Appalled by the huge amount of waste fraternities produced at tailgates and parties, senior Hannah Choueke took action.
Last year, Choueke created the UNC Greek recycling intern position — a project that has continued to grow and is using creative ways to encourage fraternities to recycle.
Orange County’s rank among N.C. counties in waste production in the past 20 years
Number of bins recycled by Big Fraternity Court last week
Number of bins Big Fraternity Court has the capacity to recycle
“The sheer volume of aluminum cans was stunning to me,” said Choueke, who is a member of Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity.
She contacted UNC’s Sustainability Office about creating and getting credit hours for the position. Then she went door-to-door asking fraternities to recycle.
“Most fraternities did not know they had recycling bins,” Choueke said.
She said when she first attended fraternity chapter meetings, she was frustrated and disappointed because no one seemed to care.
She worked with the Orange County Solid Waste Management Department in order to get statistics on what fraternities were recycling and how much, and got recycling truck drivers to help keep track of the recycling progress.
What started as a single-semester project turned into a year-long enterprise, which has since been passed to a new UNC Greek recycling intern, junior Elly Withers.
Withers, a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, has continued Choueke’s work by making recycling bins with basketball backboards to put in the individual fraternity houses.
The backboards, which she got from the UNC Surplus Property Retail Store, were made from the original backboards used in Carmichael Arena.
She said the backboards are intended to make it easier for the men in the fraternities to recycle.
“I compare it to beer pong,” she said. “It’s really fun — dunking recycling.”
The first recycling bin was placed in Delta Kappa Epilson’s fraternity house during a tailgate and Halloween party, and Withers said it was successful.
Delta Kappa Epilson leads UNC fraternities in recycling, accounting for 31 percent of all such recycling.
“Recycling is so easy. Everyone is on board,” said Delta Kappa Epsilon’s president Stephen Stephano. “Elly’s idea is great — a fun twist that makes recycling more enjoyable.”
Each fraternity has the ability to produce five to six bins of recycling each week if they recycle to capacity. Last week, the houses on Fraternity Court recycled five bins.
Because six fraternities share these bins, Withers said they have the potential to recycle 30 bins.
Wither’s second project is creating a UNC Sustainability Award for a sorority or fraternity based on efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle. Withers said she aims to make recycling a fun competition.
Withers has been working on her ideas with Blair Pollock, a planner for the Orange County Solid Waste Department.
Pollock said one problem Withers faces is the fast turnover rates in the fraternity houses — students quickly arrive and leave, so the fraternities need to educate new students about recycling each year.
Pollock said each year students call him about county recycling programs.
“What they don’t realize is that Orange County has had a recycling program for 20 years,” Pollock said. “I tell them to look in their backyard.”
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