Columns, Opinion

Ruth: Sorting anxiety

The scene begins with an elderly man who has just consumed a delectable turkey sandwich nestled with stuffing bathed in gravy and a dollop of cranberry sauce. He waits for seconds — minutes perhaps — staring at the three daunting words positioned above three bins in the George Sherman Union: recycle, landfill and compostable.

He hovers his plate, leftover sandwich morsels and plastic utensils over the compostable bin. Puzzled, he puts everything down on the counter between the three bins and ponders. He picks up his plate again. This time, he places it above the recycle bin, lingering it there for a minute as if waiting for the bin’s mouth to appear and tell him if his leftovers belong there. After watching several students throw their leftovers into one of the three bins, he decides that it was time to make a move.

In a flurried frenzy, he takes his plastic plate, plastic utensils and little bits of bread and plummets the entirety into the landfill bin. He repositions his top hat and continues on his merry way.

I cringed. He threw out the plate too? Really?

Sorting makes our lives easier— whether it is a sorting hat placing you in your rightful house or putting your socks and shorts in different drawers. There is a sense of comfort that accompanies knowing where things should be. However, when it comes to sorting your leftovers between the three bins at the GSU, all predetermined thoughts about sorting equating to simplicity go out the window.

I get it. Determining where to put your trash at the GSU is clearly the hardest decision in recent United States history since Rebecca Black had to decide which seat to occupy in the car on Friday. There is nothing more daunting than looking at three labels with colorful pictures and words telling you exactly where to put your trash, bottles, and leftover food. But, of course, there is something about this straightforwardness that makes people develop eco-anxiety and panic.

But for most, my observation of this elderly man is just an extremely familiar encounter with the sorting bins. And if you were just thinking about a situation in which you suffered eco-anxiety and precariously tossed your trash into a random bin — there’s hope.

So why should people care about where they put their leftovers? It’s probably just going to get resorted anyway, so why worry about which bin to put it in? Well, the answers are right in front of you — it’s like an open book test.

If people take that extra two seconds to read the three lists and observe the pictures on the bin labels, then we’re one step closer to properly educating people about the importance of knowing how to classify your trash. It’s as simple as putting your food in the compostable bin, bottles in the recycle bin and potato chip bags in the landfill bin.

Caring about our future and raising awareness about sustainable choices is something that will affect future generations to come and being part of a movement that strives for a sustainable future is something to be proud about.


Jennifer Ruth is a College of Arts and Sciences junior. She can be reached at [email protected]

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