It is 6:45 Thursday morning. There are few people on the streets of Provo; just the occasional jogger and baby stroller hurrying by. And then a common sound roars down the street, a vehicle screeching to a stop in front of each house possessing big, black bins. It’s garbage day.
At Brigham Young University’s married student housing, a young woman walks to the communal garbage bins with a few bags of trash, her little girl trailing behind. She doesn’t mind the bins are full. She’ll just throw her bags on top of the already stuffed bins.
“I usually wait for my husband to take the trash down, but I had so much of it today,” said Candace Nelson, a Provo resident for eight years.
This morning, Nelson’s trash contributions include empty cereal boxes, dirty diapers and broken crayons, among other items.
“Some weeks I have more bulky items,” she said. “Like once I threw out a bunch of old clothes.”
Nelson said her recently trashed duds didn’t fit her and were taking up space in her small apartment, so she decided to get rid of it them the easiest way she knew how: toss them in the trash bins.
“I told one of my neighbors about throwing the clothes away and she said I shouldn’t have because someone could have used them, made alterations and things,” she said. “But I didn’t feel bad at the time because I thought they were gross. They were my old clothes.”
A quick walk around married student housing reveals a similar attitude students seem to share about their old, non-perishable purchases. Trash cans are filled with mattresses, half of a table and a lamp, among other things.
“About 30 percent of garbage is recyclable and reusable,” said Roger Harper, district manager at North Pointe Solid Waste, Utah County’s garbage facilitators.
Harper suggested people take the time to sort through garbage and see what is reusable and what is recyclable before throwing it away.
“My sister lives in on-campus married housing and every time I go there it’s like the garbage bins have exploded,” said Michelle Olson, who believes students are becoming too lazy to reuse and recycle. “I understand it’s a bit more effort to make a stop at the D.I., but people really should do it. It would cut back on so much unnecessary waste.”
Although Deseret Industries, a thrift store operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, seems to be one of the best options to cut back on waste, Paul Barton, general manager of BYU’s residence life, said the D.I. doesn’t seem to appreciate the extra goods students bring in.
“I don’t know if they just got a lot of junk, but D.I. has steered us away from donating,” Barton said. “We used to collect items for D.I. in all our residencies, but they’ve recommended that we not do that.”
Barton said this could be one reason some students choose to throw away reusable items in dumpsters rather than donating them.
“Disposal is getting more tricky,” he said. “But BYU has always done a good job of recycling. In single student housing, we actually let [students] know where the other donating and recycling facilities are and let them know that D.I. has become a little more picky in what they’ll take.”
Knowing where donation centers are seems to be key in cutting down trash.
“I’ve always used D.I., but knowing where other donation places are in Provo would be useful,” said BYU student Kelley Schwartz. “I bet a bunch of people would start donating there instead of trashing their old stuff.”