Savannah State University, the illustrious university by the sea, is one of Georgia’s oldest institution of higher learning. From the towering oak trees covered in Spanish moss to the historic buildings, the upkeep of the campus is a task that takes hundreds of thousands of dollars and plenty of patience from the staff of Evers Physical Plant (EPP).
Fall 2017 saw visible improvements to the campus and many students commented on the addition of flowers around the campus grounds. Even with these improvements to the grounds, there has been a noticeable decline in the cleanliness of the campus.
This issue is especially apparent around the upperclassmen residence halls, the University Village and the Commons.
Facilities superintendent Kelly Fletcher says her team spends at least 2 hours every morning picking up trash in these areas.
Many students are unaware of the environmental impact loose trash creates. It ends up in the lowest areas on campus like the canals and the marsh. It clogs up these areas and kills the animals and plants that thrive in these environments. During high tide, the litter is often pulled back into the marsh when the tide recedes. The trash floats into the waterways and often clogs them, and animals eat the plastic.
Dr. Sue Ebanks, associate professor of Marine and Environmental Sciences and an SSU alumnae, has been working closely with students and faculty to address the issue of littering and recycling. She is also actively working with the community to raise awareness about environmental issues.
Ebanks partnered with De’Anna Franklin to host a recycling day event on campus in November. Franklin is an SSU alumnae who is an Environmental Compliance Inspector for the City of Savannah.
The event’s purpose was to urge students to recycle paper, plastic, glass and cooking grease, and also to raise awareness about the implications of littering.
The event was in partnership with the City of Savannah Sanitation Bureau Recycling and Litter Services Department and it is expected to become an annual event.
“We focus on recycling waste cooking oil and defending our sanitary sewer systems from contaminants. Our job is to ensure commercial facilities maintain compliance with the city ordinance of their grease interceptors. Additionally, we speak with communities about recycling their grease and to prevent the residents from pouring the grease down the drains,” Franklin said.
People tend to be more familiar with the recycling of plastic, paper and glass, but many people are not aware of the damaging effects of the improper disposal of cooking grease.
The proper disposal process for grease is to get containers from the City of Savannah’s Fat Oil and Grease department to store used oil in until it is ready to be taken to the facility.
According to Franklin, Savannah experiences almost 80 overflows in local neighborhoods due to cooking grease being poured down drains. The blockages affect the bodies of water Savannah is best known for.
Recycled waste cooking oil can be converted into biodiesel and used in cosmetics, vehicles, etc.
Ebanks says that the University Village experienced a blockage due to cooking grease.
“One of the things that happened in the Ville, was that they had a huge flooding event that was tied to grease build up in the campus. That was one of the big drives for the City of Savannah partnering with us to raise awareness. So, that’s one of the place we will be focusing on in the future,” Ebanks said.
As litter fills the canals and brush, faculty members stress student accountability in tackling this issue.
Ervin Ogden, Director of EPP, says he has observed students carelessly littering on campus.
“I’ve seen students open their car door, throw litter on the ground, close their car door, and continue on their way. A different method of food service might help. I know the Styrofoam they get at the venues contribute to the trash thrown around. But there must be a level of accountability. You, as a student, must have pride in your school. If you don’t litter, you must address other persons and say hey, why aren’t you picking that paper up,” he said.
Fletcher, works directly with Ogden and shares his sentiment.
“I’ve met a few students that have come to SSU and have never had to do any chores (take out the trash, clean, cook, etc.), some feel that it is not their responsibility at all, a portion are just lazy, and then there is generational access. What I mean by generational access is, each generation (every 4 years), comes to college with easier access to the world.” Fletcher wrote in an email.
Moncello Stewart, work order and records clerk at the plant, also agreed with Ogden about ways to decrease the Styrofoam products that mostly come from the Student Union.
“The ditches are filled with Styrofoam and it blows and ends up in the ditches, and someone has to go in there and clean it every day. If we could think about more recyclable items, I think that would be a good thing,” Stewart said.
Fletcher feels that students have cultivated a culture of ease and ready availability and this is adding to the littering issue on campus.
“If you can eat, communicate with friends & family, shop, and attend class without ever leaving your room, then why pray tell would you venture out for such a menial task as taking out your trash?” she wrote in the email.