In an effort to help the University of Nebraska at Omaha become more environmentally friendly, glass recycling will be available at the Milo Bail Student Center throughout February.
The glass recycling bin will be placed at different locations throughout MBSC during the month. It will be monitored in order to see how much glass UNO students and faculty generate. If enough glass is collected, glass recycling might become permanently installed.
Catharine Steenkamp, a junior and environmental studies major at UNO, is leading the project. She is also hoping to recycle glass from the campus science labs. The city does not recycle glass used in labs, but Sarah Burke, UNO’s sustainability coordinator, heard cement factories can take glass, crush it up and put it in cement.
Steenkamp is from South Africa, and when she came to the United States, she was shocked by the amount of waste produced. She said her family reused almost everything in South Africa.
“Resources are scarce and you think twice about throwing away food,” Steenkamp said.
She started her own curbside collection of glass in her community. When the university announced its new sustainability student group, SustainUNO, Steenkamp decided to take her project to campus.
Steenkamp’s project was approved as an internship through the environmental studies department, and she is working with Burke.
Burke was intrigued by Steenkamp’s proposal because glass is always recyclable, so she sees no reason to throw it away.
Burke and Steenkamp will determine how much glass UNO generates and write proposals based on the results. If they find that only a small amount of glass is generated, they may instead suggest UNO stop selling drinks sold in glass bottles. If there is a substantial amount of glass, they have to determine if custodial services can drop off the glass at a recycling center or if it has to be done by volunteers.
Three more glass drop-off locations open in Omaha in the spring, including a possible location in Aksarben. Glass recycling will also be available to University and Maverick Village residents during February.
Burke thinks recycling glass will help the university reach its waste reduction goal. She said anything that can be stopped from being put in a landfill should be.
Steenkamp believes the university should work towards becoming a zero waste campus.
“I think schools and universities are supposed to model sustainable systems to set doable examples and educate the community,” Steenkamp said. “We’re losing our environment. We’re losing our species. People need to care more. People need to stop ignoring it.”