In the modern age of widespread environmentalism and focus on sustainability, it’s easy to overlook the most basic ways to protect the environment: reduce, reuse, recycle. It is a phrase that’s been ingrained into everyone’s mind since grade school, yet they still remain difficult to implement within the Oxford community. Moving here from a larger city, I had always thought of recycling as a part of everyday life, but the more residences and businesses I visited, the more I realized that wasn’t the case in Oxford.
There are recycling options available in Lafayette County, the most available of which being drop-off centers located around the community. While it’s great this service is offered, people are unlikely to take time out of their day to drive all the way to a recycling center. Without the convenience of pick-up services, most residents don’t bother separating out recyclables at all. These centers also assume local residents will adhere to the provided recycling guidelines, meaning they will separate their recycling amongst the containers properly. This is often not the case, which can lead to large amounts of recyclable goods being thrown out.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t pick-up services available. Both the City of Oxford and several private companies offer recycling pick-ups for a monthly fee, but these services aren’t widely known about, and there is little incentive for people to pay for the service. If recycling within individual residences was more encouraged through public campaigns, community organizations or even local tax-breaks, more citizens might be willing to start recycling in their own home.
The Mississippi Recycling Coalition estimates that only 60% of Mississippians have access to any form of recycling, which is 36% lower than the national average. Though the Oxford community provides more access than other areas of Mississippi, recycling isn’t widespread among individuals or businesses. Even in large spheres like Ole Miss, recycling can feel hard to come by. There are recycling cans on campus, but they are fewer and harder to find than normal garbage cans. Without the proper incentive, students have no motivation to seek out recycling options. If there were more recycling cans and locations to drop off across campus, students would have an easier time recycling in their everyday lives.
I’m someone who’s quite passionate about sustainability, and even I have a hard time thinking about recycling when I’m out and about on campus and in the community. I recycle in my own home, but without easy access around Oxford, I often find myself being forced to save recyclable materials until I’m able to put them in my own recycling bin at home.
The Green Grove Program has been working to combat this issue by setting up and sorting recycling from game days every week. The cans they set up around the grove collect about a dumpster full of recycling at every home game, and that’s still with much of the recyclable materials used in the Grove being thrown in garbage cans. If both the City of Oxford and Ole Miss commit to more programs like this one, the entire community could be more sustainable and set an example for the rest of Mississippi.
Briley Rakow is a sophomore majoring in integrated marketing communications from Lemont, Illinois.