Intro to the Environmental Movement & Recycling

For my Civil Issues blog, I will be writing under the broad category of the environment, specifically exploring a topic called The Environmental Movement or Green Movement.

The Environmental Movement, which includes “conservation and green politics“, is a “diverse scientific, social, and political movement for addressing environmental issues“. While this movement has taken root in many countries and has impacted the world, I am most interested to discover when “being green” started trending in the United States. Most accredit the beginning of the movement in the U.S. to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and John Muir’s preservationist mindset to create the National Parks in the nineteenth century (see my Passion Blog for a more modern take on the Parks).


However, today, I want to look at a more modern and familiar concept of the Environmental Movement: recycling. The opportunity to recycle is everywhere on campus, in dining halls and academic buildings alike, and is marked by many different bins with signs that indicate which objects go in which bin. Recycling should be an easy feat, right? Well, not always. This week, a close friend of mine explained her reasoning behind why she does NOT recycle. I see her points, but as the type of person who will always call someone out if I see them throw away a plastic water bottle, her argument was hard for me to digest.

Basically, my friend’s argument is that there’s just no point to it. Very little of what we attempt to recycle at Penn State actually makes it to a recycling station because one little piece of plastic in the Styrofoam bin, or one glass bottle in the plastic bin contaminates the whole entire bag of recyclables, sending it all straight to the landfill. She thinks our efforts are futile, and thus refuses to participate at all.

How cynical is that!? What about the handful of bags that do make it through a day without being mixed up or contaminated? Those are the few that will be properly recycled. I proposed this thought to my friend, and she had nothing to say. She still claims recycling is pointless.

I wholeheartedly disagree. The only thing that we all have to be careful about is sorting our trash wisely; if you’re not sure where an object should go, ask a passerby, or if you must…throw it in the trash (can’t believe I just said that). While that one item may not get recycled, at least you saved a whole bag from being contaminated and positively supported the recycling movement.

4 thoughts on “Intro to the Environmental Movement & Recycling

  1. I never realized that a whole bag of recyclables would be thrown out if one item was misplaced. I guess I’ll have to be more careful! Also, are bottles supposed to be recycled without their lids?

  2. I don’t understand why people have such a hard time with the recycling system at Penn State. I mean, there are diagrams right there showing you exactly what category your item belongs in. I can’t tell you how many times in Redifer Commons I have seen people disposing of food in the trash bin instead of the compost. While recycling might not be the solution to our environmental problems, only good will come from making sure our waste is disposed of properly.

  3. I really liked how you related your topic to such a common issue on Penn State’s campus. I, too, always make sure to recycle everything I use, as that was what I was always taught to do. It was not until I came here that I started hearing this similar argument that efforts are pointless because the bin will inevitably become contaminated. That thought process horrifies me as well. I completely agree with your opinion that if you don’t know where to put something, the best option is to put it in the trash because at least you will save a good amount of recyclables. This was a great post, and I am looking forward to reading your next one.

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