Red Cup Cleanup gains momentum in Davis

Students will now have a way to keep their environmental consciences clear when throwing parties by recycling red cups through the Red Cup Cleanup campaign.

The campaign, multilaterally coordinated by the Campus Center for the Environment (CCE), the Dining Services Sustainability Office and the ASUCD Environmental Policy and Planning Commission, will enable students to easily recycle red Solo cups by disposing of them at the South Silo drop-off point every Monday between 9 to 10 a.m. and 5 to 6 p.m.

The scheme operates with TerraCycle, a company dedicated to recycling products that are not usually recycled and would otherwise be sent to landfill.

“TerraCycle’s purpose is to eliminate the idea of waste. We do this by creating national recycling systems for previously non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle waste,” TerraCycle’s website stated.

Red cups are made of grade-6 plastic, deeming them non-recyclable within Davis up until the scheme was brought in.

Third-year nutrition science major Sarah Azari and third-year environmental science and management major Teresa Fukuda, the two interns in charge of the Red Cup Cleanup, initiated the campaign in 2011 by collecting cups from UC Davis fraternities and sending them to TerraCycle. The cups are subsequently melted down and transformed into other usable products, which are sold in chains such as Wal-Mart and Whole Foods. Two cents per cup recycled is then donated to a charity of the program’s choice.

To date, over $500 has been raised by the CCE through the Red Cup Cleanup campaign. The hope is that by implementing the weekly drop-off, students can actively bring their used cups to be recycled in a sustainable way, increasing both the number of cups collected every week and the amount of money raised for charity.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm for the scheme [among] the fraternities. They’re really on board,” Azari said. “Hopefully it will be well-integrated into Greek life so that we can get it implemented into other campus organizations.”

The campaign initially targeted fraternities in Davis due to their large-scale and prolific use of the cups when hosting social events.

“Fraternities are an important place to start because of the sheer volume [of red cups] consumed. It’s important to start in a place where you have a lot of returns when you want to put a scheme like this in place,” said Cameron Scott, a fourth-year international relations major and active member of the Theta Chi Fraternity.

Fukuda agreed fraternities could be influential in the program.

“They [the fraternities] set a great example for the rest of the school population,” Fukuda said.

The charitable aspect of the program, furthermore, is integral to the fraternities’ participation, as it helps them fulfill their philanthropic activities.

“There’s already a philanthropic element to the scheme in that you’re working [toward] a more sustainable future, so I think it’s a double-edged sword where there’s two positive aspects to the effort,” Scott said.

Given the positive response among fraternities, the CCE hopes that momentum for the program will grow throughout Davis.

“There’s a lot of potential to get individuals outside the fraternities involved in the scheme,” said Tessa Artale, a fourth-year sociology and Spanish double major and CCE director. “Eventually we want to use our Facebook campaign and distribute flyers to roll out the scheme to the broader public. We feel individuals will be incentivized by the charitable element.”

The CCE is also hoping to attract grants from private organizations in order to provide further incentives for individuals to get involved in the program. The grants will be used to purchase items — such as trash cans resembling red cups and reusable cups — that will be distributed in exchange for used cups.

The trash cans, which will be designed by first-year art student Carmel Dor, will help students distinguish between recyclable and non-recyclable waste.

“Our biggest priority is getting the trash cans up and running so that students know where to recycle their cups,” said Issy DeMillan, a fourth-year wildlife, fish and conservation biology major and participant of the scheme.

The prospect of reusable cups, however, has a split opinion among the fraternities, with some more willing to embrace the departure from red cups than others.

“The problem with buying our own set of cups is that it’s expensive. The fact we have this scheme, which we’re more than willing to help out with, and that we could get a set of reusable cups will save us money and saves waste,” said Juan Chavarin, the sustainability chair of Sigma Nu, one of the first fraternities to embrace the scheme.

Scott, on the other hand, said that the appeal of the red cups is the very fact that they are disposable.

“There’s comfort in the fact that someone wasn’t responsible for washing that cup. It came out new. People know where it’s been. A more popular approach would be to carry on using the cups and disposing of them in a sustainable way,” Scott said.

JOE STEPTOE can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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