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WVU students discuss ways they reuse, recycle, repurpose

Students of West Virginia University are making efforts to reduce their plastic usage and educate themselves on recycling methods out of concern for the environment.

Students said they recognize the importance of how plastic waste affects the planet when it ends up in a landfill, and want to do their part to not only reduce, reuse and recycle, but do it properly.

Shawn Gray, who is studying social work with minors in psychology and addiction studies at WVU, said she has spoken with members of the Sustainability Office at the university, through a student organization called Food Recovery Network, to educate herself on how she can best reduce her plastic usage.

Gray, of Lewes, Del.,  said she has also sought out articles about reducing and recycling and makes sure to examine containers to determine whether they’re recyclable — rather than just tossing all plastic products into a recycling bin.

She said she takes care of  recycling  on her own and doesn’t use curbside recycling. She has a recycling box in her apartment’s common area in which she places recyclable items throughout the week before emptying the box at the Mountaineer Transfer Station in Westover on Fridays.

Gray said this setup makes it easier for her roommates to recycle as well.

“Because I give them a spot to recycle and take care of the transportation, they find that it is more convenient to do so,” she said.

Gray said she is drawn to businesses that either recycle their waste or make their products from recycled materials.

“Whenever I shop, I am on the lookout for plastic products that are made from partly or fully recycled plastic. I want to support businesses making an effort to help the planet,” Gray said.

Tolani Brooks, of Hurricane, an immunology and medical microbiology major at WVU, said she believes if large corporations made an effort to participate in recycling, they would be helping to solve a major environmental problem.

Brooks said she makes an effort to educate herself on plastic waste and recycling through various Instagram pages.

She said she tries to stick with using environmentally friendly cosmetic products, such as bamboo toothpaste, and avoids dining at restaurants or getting takeout  to avoid using to-go containers that oftentimes aren’t recyclable.

“I live in a dorm, so when I go to dining halls if I don’t use the [plastic] utensils, I take them and save them for another time,” Brooks said.

She also saves plastic bags for reuse.

Laura Brock, of North Wales, Pa.,  studies elementary education at WVU and said she “loves” recycling because it decreases waste by repurposing items.

Brock said while she hasn’t actively sought out information about recycling or plastic waste, she has a friend in her hometown who  started a community compost bin.

“The only research I’ve done is vicariously through her,” Brock said.

Brock still makes efforts to reduce the amount of plastic waste she consumes and produces, however.

She said she recently invested in reusable, sealable bags to cut down on her plastic bag usage. She said she has always taken her own bags to the grocery store, but now keeps some in her car for unplanned trips. 

Brock has also been searching for bars of soap and shampoo so she can stop purchasing the products that come in plastic bottles, though the bar options she has found so far are more expensive than their plastic-encased alternatives.

“One thing I have been able to switch to that I’m proud of is cardboard tampons. They’re cheaper and better for the environment — and me,” Brock said.

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