MACON — Eight Mercer University students have spent the semester in a service-learning course studying ways to reduce the waste heading for Macon’s landfill. They will present their findings, as well as results from a pilot recycling effort they spearheaded, to Mayor-elect Robert Reichert and officers from several area waste-management companies. The presentation will take place on Friday, Dec. 7, at noon in room 1AB in the School of Medicine Building on Mercer’s Macon campus.
In order to address the ongoing problem of increasing amounts of trash headed for Macon’s landfill, the students in Dr. Gregory Domin’s Environmental Justice course, have developed a number of solutions, including an updated recycling effort. The students involved the project class are Robert Adamson of Stockbridge, Ga.; Chester Boudrias of Fort Pierce, Fla.; Jessica Cavin of Richmond Hill, Ga.; Kathryn Ferris of Woodstock, Ga.; Adam Meeks of Leesburg, Ga.; Clifford Pauley of Richmond Hill, Ga.; Josh Robertson of Orange Park, Fla., and Rachel Thomas of Tullahoma, Tenn.
“These students had no idea that what they were signing up for would land them face-to-face with a problem that Macon has been dealing with for years, and what’s more, that they would be asked to find a solution to it,” Domin said. “The class really responded to the project, and they have come up with some great ideas to help the city as it tries to reduce the waste it sends to its landfill.”
The simple answer to an overflowing landfill is to stop putting garbage in it. That solution, however, is a problem in and of itself as the accumulation of waste is inevitable in the time and place in which we live, Domin said. If the trash cannot go to landfill — and that will one day be the case — the only option is to find another destination for it. While the creation of another landfill almost certainly lies somewhere in Macon’s future, these Environmental Justice students have another solution in mind: recycling centers.
Kathyn Ferris, a junior political science major, said that dealing with the government officials, residents and private companies necessary to develop the project was challenging, but worthwhile.
“Though it has been extremely challenging, it is important that groups, such as our class and residents within the community, get involved so government is aware that things must change and that old projects need to be revisited,” Ferris said. “Ideally, I hope that Mayor-elect Reichert is pleased with our proposal and takes the subsequent steps to make a public-private partnership be the basis for the new recycling program for the City of Macon.”
While Macon has seen a number of recycling efforts in the past, Domin’s students were determined to discover why those efforts failed and what can be done to make the next one succeed. Working on a proposal for Mayor-elect Robert Reichert, the class attempted to cover all of the bases. To find out what went wrong last time, the students have been elbow-deep in research, looking for ways to make recycling in Macon both convenient and profitable for the city and its residents. And to prove that recycling can work, the students conducted a pilot recycling program with three downtown businesses.
Realizing the realities of funding shortages and previously "inconsistent" participation from the residents of Macon, the class is nevertheless optimistic, Domin said. Educating the city about the need to recycle is perhaps the biggest challenge they face, but it is one that they believe to be no larger than the mountain of trash sitting a top of the Macon’s landfill. And the students "understand" that both of the challenges are eventually going to have to be faced.
About Mercer University:
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University has 7,300 students; 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies; major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; four regional academic centers across the state; a university press; two teaching hospitals — Memorial Health University Medical Center and the Medical Center of Central Georgia; educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta; an engineering research center in Warner Robins; a performing arts center in Macon; and a NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.
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