Take a stroll through the Hill Library’s Learning Commons and you’ll immediately notice one of the Libraries’ most popular items. It’s not the laptops or the chargers that we lend. It’s not even our extensive collections on the shelves and online.
It’s the whiteboards and dry-erase markers.
The Libraries purchases about 12,000 dry-erase markers each year for students to use for free, scrawling their equations and project plans on whiteboards and tabletops all throughout our learning spaces. And when those markers are spent, they get tossed in the trash and head to the landfill. It’s a lot of plastic waste, but it doesn’t have to be.
The Libraries has launched a dry-erase marker recycling program this month—the first of its kind at NC State—organized by our Safety & Sustainability Committee and supported by a Libraries Good Ideas Grant. Students can now put those used-up markers, as well as pens, pencils, and highlighters, in special bins at the Ask Us desks at both the Hill and Hunt Libraries instead of dropping them in the trash.
Saving plastic from the landfill is just one outcome of the program, however. It also provides an avenue of action for students, many of whom are interested in waste diversion and environmental impact reduction on both a personal and systemic level.
“This program not only helps to reduce our plastic waste in the landfill but asks Libraries patrons to be thoughtful about how many uses one Expo marker has,” says the Libraries’ Support Services Associate Katelan Haynes. “In giving students an option to dispose of this plastic responsibly, it also provokes a thought process: ‘Is this marker really trash?’ Making this choice is just one more step we can take to having a more sustainable Libraries and campus overall.”
While the Hunt Library’s Silver LEED certification is a point of pride, students have made it known that they would like the Libraries to do more. Students were responsible for requesting permission and funding for the installation of a water bottle refilling station in the Hill Library in 2016—a program that the Libraries has since expanded throughout the Hunt Library and our branches with support from the student-run Sustainability Fund.
“The Libraries Safety & Sustainability Committee is always looking for programs or ways to improve our sustainability, as it’s not only something we champion in our workplace but is also a core value of the whole university,” says Librarian for Digital Teaching & Learning Alison Edwards. “Students have made it clear to us that we should continue to do more. We have pursued new programs like paper towel recycling and composting that reduce waste in the Libraries. We are committed to making green choices. This new marker recycling option is just the next step we are taking towards a more sustainable future for all.”