Local residents in Austin often hear the city referred to as one of the greenest areas in the U.S. From transportation to nature conservation, it’s easy to see why Austin is renowned for its commitment to being environmentally-friendly. While the University of Texas at Austin is central to the city, many students still find it difficult to recycle, especially in large apartment complexes in West Campus, a residential neighborhood heavily populated by students.
Story by Bonny Chu
“When I moved to West Campus, it shocked me that recycling wasn't as readily available,” says Matthew Martinez, a computer science senior. “I lived in Austin my whole life, so recycling in general has been something that I followed and always supported. So I think it's wrong that these big complexes don’t recycle.”
While Martinez says he can recycle at his smaller West Campus apartment, he feels a lot of the larger residential spaces do not have recycling initiatives. Biology senior Cinnamon Kiser, for example, says she does not recycle.
“I don't personally have any recycling thing at my apartment so I don't recycle,” says Kiser, a resident of The Block on Rio. “But I do wish they would make it more available so I can try at least.”
West Campus is one of the most densely populated areas in Austin, with 17, 000 residents as of 2009. But it’s strange how it isn’t as green as the rest of Austin, according to Kiser.
“The lack of recycling in West Campus does seem kind of contradictory to Austin,” Kiser says. “This city has so much nature, like parks and rivers, but there’s not even many recycling trash cans out on the streets of West Campus. There’s only trash cans.”
With 206 parks, 12 preserves, 26 greenbelts and more than 50 miles of trails, there’s a reason why Austin is commended for its leading green programs and nature conservation. It is also very eco-friendly in terms of transportation and clean energy. Even the campus itself is very particular about protecting the environment, with many buildings including specialized recycling bins. However, even when West Campus does recycle, it is difficult, according to Martinez.
“It's still nice that my apartment complex has recycling but it's also just inconvenient,” Martinez says. “The bins are in a very dark alley. You would never want to go out at night and move everything out. It's just a little more effort than what other people would make. Even my roommate won't recycle if I don't recycle for him.”
Andi Liang, a human biology junior, says her apartment has a VIP trash program where residents can leave out their trash cans in the hallway to be disposed later by the apartment staff. But if they choose to recycle, it’s still much more difficult because students don’t have an equivalent recycling program to rely on.
“Recycling isn’t really incorporated into our waste system easily,” says Liang, a resident of 2400 Nueces. “If we recycle we have to manually drag it down several flights of stairs ourselves to throw in the recycling receptacles. So basically I don’t really recycle, nor do I think many people recycle because of the difficulty.”
However, while some of these apartments do not currently have a recycling chute on each floor or have a VIP recycling program, it isn’t because of lack of desire.
“Upon move in, residents are given recycling bags that are blue and specified for specifically recycling items,” says Jonathan Rozeff, a 20-year-old community assistant of 2400 Nueces. “And then when they run out of those bags, they can come down and pick more up at zero cost.”
Not all large West Campus apartments lack green initiatives either. Other complexes such as The Castilian also make it a priority to recycle. By providing recycling bins to its residents, many are able to dispose their paper and plastic just as easily as they dispose other trash.
Ultimately, while many streets and large apartments of West Campus do not have accessible recycling bins like they do trash cans, it’s not impossible to stay green. It’s a matter of how much energy someone is willing to commit in order to become environmentally friendly. If you find yourself wanting to do more, talk to your complex or landlord to learn more about specific guidelines.