Over the past year, several organizations on campus have made strides to make Lehigh more sustainable. Upon the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester, various retail dining locations have begun to replace plastic straws with paper straws. (Sam Henry/B&W Staff)

Lehigh introduces Bigbelly trash cans and paper straws

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Students returned to a more sustainable campus this semester, with the Office of Sustainability’s recent integration of new trash cans and paper straws.

Over the summer, the Office of Sustainability introduced Bigbelly trash cans to campus. These cans are more efficient than the traditional trash cans because they are lined with solar panels and can compact trash, which allows more waste to fit into the space.

“We all use trash cans every day to throw away our garbage,” Sophia Closter, ’21, said. “Lehigh replacing all the old trash cans with new ones shows the willingness our school has to take steps forward in creating a more environmentally friendly community.”

Courtney Giardina, ’20, a Greek eco-rep coordinator, said the design of the cans, which requires one to pull the can open rather than toss items in through the top, forces users to be more conscious of how and what they are throwing away. The text on the outside of the cans reminds students, faculty and visitors on campus what should be thrown in the trash and recycling cans.

Giardina said the company that collects the trash from Lehigh’s Bigbelly cans uses an app that helps it monitor trash levels.

“This way, the trash only has to be picked up when the can is full, not when it’s half empty or overflowing,” Giardina said.

In addition to the Bigbelly trash cans, Lehigh aims to replace all plastic straws with paper straws by the end of September. Students have started to adjust to the change, with many on-campus and regional establishments already using paper straws.

“A lot of restaurants in my hometown have been making the same switch, so it’s nice to see Lehigh doing the same,” Closter said.

She said the only issue with the paper straws is that they sometimes become soggy, however, the environmental benefit of using paper straws is more significant.

“The whole paper straw initiative is cool because it gets everybody thinking about sustainability, which is important,” Rachel Hamburger ’20, a former eco-rep said. “But at the same time, it’s just a face for a much larger problem that we really should be talking about more.”

The Office of Sustainability’s Campus Sustainability Plan 2020 aims to integrate various measures to create a more sustainable campus.

The plan focuses on several different areas, including campus and community engagement.

“As a college campus, we’re a group of educated young people who are going to be impacted by our changing environment,” Giardina said. “There should be a greater push from the student body itself to pressure our administration to make change. There are so many areas we can improve on, and as a campus, we can be doing so much more.”

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