The Collegian
Tuesday, May 17, 2022

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Student starts Solo Cup recycling program

'Red Solo Cup, I fill you up. Let's have a party, let's have a party!'

Toby Keith has a popular song about the benefits of Solo Cups, but he fails to cover what happens to them when the night is over. Freshman Sparkman Clark of GreenUR has presented the University of Richmond with a solution for these unrecyclable quantities.

"TerraCycle down-cycles," Clark said, "which is basically the process of breaking up items and turning them into new products."

TerraCycle, founded by Tom Szaky, is a program that finds new uses for trash: candy wrappers, make-up containers, shampoo bottles and yes, solo cups. Though some party hosts claim to wash and reuse them, a majority of the cups are thrown into the trash during cleaning.

Clark was the former president of her high school's green club. She has been a part of bringing the TerraCycle program to a new school. She said that it had been a success, and after coming to Richmond, she started thinking about all of the Solo Cups that are used every weekend and beauty products that are used every semester.

"I've already sent in two shipments of beauty supplies and candy wrappers and this will be my fourth shipment of Solo Cups," Clark said.

Sigma Phi Epsilon was the first fraternity to get on board. Its members collected 698 Solo Cups for the TerraCycle program from lodges on the weekend of Nov. 11.

"We've been trying as hard as we can to follow through," said Garrison Weaver, a Sig Ep. "It's not hard and [the bins] don't take up much extra space. Keeping cups from the landfill is something we can hedge right now with such little effort."

Two other fraternities also participate in TerraCycle, Lambda Chi Alpha and Theta Chi. Clark is expecting to have sent in 2,000 solo cups by the end of the semester.

Lucas Fittipaldi, a junior Lambda Chi Alpha, said that he had encouraged other fraternities to participate in the collection because there was no work involved. Party guests simply throw the solo cups into bins instead of trash cans. The bins are cardboard boxes that GreenUR members painted bright red to be placed in the lodges and housing of the participating fraternities.

Though Solo Cups are contributing the most recyclable items through TerraCycle, the university is also registered to send in beauty products and candy wrappers.

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"It's hard to do it by myself," Clark said. "I have the support of GreenUR, and even then it's a lot of work. The more people that want to help out, the more it can expand."

Contact reporter Caroline Merritt at caroline.merritt@richmond.edu.

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