Recycling writing utensils now a craze on SUNY Oswego campus
By Maria Pericozzi
SUNY Oswego students now have the opportunity to collect used writing utensils for recycling, which is the newest initiative in the campus effort to reduce waste.
It all started when Kate Spector, a mathematics specialist with the SUNY Oswego Office of Learning Services, was teaching algebra classes and found that she was going through dry erase markers quickly, almost using a marker each lecture.
“I was throwing them into the garbage can constantly and I thought, there’s got to be a better way to do this,” Spector said.
She looked into various programs, including one that Crayola offered, where you can send the markers in a box to be recycled. While this program was useful, it was only available for those teaching kindergarten through 12th grade, so it wasn’t a good fit.
She started by putting a box in the tutoring center at SUNY Oswego and would give the markers to a teacher who was participating in the Crayola recycling program. It worked well, but Spector wanted to grow this program throughout campus.
She found TerraCycle, an innovative recycling company that has become a global leader in recycling hard-to-recycle materials. They offer a range of free programs and recycling solutions available for almost every form of waste.
“You can put any type of marker and the marker cap, any type of pen and pen cap, and any type of mechanical pencil in the boxes,” Spector said. “The spirit of the program is to recycle plastic, so no wooden pencils go in the box.”
Students in professor Daniel Tyron’s Manufacturing Systems technology class in the fall created more than 200 boxes that were put up in classrooms all across campus. The students spent time designing boxes that are lightweight and user-friendly.
They used wood from the old bleachers in Swetman Gymnasium and have slotted acrylic panels in the front. The boxes are magnetic and attach to each whiteboard. The boxes can hold 15-20 dry erase markers, but can hold more for smaller writing utensils.
Over spring break, Spector put up a recycling box in every classroom on campus in addition to some departmental offices and student organizations.
“It was really fun to get into the classrooms across campus and set these up,” Spector said.
She assembled a team of four of five students who go around and check the bins weekly, and bring the utensils to their TerraCycle unit, located in the Campus Center outside of the college store. Once the box is filled, it is sent to TerraCycle for recycling and a new box is sent back.
“I’m hoping we can get less utensils in the trash, being sent to landfills and incinerators,” Spector said.
She is hoping the start of this program will have an impact on the community.
“I’m really hoping people start to think about the things they buy and the things they throw away,” Spector said. “I’m hoping there’s a lot of critical thinking around our procurement and disposal of the items we use.”