An open letter to Rogue Community College

This must stop. (Photo by Mig Windows.)

By Luc Gross

Staff Writer

To all who attend classes, work, and instruct on the Riverside campus:

I don’t mean to single out any one of RCC’s campuses, but since every class on my full-time schedule is on Riverside campus, my time is spent there exclusively. I am writing this letter to those of you who also spend time in the Higher Education Center because I have discovered something that both angers me deeply and offends me personally.

I grew up in a remote area of Texas that many of you probably don’t know about; a place that is overwrought with archaic ideas and that has no sense of forward thinking. To further narrow my accusation, there is no recycling pick-up alongside the garbage pick-up. You just chuck everything into a giant dumpster and someone picks it up twice a week.

There was no infrastructure for someone who did want to recycle, just a big city dump where everything, including: aluminum cans, cardboard boxes, plastic bottles and other materials that go into a comingled recycling bin, were simply labeled “trash.”

As a kid, this made me mad. I spent hours crushing soda cans to be recycled, only to discover that my local can recycling center had been shut down. I grew up in the late 80’s and early 90’s when organizations were coming together to revive Earth Day and Nickelodeon was sponsoring The Big Help to refurbish local parks, and I couldn’t even recycle an aluminum can.

When I moved to Oregon, I found home. I found people who cared about the things I cared about and people who would listen. We live in the second “greenest” state according to Forbes.com in 2007. The HEC building is equipped with a 55-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system to help offset the amount of electricity used to power the building.

Imagine then how horrified I was when I went to throw something away (that wasn’t recyclable) and saw that the trash can was filled more than halfway with nothing but emptied plastic soda and water bottles, soda and energy drink cans, and paper. All of this should have been put in the comingled recycling bin that was located about ten steps around the corner.

Every floor on this campus is furnished with an easily accessible recycling cabinet. These were planned within the blueprints of the building. Why aren’t people using them? Is it a question of laziness? Of convenience?

Anyone who was in my Fundamentals of Speech class last term knows about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Others of you may not. In a nutshell, it is a giant mass of soupy plastic that floats around in the Pacific Ocean between the west coast of America and Japan. It’s twice the size of Texas and it got there when plastic was dumped into landfills, carried away by rivers and into the ocean. Then, underwater currents carry it all into one place where it photodegrades in the sun. Photodegrade means it doesn’t break down; instead it just turns into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic until it is microscopic. When it’s this small, fish eat it thinking that it’s food and voila! Plastic has entered the food chain!

If only for this reason, please throw your empty bottles into the recycling bins. I’m tired of digging through your trash to put them in the proper place, and yes, I have been digging through your trash to do what you should have been adult and self-aware enough to do on your own.

For those of you, who are like me and religiously recycle, please keep up the good work, and if you see someone throw something in the trash that should be recycled, please be an advocate for Mother Earth and for future generations.

Thank you.

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