While I was on Brandeis’ JBS Mississippi semester this summer, I met with several elected officials. One encounter stands out in my head.

During my 2-month stay in Mississippi, the only place I saw a recycling bin was on the campus of the University of Mississippi, up in Oxford. Although we passed other recycling factories and warehouses in Jackson, the state’s capital, and sanitation workers pick up recycling from certain residential areas, nowhere did I find any public recycling.

On our third week in Mississippi we visited McComb (Britney Spears’ birthplace) and ate at the Dinner Bell, with the city’s mayor. Afterwards, we got to ask him questions. So, I asked the mayor if he intended to improve the recycling situation. His answer was surprising.

While he acknowledged that there was a scarcity of recycling, especially in McComb, he said that it is too expensive for small municipalities to create recycling programs. Because materials are so valuable now, however, private companies want them, and so are often willing to create recycling programs in order to take them off people’s hands for cheap.

Basically, the city does not have any plans to increase recycling except to wait for the private sector to become interested and do something about it itself.

Now, what puzzles me is why more universities aren’t getting in on the craze. While it can be expensive and difficult for cities to coordinate recycling (although they should still try), universities have more incentive (it figures into some rankings) and are generally smaller and easier to organize.

When I e-mailed the head of the Residence Halls at Jackson State University (where we stayed during the course of the program) about recycling opportunities, she responded that it was something they only do during the year. However, my friends who go there told me that in fact a student group is trying to bring more recycling to campus but as of now, there is little to none even while school is in session.

Therefore, I’ve compiled some resources. If you go to a school or work or live in a community where there is little to no recycling, here are some organizations which are supplying free recycling bins and/or support. The rest (seeing how your sanitation workers feel about picking up recycling in addition to garbage, promoting recycling efforts, writing the applications to these groups) is up to you!

  • Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality along with the Alcoa Recycling Company, the Mississippi Recycling Coalition, and the Southeast Recycling Development Council are giving out grants for recycling bins to schools, colleges, universities, and public and non-profit office buildings, according to an article in the Mississippi Link published earlier this year.

  • The Keep America Beautiful- Dream Machine project is giving out free recycling bins to community-based organizations, and all the proceeds from the can and bottle recycling kiosks go to “support Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV), a national program offering free, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management to post-9/11 veterans with disabilities.”
  • Lastly, RecycleMania has an annual competition amongst schools as to which institutions can “collect the largest amount of recyclables per capita, the largest amount of total recyclables, the least amount of waste per capita or have the highest recycling rate.” The competition runs from February 5th to March 31st this year, and did you know that Brandeis has competed the past 2 years? We jumped from 13.6 to 21% between 2010 and 2011!

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