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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Campus group acquires PPE recycling boxes ahead of Earth Day

(left to right) Aidan Dowling ’23, Teresa Scalanga ’23 and Allie Miller ’24 pick up trash outside of Campion Student Center on April 19 as a part of SJU Green Fund’s Campus Clean Up initiative. .

Used personal protection equipment (PPE) like disposable face masks now has a place to go other than a landfill after the St. Joe’s Green Fund acquired recycling boxes from a local company.

The club purchased two PPE Zero Waste Boxes from the international recycling company TerraCycle based in Trenton, New Jersey.

PPE includes any items that protect those who wear them from spreading germs of infection. Most PPE is made of non-recyclable material and is designed for one use, so it cannot be reused or recycled. TerraCycle repurposes some PPE and uses it to make new products through a process of cleaning, burning and remolding.

As reported in the March 9 issue of The Hawk, PPE waste has been a particular challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, including on campus, where items that do not make it into the trash end up on the ground. 

“We always see PPE masks and gloves on the ground, and there isn’t a way to properly recycle them,” said Caitlin Thiel ’22, co-president of Green Fund. “That’s why we got the boxes, so people would have a way to recycle them.”

Both boxes will be placed in Campion Student Center. 

“Basically you can take all of your used PPE and put it into the boxes and send it back to be recycled,” Thiel said. 

The boxes are set to arrive during Earth Week. Earth Day takes place April 23 this year, and Green Fund will be sponsoring a number of events all week. 

On April 19, a Campus Clean Up was held from 4 to 6 p.m. On April 20, the group hosted Nancy Tuchman, Ph.D., founding dean of the School of Environmental Sustainability at Loyola University Chicago. 

Members of the SJU Green Fund prepare for their Campus Clean Up initiative on April 19. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

On April 21, the campus community is invited to plant a succulent at the SJU community garden located between Merion Hall and Fine Arts East in conjunction with SJBrew, a student-run initiative that sells fair trade and organic coffee. 

On April 22, the group will show the movie Seaspiracy, a Netflix documentary about human harm to marine life. On April 23, they will host a clothes swap outside of Campion, and on Saturday, an outdoor market at the community garden. 

As with recycling PPE, Thiel said there are many actions students can take to promote sustainability and protect the environment.

“There are so many things you can do to be more environmentally conscious, like using a reusable water bottle,” Thiel said. “Reducing our reliance on plastic silverware by cutting back on it in restaurants or the dining hall, and turning off the lights when you leave a room, just making those small changes has such an impact.” 

Serena Chung ’23, Green Fund member, said those little changes can add up. 

“If we can get students to understand the impact that they are making by just simply recycling or not using plastic silverware, little things like that would really help out,” Chung said. “I know it’s a lot to ask of students because not everyone has access to a dishwasher, but encouraging students to make these little changes can make a big difference on campus.”

Alex Coyle ’22, co-president of Green Fund, said the group is ready to take on single-use plastic on campus. They just need buy-in from the campus community and from the administration. 

“Our club is really just trying to promote using reusable stuff and avoid using those single-use items,” Coyle said. “I feel like the pandemic did not help at all. It has almost encouraged plastic forks usage. That has been a major issue right now.” 

Aidan Dowling ’23, Green Fund member, said he has noticed an uptick in plastic too.

“If you go to Campion, you get a plastic-lined paper bag, the cup is individually wrapped and each piece of plastic silverware is wrapped,” Dowling said. “It seems like we’re mass producing it, and we are a small school. It just seems wasteful.” 

Dowling added that while he feels helpless sometimes, his desire for a cleaner Earth fuels him to continue the fight.

“I feel like everywhere around me, things are in such a dramatic decline, and it’s hard to watch,” Dowling said. “I just want to do as much as I can.” 


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