When in Doubt, Throw it Out!

“Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit – in a world that is limited.” Garrett Hardin’s 1968 essay, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” stresses the common flaw in the ideologies of basic human nature. The concept is that a resource, despite the fact that it may be accessible to all, will be used up as a result of greed stemming from the interest of those present. The environment, as a resource, is heavily impacted by our ability to recycle properly.

Simply speaking, recycling allows for a reuse of material. Less reused material results in less production of new resources, trash, and causes a reduction of greenhouse gasses. Greenhouse gasses are emitted during the extraction of resources along with the production of products to replace what people are throwing out. Recycling can even contribute to economic benefits as it is cheaper to manufacture raw material than it is in comparison to virgin material. Raw material is what we recycle. Virgin material has never been touched; as a result, it is then more expensive to manufacture, and more resources are used to do so.

The Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm teaches contemplation, action, evaluation, experience, and reflection with the intention of creating a diligent following. Ms. Hart’s Literature and the Environment class is emblematic of those Ignatian teachings. Students in the class recently analyzed Loyola’s plastic use and trash production following their own examination of recycling bins around campus. Results showed that students were not recycling effectively. Nonrecyclables were often found in the recycling bin, while recyclables were in the trash can.

Billions of people across the world are faced with numerous decisions throughout their daily lives. Some of these decisions may have small implications, like choosing a movie to watch or a video game to play, but other decisions—more important ones—may have ripple effects. Students in the Literature and Environment class are learning to evaluate the ripple effect to which their environmental consciences, or lack thereof, has on the world.

Several people assume that the bare minimum of leaving a positive ripple effect on Earth’s environment is recycling, but if that were the case, recycling would be just that, the bare minimum. For someone to start their own positive ripple effect, it is obviously important for that person to know how to do the bare minimum properly.

Some commonly recycled things that belong in the trash are plastic bags, shredded paper, bottle caps, bottles with fluid, plastic wrap, and mechanical pencils. While those recycling these items may feel they are doing their part to help the environment, the feeling is actually a placebo since these actions hurt the environment. When too many nonrecyclables are in a recycling bin, the entire bin then becomes unrecyclable. Therefore, recycling is not the bare minimum, but knowing when and when not to is. The common phrase, “when in doubt, throw it out,” serves as a great blanket statement for best recycling practices.

It is estimated that just 2% of plastic is effectively recycled. Dons in the Literature and Environment class are doing their part to ensure that each bin they use is filled with recyclables only. These students have learned to contemplate what their ripple effect would look like before taking any sort of action. They are also currently working on a video that will be shared with the entire school community to encourage better recycling practices both on campus and in the greater community.

Michael Dent '22

Michael Dent is a senior at Loyola Blakefield and wishes to thank Mr. Harris for helping with this article.