America Recycles Day uses robot to raise awareness

Sophomore Christina Davila educates Junior Diego Aguilar on the benefits of recyling. America Recycles Day took place Wednesday at the Rock. Giancarlo Falconi // Staff Photographer
Sophomore Christina Davila educates Junior Diego Aguilar on the benefits of recyling. America Recycles Day took place Wednesday at the Rock. Giancarlo Falconi // Staff Photographer

A walking, talking robot and a 12-foot-tall inflatable recycling bin greeted students on their way to class as they walked past the Rock Wednesday afternoon.

The University of Miami hosted America Recycles Day to promote recycling and sustainable living on campus. America Recycles Day, held annually on Nov. 15, is the only nationally recognized day for the promotion of recycling.

This was the second year that the event was celebrated at UM, thanks to a partnership between GreenU and the Energy Conservation Organization Agency (ECO) of Student Government (SG). GreenU handles all things sustainable on campus, while ECO implements green initiatives through SG.

According to Benjamin Slavin, chair of ECO, Wednesday’s event was made possible by coordination between administration and students.

“In my experience, it’s been incredible to work with administration that cares so much about incorporating students and empowers us to pass the green initiatives that we’d like to see happen,” he said. “Administrators don’t necessarily understand the student perspective, and vice-versa. So together, it creates a more holistic approach, a yin and yang of sustainability that’s really special.”

Sponsors present at the Rock included Coca-Cola, Staples, Miami-Dade County Public Works and Waste Management, Waste Management for UM, and Honest Tea. Each sponsor hosted a booth where company representatives gave out prizes and educated passersby about the importance of recycling, as well as ongoing recycling initiatives.

Honest Tea hosted “The Honest Store” where people brought in recyclable items in exchange for points, redeemable for prizes including Honest Tea drinks, a $25 gift card to the UM Bookstore and a skateboard. The stand also featured a 12-foot-tall inflatable recycling bin, which travels around the country to promote recycling.

According to an Honest Tea representative, it was part of Honest Tea’s larger recycling initiative The Great Recycle that has traveled to 20 states and recycled more than 537,000 bottles since 2012.

A popular attraction was a $10,000 interactive robot from Waste Management, Inc. The robot was operated from afar by remote-control and communicated with students through a hidden microphone, stopping them to tell jokes and educate them about recycling.

Shiraz Kashar is part of community outreach at Waste Management and was largely in charge of the robot. He said the robot is a great publicity tool to promote recycling at different events.

Staples showcased its line of products made from “greener” materials and looked for feedback from students and staff. One product was a new toilet paper roll, designed with no cardboard core to be waste-free. Luiz Oliveira, an account executive from Staples, explained that Staples hopes to introduce this product to UM as a future green initiative.

Meanwhile, GreenU and ECO hosted a game where students guessed if certain items could be recycled or not. Students reported the exercise as helpful for going green in the future.

“I think my favorite part of America Recycles Day was learning what kind of things you can recycle and what kind of things you cannot,” said Sabine Delouche, a graduate student studying public health. “That’s a question that I have in my own apartment.”

They also promoted new signs that will be placed on trash cans and recycling bins around campus. These signs include visuals of what can and cannot be recycled to eliminate confusion.

“You can just walk up, take a five-second glance at [the sign], and put it in the right bin without using much brain power,” said Nika Hosseini, an executive board member of ECO.

Finally, students took a pledge to recycle. This made them eligible to win prizes sponsored by ECO, like a “Recycling Is Sexy” tank top.