Colleges are taking steps to reduce the amount of plastic tossed out, or even recycled, by encouraging students and staff to reuse plastic bottles. At Saint Vincent College, the student environmental awareness club recently acquired multi-purpose reusable cups that can be bought at the college bookstore for $8.

Although Saint Vincent has plastic recycling bins on its Unity campus, the student club decided to do more to decrease the amount of plastic waste generated in the cafeteria and The Shack, which offers food and drink.

Plastics are a rapidly growing amount of municipal solid waste in the nation, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Of the 33.4 million tons of plastic generated in 2014, only 3.2 million tons — about 10 percent — got recycled. More than 25 million tons of plastics were dumped in landfills in 2014, according to statistics from the American Chemistry Council, a trade group.

Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, and only 12 percent of all plastics ever made has been incinerated, National Geographic reported. Water bottle filling stations are available at Seton Hill University, the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and Penn State New Kensington.

A 2018 graduate at Seton Hill conducted an honors capstone project related to recycling initiatives on campus that led the Greensburg school to increase the availability of reusable carryout containers in dining facilities, university spokeswoman Jennifer Reeger said.

“These are containers that students can fill up with food, return to the dining hall to be washed and pick up when they want to use them again to help decrease the amount of take-out container waste,” Reeger said.

The water fountains at Pitt Greensburg “encourages the campus community to use their own refillable water bottles, rather than relying on one-time-use, disposable bottles,” school spokeswoman Susan Isola said.

Penn State New Kensington also has water bottle filling stations to cut down on plastic use, as well as recycling receptacles that allow users to separate waste.

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