A mong those pictures, you might like some of them. What do you usually find on our campus? As the weather gets warmer these days, we can enjoy beautiful scenery on the University of Seoul (UOS)’s campus. Trees and flowers with various colors please our eyes. However, there are scenes that make us frown, such as garbage and leftover food littering around the campus. What can we do to keep our campus delightful or look better? The easiest thing we can think of is to reduce the garbage on campus. If so, what should we do to reduce the garbage on our campus and make it more pleasant and comfortable? Plus, what should we do about inevitably created garbage? For this Cover Story, let us talk about the garbage on campus.
Reducing the amount of the garbage
The simplest way to reduce the garbage is not to make any waste. Although the kinds of waste created on campus are diverse, what students usually throw away are paper, leftover food, cans and bottles, paper or plastic cups, and books used for classes. We conducted a survey of 411 UOS students to find out how hard students are trying to reduce the amount of garbage on campus and what they are doing to do so.
As a result, we found that many students are trying hard to lessen the garbage. It was interesting that the number of students who are making efforts to reduce leftover food was very high. Therefore, we interviewed the nutritionist from the student cafeteria to learn more about it.
An Interview with a Nutritionist of the Student Cafeteria''
Many students said they are trying to reduce food waste. What do you think of this? Starting in February 2013, the student cafeteria is holding an event called ‘No Leftover Food Day’ on the first Friday of every month as a part of the Green Campus Project. As a result, the amount of leftover food in March 2013 decreased 21 percent compared to March 2012. This means 2,000 kilograms of the leftover food were reduced and 180,000 won was saved. To acknowledge this result and to further encourage students, the student cafeteria offered apples and juice as special desserts for students on April 5. As more and more students recognize ‘No Leftover Food Day,’ I expect that the students’ awareness of reducing food waste will improve and the results will get better.
Q2 Besides the ‘No Leftover Food Day’ event, what does the Student Cafeteria do to reduce food waste? In the kitchen, we are trying to save ingredients. Beginning this year, we started to let students choose between ‘more rice’ and ‘less rice,’ or ‘more soup’ and ‘less soup’ for their meals. Furthermore, a survey to find out what food students do not like is being conducted. Through an electronic display board, we are promoting ‘No Leftover Food Day’ and reducing food waste as well.
Q3 Many students suggested self-distribution as a solution to the food waste problem. What do you think of this? According to the cases of other university cafeterias, the amount of food waste is similar regardless of distribution methods. Moreover, if meals are self-distributed, the amount of food students eat will increase 1.5 to 2 times, which will be a financial burden to the cafeteria to the extent that it cannot be operated any longer. Thus, self-distribution in the student cafeteria is impractical.
Through the survey and the interview, we found that students and the school are trying to reduce the amount of garbage. Some might think that it is okay to throw garbage away if they put it in the trash can. Of course, it is inevitable to make trash on campus. However, as you can see from the interview above, if we lessen the amount of trash, we can get economic benefits as well as protect the environment. Therefore, it is worth striving to do so.
Other than reducing leftover food, students answered that they are recycling used papers and using water bottles to reduce the garbage on campus. Some of them suggested recycling flyer sheets as reusable paper and setting boxes of reusable paper in public places, so that students can freely use them. In the case of water bottles, to encourage students to use them, it was proposed that UOS should distribute free water bottles with UOS emblem on them and discount the cost of coffee for water bottle users.
Separating the garbage
Another way to make campus more pleasant is by separating the garbage. The garbage we throw away is partly incinerated or buried and partly recycled. However, garbage disposal costs a lot and pollution of the Earth can occur during the process of disposal. The best option is to reduce the amount of garbage. However, when it comes to unavoidably created garbage, recycling is appropriate. To recycle things, you should separate them from other kinds of garbage. If they are mixed with unrecyclable things, they cannot be recycled. On the UOS campus, we have three sections in garbage cans to allow our students to separate their garbage into unrecyclables cans/bottles and papers.
According to the survey, about 70.8 percent of the 411 UOS students answered that they always separate their garbage and 24 percent of them answered that they sometimes do. Therefore, quite a high ratio of students is participating in recycling wastes. We were curious, however, whether these students were separating the trash in the right way. Thus, we asked one of the cleaning workers, who have worked for our university for six to eight years. When we brought up the subject of garbage cans, they just said, “It is a mess.” They added, “Even though the cans are separated into three sections, students do not seem to consider it. They throw out the garbage regardless of what kind it is.” They said that because the trash is not separated properly according to the kinds of the garbage cans, it takes a long time for them to separate it again. “My job is to clean up the trash. When doing so, I separate cans, bottles and plastic from the cans/bottles trash cans. However, if students separate the trash as it says on each trash can, it would take half the time it takes now. In the case of plastic, you may put it in the cans/bottles trash cans. I will separate them.” Only a little cooperation was everything he asked for from students.
▲ Garbage cans are overflowing with garbage
From the survey and the interview, we recognized that many students are separating the garbage but it is not properly done. What is the reason for this? About 40 percent of 411 students said that they have felt embarrassed while separating their garbage on campus. Among the reasons, a large number of them said that the garbage cans should be divided in a more fragmented way. When it comes to recycling plastic and vinyl, students get confused because they do not know where to throw them away. Some students said that the garbage cans are already a mess, so they cannot put their garbage in the appropriate cans. Others said that there is no suitable way to throw away food waste.
We visited the Office of General Administration, which is in charge of the Green Campus Project, to find out the solutions for the students’ troubles. In case of the need for more fragmented trash cans, they are planning to add more sections to current garbage cans to establish the recycling culture on campus. However, because they have a limited budget, they cannot change every garbage can on campus. Instead, they will add three more sections to the garbage cans only in the Mirae Hall on each floor this year. More garbage cans will be upgraded next year. Since there are three sections in our garbage cans, there will be six sections in total if three are added. These six are unrecyclable garbage, papers, cans, bottles, plastics and scrap iron. Moreover, even if there are not any garbage cans outside the buildings now, they will put 17 garbage cans with six sections in some places of the campus in the near future.
▲ Trash cans are being fragmented into six sections in the Mirae Hall
Another thing that usually troubles students is that there is no suitable way to throw away leftover food on campus. Students just put it into the toilet. This is cumbersome for them and more seriously, it can clog up the toilets and pollute the water. One UOS student named Ryu Eun-bin (Dept. of Life Science, ‘11) said that whenever she had food delivered to the room for her club, she had trouble dealing with the leftover food. If she puts it into the normal garbage can, it quickly becomes full because the volume of the leftover food is big. In addition, it smells really bad. Nevertheless, she had no choice but to do so. Regarding this problem, one officer from the Office of General Administration said that they have already pondered on this. However, they said that they need more time to contemplate about it because of the budget problem, the process of collecting food waste in one place, and the problem with locating and managing the trash cans.
▲ Garbage cans for food waste are located behind the Student Hall
Several years ago, there were six garbage cans for food waste. They attracted all kinds of bugs and smelled disgusting in the summer. Now, one garbage can is located behind the Student Hall. Because it is hidden by curtains, not many students know about it and use it. If you have food waste, you can throw it away there.
Fortunately, we have a lot of students who are in the habit of separating garbage. However, the problem is that separating the gabage is not being done properly. The first reason might be that they make mistakes while separating the garbage. The second reason might be that a few students do not even try to put the garbage into the garbage cans separately. ‘Broken windows theory’ argues that if people leave a petty crime as it is, it is prone to be a bigger problem. According to the ‘broken windows theory,’ if a few students mess up the garbage cans, the other students coming after them will not want to arrange the garbage and put it away properly. To encourage students and minimize negative effects, the university is improving the facilities regarding garbage cans. Therefore, all that is left in order to correctly separate the garbage is up to the efforts of students. If you sometimes feel that separating and recycling is tiresome, you should think of the butterfly effect that your quick judgment will bring about.
Another thing to consider is reusing the waste rather than just throwing it away. How does UOS attempt to reuse the waste? First, Sidaein Nanumteo in the Jeonnong Hall is an example. There you can recycle your used and unwanted items. Students, faculty members and even people from the neighborhood can come to buy things and donate their own unnecessary items. By donating what might have been dumped into the garbage, it is possible to reuse a lot of things. So, how many UOS students participate in the activities of Sidaein Nanumteo?
According to the results of the questionnaire survey, 321 of 411 students answered “I do not know about Sidaein Nanumteo.” This is a numerical value corresponding to about 78 percent. About 15 percent of students knew Sidaein Nanumteo and only four students answered “I have bought or donated something there.” Sidaein Nanumteo are attracting voluntary participation from students by setting every Thursday as ‘The Day to Donate Recyclables.’ However, it is not yet well-known to students, so the ratio of participation seems insignificant.
The second case of reusing the waste on campus is reusing cup holders. The notice, “If you put a cup holder here, it can be reused,” is on a trash can at cafe Be in the Natural Science Building. UOS students can reduce large amounts of waste by reusing cup holders, because they might be thrown away after being used once, even though they are still clean and reusable. According to the words of Kim Seul-ki (School of Economics, ‘08), who works in cafe Be, a reusable cup holder campaign started during the second half of 2012. About 25 to 30 percent of them are reused in a day. With a minimum effort, the cafe can practice environmental protection by reducing trash as well as saving the costs to purchase cup holders. She asked students to participate in this campaign with the idea that cup holders can be reused if they are used cleanly.
▲ Sidaein Nanumteo
The third reusing activity at UOS is a book bazaar. The bazaar is carried out at the beginning of each semester and is organized by the Student Council. Through this event, UOS students can donate their books or purchase them at a cheap price. It has started to make other students reuse the textbooks instead of just throwing them out after using once. According to Lee Kyung-joo (Dept. of Statistics, ‘08), the vice-president of the Student Council, many kinds of books are traded in the bazaar. This semester, approximately 320 books were gathered and 250 books were sold during the three days. The book bazaar became a bridge for students to buy and sell books at a low cost. In addition, the Student Council donated ten percent of the sales to the needy. However, it is still very regrettable that a lot of students did not take part in all of the three activities.
We have offered what UOS students can do to make a better campus environment, especially when dealing with waste. Some possible ways were introduced, such as to reduce the waste itself, separate inevitable garbage for recycling, and reuse items multiple times. There are many problems facing these different solutions, however, such as the problems of students’ low awareness and participation in recycling activities as well as facilities that are not arranged suitably. In addition, some facilities like Sidaein Nanumteo, are a good idea but have almost no positive impact because they are not publicized enough. Therefore, both students and the university should strive together in order to create a better campus environment. The university has started to make an effort through the Green Campus Project that began a few months ago. From now on, it is time for students to strive for our university.
▲ Let us make a better campus by reducing, separating and reusing the garbage
We asked the question “What do you think about the advantages of reducing waste on campus? (Multiple answers were allowed)” to students. 303 of 411 students answered “Being able to create a comfortable learning environment.” Furthermore, 206 of 411 students answered, “It is possible to save the costs used for garbage disposal and use them elsewhere,” as one of the benefits. In addition, there were many opinions that UOS can be a role model for other universities and provide a place for relaxation to neighboring residents. Some remaining ideas were that it is helpful to build students’ personalities and the campus can look pleasant. Therefore, in order to achieve these things, let us take part in reducing wastes that UOS students and UOS have proposed. If everyone makes even a little effort, all of us can study on a better campus.
An Interview with Noksaeksidae (Green Generation)
In order to check what students do to make our campus greener besides reducing waste, we interviewed Kim Philip (School of Environmental Engineering, ‘09), the 1st leader of Noksaeksidae. He appealed to students to participate in activities towards a green campus.
Q1 How did Noksaesidae become organized and what do you do? The university wanted to gather students and collect their ideas for making a green campus, so the 1st Noksaeksidae was organized in September 2012. During the last semester, we had to establish our identity and plan our activities in detail. Therefore, our activities were mainly meeting and submitting agendas to the university. Sometimes, we used to do a publicity campaign to recommend the use of a water bottle and to inform students about ‘No Leftover Food Day.’
Q2 What can students do to create a green campus? A method we came up with is to reduce the number of disposable products used. Even in the school cafe, thousands of disposable cups are used in a day. If the number of disposable cups used in a cafe can be reduced by half, the rate of decrease will greatly improve. However, in reality, it is hard to make such changes just from students’ effort. Other schools or even some cafes recommend people to use a water bottle by providing a 300-500 won discount on beverages. However, our school does not recommend students to use a water bottle or even try to persuade them to do so. We have tried our best to provide water bottle users with a way to accumulate points for using a water bottle, but we have received negative responses from the School Welfare Association when it comes to this method. I think if the use of disposable products is reduced, then students will be able to feel the benefits of a green campus more directly.
Q3 What do you think about the difficulties faced by students in separating garbage? I think the biggest problem is that students do not know how to separate trash. The waste generated on campus is limited. Therefore, if we paste separation tables of garbage on top of trash cans with the name Noksaeksidae, then students can easily see it and this could help students to separate the trash more easily. We are also going to prepare a campaign related to separating garbage.
Q4 What kind of activities are you planning? Before, what we did were just temporary campaigns. However, we, Noksaeksidae, will further develop our activities to what students should do, such as classifying the garbage in the right way. After our trials, we are planning to promote our activities to UOS students and to the neighboring areas. In addition, we will not only make a green campus, but also associate volunteer activities with the green campus activities.
▲ Noksaeksidae participating in the campaign for ‘No Leftover Food Day’