For a capstone project, an environmental science class at Western Carolina University delved into the logistics of getting the off-campus apartment complexes in Cullowhee to offer recycling collection services for their residents.
Twenty-four students undertook the project in partnership with Jackson County officials. The county operates eight staffed centers where people can drop off recyclable materials, including one in Cullowhee.
The students surveyed other WCU students and reached out to property managers to gauge interest in on-site recycling collection at the apartment complexes. Some house hundreds of students.
“A lot of the students were very surprised that the larger apartment complexes didn’t have recycling,” said junior Virginia Hawkins, of Pinetops. “I knew going into this class that I would assume the larger apartments would have recycling, because they have almost 500 beds. The fact that they don’t is very shocking.”
Students investigated recycling bin options and costs, and identified grants that property owners or local officials could tap to help pay for them. They also organized a trial recycling run at The Maples of Cullowhee. In one week, they collected 180 pounds of recyclable materials.
The surveys found widespread student support for recycling collection services at the off-campus apartments, with some students expressing a willingness to help pay for some of the cost. The class also got lots of positive feedback about its trial recycling run, which used bins borrowed from WCU.
“Everyone was really a fan of it and really enjoyed it and liked having recycling on site,” said senior Anna Fletcher, of Raleigh. “And we got a lot of recycling, especially considering it’s a smaller apartment complex. We’d expect a lot more recycling from the bigger ones.”
The students estimate that if even half the off-campus apartment complexes offered recycling collection for their residents, they would in total collect about 95 tons, or 190,000 pounds, of materials each year for recycling.
There are still no off-campus apartments in Cullowhee offering on-site recycling collection for their residents, the students said. They encourage people who want recycling collection at the apartments to tell their property managers and local officials.
“None of the apartment complexes are recycling and we’re trying to get at least some of them to,” said senior Thomas Seamon, of Mocksville.