CHAMPAIGN – Coming from Berkeley, Calif., a city that offers not only curbside recycling for residents but also free recycling for businesses, Aaron Pollack was a bit mystified at the recycling, or lack of it, in Champaign.
He remembers walking and driving through town and thinking, "Where are all the recycling bins?"
Now in his third year of business school at the University of Illinois, the graduate student has joined with other UI students to push for change. They've established a new student group called Community Organized Recycling Efforts, or CORE.
"A lot of people just don't recycle. But they wish they did," said Anthony Santarelli, a UI sophomore who's also involved in the group.
For students who live in Champaign, but outside the UI dorms – in multifamily houses, apartment complexes or fraternity or sorority houses – how they handle recycling varies. Some collect recyclables and haul them to the Champaign recycling drop-off center on Hagen Street. Others take a bag or box filled with recyclables to a friend's house in Urbana, where the city offers curbside recycling.
"For these individuals, it's a lot of work," Santarelli said.
"Recycling shouldn't be a chore," Pollack added.
Rather than taking a petition to the Champaign City Council or organizing a referendum, the group has decided to conduct pilot programs and a lot of research.
Down the road, CORE members would like to see the city of Champaign mirror, or join with, Urbana's recycling program.
"We don't want to reinvent the wheel," Pollack said.
But first the group wants to prove that people want to, and can, recycle.
Last week, the group launched Green House, a two-week program during which 22 sorority and fraternity houses compete to see how creatively and how innovatively they approach recycling in their houses. They're also competing to find out who recycles the most plastic, aluminum and paper.
Consider how many aluminum cans a fraternity can go through in a weekend, and "it's amazing," said UI student Cassie Carroll, who co-directs CORE with Pollack.
The group will reward the houses for their efforts. The top prize: a party thrown for the winning fraternity or sorority at a local bar. Other trophies and prizes are also planned.
Next semester, CORE members hope to use the data they gather from the pilot project to convince all fraternity and sorority houses to recycle.
"The main overall goal is to push for communitywide recycling efforts," Carroll said. "Urbana has its own program, and the university is doing a great job."
Members also plan to work on increasing awareness on campus about recycling efforts there, such as how recycling is handled, what's recyclable, and where to drop off recyclables on campus if students have a car or if they don't have a car.
Next semester will be about building alliances with others in the community, Pollack said. That includes talking with people at area businesses and schools and on the city council.
"We want to bridge the gap between the city of Champaign, the university and the city of Urbana," Carroll said.
Information is available by contacting Pollack at apollac2(at)uiuc.edu or Santarelli at asantar2(at)uiuc.edu.