020-2021, the Eco Initiative Committee spoke to Village Market Manager Jackie Rose about the possibility of switching from plastic grocery bags to paper. At the time, the Village Market made no effort to implement any changes. According to Rose, the decision was made after researching effects on the environment to manufacture paper bags, plus ease of recycling plastic vs paper. However, in a recent interview with the Accent, Rose said that he is open to the idea of trying a paper bag option and seeing how it is received. 

Rose explained that the cost of paper bags is much greater than plastic. As of 2022, plastic bags, according to Rose, cost 3.7 cents per bag, whereas paper bags cost 12-18 cents per bag, meaning that the Village Market would have to charge for them. He suggested that the best option for the environment in this case would be to buy reusable tote bags. Another reason the Village Market has not switched to paper bags is the size, according to Rose. He wrote in an email to the Accent that he has yet to find a paper bag that will accommodate the size of the deli to-go boxes. Rose said paper bags are definitely a possibility that he will look into, but the added cost is unavoidable. 

“One thing we have discussed recently is that we probably need to do more to communicate to campus what we are doing to protect the environment and how students and employees can partner with us in that effort,” Verrill wrote. “For example, we are often surprised by the number of foam to-go boxes that return via the cafeteria tray line, having never left the dining hall. We need to help students understand better that this results in a substantial waste of foam, besides the fact that they are charged more for these containers.”

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