When the pandemic rocked the nation, it caused many new changes to many different sectors. Many restrictions were made for companies to stop the spread of COVID-19, which made certain processes impossible. One of those many restrictions made it extremely hard to easily recycle in the Hattiesburg area. Though it hit a few snags due to COVID-19, university officials assure students, faculty and staff that city and campus-based recycling programs will return to normal soon.
While it is the Southern Miss Physical Plant’s mission to “provide a safe, secure and enriching environment, in an effective and efficient manner, consistent with the university vision, mission and values”, repurposing waste soon became a hard quest to accomplish. When many locations and businesses had to shut down because of COVID-19, the 4th Street Recycling Center in Lamar County lost their main stream of revenue, causing them to shut down. This shutdown not only affected the campus, but also the city of Hattiesburg and other local areas.
Without the Recycling Center, many materials that are harder to process have been unable to be properly recycled. Campus custodians are still aiding the environment by taking in cardboard for recycling, but they have not been able to take in any more plastics, aluminum or reusable waste at this time. In an attempt to fix this, the Physical Plant has had to resort to finding the next closest plant, which is in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Having readily available recycling access is important in making attempts to aid the environment.
“We are at the point now where we are working on a contract with the Baton Rouge plant,” Assistant Director for Marketing & Campus Relations Michelle Shinall said.
Over the summer waste sustainability had to be put on the back burner while faculty attempted to find a solution to the problem. However, changes are soon to come. With social distancing guidelines allowing schools and businesses to now re-open, sustainability is once again becoming a main focus, with figuring out how to continue the recycling program a top priority.
“[The Office of Sustainability is] currently working on an announcement that will be sent out by University Communications to all faculty, staff, and students to both Hattiesburg and Gulf Park campuses with an update on our recycling program,” Manager of Sustainable Operation Leslee Potvin said.
Though Potvin gave no specific date, she mentioned that this statement should be distributed across campus “very soon”.
As campus members readily wait for recycling bins to be used to their full potential again, there are still things everyone can do to aid in protecting the environment. Using reusable water bottles, bags and containers can significantly decrease plastic waste. Make sure to dispose of reusable masks and gloves properly so that they do not end up in streets and walkways. Consider purchasing items which are not covered in plastic. Most importantly, be mindful of the environment and the animals that live in it. To keep up with the latest developments of the recycling program, please visit the Physical Plant’s official university page at https://www.usm.edu/physical-plant.