After weekends, Collegetown is littered with beer cans and plastic cups.

Sun File Photo

After weekends, Collegetown is littered with beer cans and plastic cups.

October 1, 2019

From Trash to Cash: Students Scour Collegetown for Recyclables

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Dented cans, plastic cups and empty bottles litter Collegetown lawns and streets each weekend, yet many of these remnants disappear before Monday classes resume.

But the aftermath of Cornell’s late-night parties does not magically vanish. Beyond regularly scheduled trash collection, a number of students and campus service groups have taken up the quiet task of removing the debris scattered around Collegetown.

Jacob Llodra ’21 began collecting recyclables with one of his housemates during this year’s Orientation Week. He removes bottles and cans from streets and sidewalks each week and redeems them, earning five cents for each one he processes at Wegmans.

“We were hanging around the house before classes started ramping up and we were looking for something to do,” he said. “Rather than sit on the couch, we were like, why don’t we wander the streets of Collegetown and make a quick buck or two?”

Llodra said the bottles he and his housemate have collected since late August amount to nearly $50, which they use to help pay for the house’s utilities, pointing out that he never intended to “get rich off of it.”

While he views small-scale trash removal as neither vital to the functioning of his house nor the maintenance of Collegetown, the weekend clean-ups have become a source of lighthearted fun. What’s more, Llodra said he sees no harm in picking up the litter that is otherwise not a priority for most students.

“People are throwing money away,” Llodra said. “Every can or bottle is taxed 5 cents, and those people are paying that 5 cents and just not getting it back because they’re not redeeming them.”

Beyond environmentally-minded residents hunting trash in search of spare cash, co-ed community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega sponsors a weekly hour-long Collegetown Cleanup event. Each Sunday, a group ranging from two to 12 APO members descends on Collegetown with garbage bags and gloves, removing litter on and around sidewalks.

“[The litter] is quite ignorable if you’re not paying attention,” according to Winny Sun ’20, APO’s vice president of communications and a staff writer for The Sun. “But if you’re engaging in an event like this, there is actually garbage to be collected.”

Cleanup participants not only collect bottles and cans, but also general trash that does not make it to the garbage, according to Edison Lei ’20, co-chair of the cleanup project. Because recyclables and trash often end up in the same garbage bags during the service event, participants dispose of all of their collected litter in dumpsters. Although APO tried to implement a recycling function for this project, Lei said the recycling program has been hard to enforce.

Amanda Newman ’21, a resident on Eddy Street, said she has observed fraternity members — particularly newer recruits — pick up garbage from lawns after they have ended.

Still, Lei said students could be more conscious of their waste and the accumulation of trash in Collegetown.

“If people voluntarily [picked up trash], that would be a miracle,” he said. “A lot of people say they help local organizations, but they don’t think about the trash here. This is already really local — you’re living next to trash.”