McIntyre Library kicks off plastic bag recycling drive

The drive began April 1 and will continue indefinitely


Photo by Rebecca Mennecke

Wondering where to recycle old plastic bags on campus? McIntyre Library’s new plastic bag recycling program offers locals the ability to get rid of old plastic and repurpose it.

Walking around the UW-Eau Claire campus, locals will find blue recycling bins in every building, typically paired with a neighboring trash bin. Entering Davies Student Center, it’s hard to miss the extra bins labeled “compost” on the first floor.

Despite the plentiful recycling and compost bins, Jenna Vande Zande, a research and communications associate at McIntyre Library, noticed a lack of means to recycle plastic bags on lower campus.

Because of this, Vande Zande started a plastic bag drive at the library with the help of Eric Jennings, a librarian at McIntyre Library. The drive began Monday, April 1 and will continue indefinitely, Vande Zande said.

McIntyre will collect plastic bags at the circulation desk until they receive their bins, she said. They’ll store the bags in a display case in the 24-hour study area and, later, take them to Festival Foods for their plastic recycling program, Vande Zande said.

From there, Festival will take all their plastic bags to Trex Recycling, a center that makes composite decking and benches out of the recycled bags.

Vande Zande pitched the idea to the Student Office of Sustainability, where some SOS members were quick to grab onto the idea and submit a proposal for a bin to keep in the library. These members, Taylor Kalwitz, Lillian Strehlow and Gwen Kieffer, were already working on a new E-waste recycling program and added plastic bag recycling to the mix, Kalwitz said.

“They were already hoping to bring more recycling options to campus,” Vande Zande said. “So they took the lead on writing a proposal to SOS to purchase a bin for plastic bag recycling, as well as bins to replace the aging electronic waste recycling bin we have in the library.”

Kalwitz, an actuarial science student at UW-Eau Claire, said she, Strehlow and Kieffer agreed this project stood out to them among others pitched.

“As a team, we felt that there needed to be more knowledge and access to proper recycling around campus,” Kalwitz said in an email. “Being part of the off-campus student community, we (Kieffer and Kalwitz) felt that there was a lack of resources around us to properly recycle. … We found that the easiest solution to the problem was to offer UWEC students a place to recycle these items on campus.”

The new plastic bag drive will be a means of helping students produce less waste, Strehlow, a fourth-year economics and environmental policy student, said.

I wanted to be a part of this project because I see a lot of opportunity for UW-Eau Claire to introduce more zero-waste oriented practices, and one of those practices is having waste streams available for the different types of trash we create as consumers,” Strehlow said.

She said local facilities can’t take plastic bags because they clog up their machinery and e-waste, such as batteries, can require unique recycling practices that typical recycling facilities can’t do.

“Because of those reasons disposing E-waste and plastic bags can be a hassle,” Strehlow said. “And, if we set up and advertise these waste streams, people can utilize them to recycle properly.”

Kalwitz said students should participate in the drive due to the positive effects it will have on the environment, as opposed to the bags being thrown in the trash.

“We believe that students should participate because improper recycling of plastic bags and e-waste can cause contamination of our other waste streams,” Kalwitz said on behalf of her and Kieffer, “and can become harmful to our environment and consequently impact our health.”

The library plastic bag drive isn’t just accepting grocery bags. Other types of bags they’re taking include, but are not limited to, bread bags, produce bags, newspaper sleeves, ice bags and packaging air pillows.

Along with the plastic bag drive, the library is also getting a new bin for e-waste and battery recycling.

Eventually, Vande Zande said she hopes to combine the library’s efforts with those of upper campus’ plastic bag recycling program.

Wentland can be reached at [email protected].