As Earth Day approaches, Walla Walla University students may wonder how to be involved in recycling and what services are available. Different campuses have different recycling services – let’s dive into your options for recycling where you are.
There are can and cardboard/paper recycling options for Portland students. The City of Portland accepts most paper and cardboard products, some plastics, aluminum, tin, or soda cans, and glass. There are restrictions on plastic not shaped like a tub, bottle, bucket, or jug, as well as on paper/cardboard food containers. 
These recycling options are more extensive than the options available in Walla Walla. The City of College Place has had its recycling program suspended since 2018, though there have been discussions from the sustainability committee to reintroduce glass and plastic recycling. [2, 3] In Walla Walla, there is a locally owned recycling center that accepts tin, aluminum cans, paper and cardboard products, and certain electronics. They do not take plastics or glass. 
Plastic recycling, in particular, is a big issue. For decades, plastic companies have been claiming recycling as their solution to the large amounts of waste they produce. Plastic resin identification codes, designed similarly to the recycling logo, are purposefully misleading – most types of plastic are rarely recyclable. 
When China banned most plastic and waste imports in 2018, the effects cascaded into many recycling programs being shut down. Most of the “recyclables” imported to China ended up in landfills as most plastics are not recyclable. 
Though a few plastics can be recycled, a new concern is arising with plastic recycling – toxins. A 2022 Greenpeace report stated that even the few plastics that can be separated and recycled are not economical and, more seriously, produce toxins that are harmful to people and the environment. Recycling is much simpler for paper, cardboard, metal, and glass. 
Thus, we come to a point where we must question whether the convenience of single-use plastics conflicts with scientific evidence of the harm caused by both disposing of and recycling plastics.
An option that may help is focusing on the other two R’s – reducing and reusing. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends donating appliances, tools, and clothing, rather than throwing them away; repairing and maintaining products; borrowing, repurposing, and more. 
WWU has recycling resources available on the College Place campus, from blue bins for paper, cardboard, and cans, to free services for cardboard, electronic, and lighting recycling, as well as recycling leaves, lawn clippings, and brush. The cafeteria has reusable containers available to purchase. 
Examine your life to see how small choices can help the earth by reducing, reusing, and finally – recycling.