Energy Diet

Creative Recycling at Our Dorm

Talking about waste category, it took a while for me to think. In the first place, sorting recycling properly is almost an impossible goal to achieve here, since we don’t really have a system that functions well enough to do this.

We have categorizing trash cans in the public washrooms where each dorm empties their waste bins, but I don’t think there are workers who deal with the categorized trash, and neither do the other students. So we don’t take the categorizing trash cans seriously, but do as we think is effective for ourselves.

From book box...

From book box...

In most parts of China, we have waste collectors who go to the trash cans in search of the waste that can be recycled. They get these recyclable wastes and sell them to the processing factories or whoever needs them. They collect waste paper, wrappers, used batteries, most bottles and pop-top cans, etc.

So what do we do? That’s a good question. In my university, there are also some old people who get a large plastic bag and collect waste bottles directly from us instead of going to the trash cans. Though we rarely buy bottled beverages, whenever we buy it, we gather the bottles in the dorm and send them to the collector.

... to bookshelf

... to bookshelf

In the dorm, we keep the fruit peels and put them into the flower pot so they can provide nutrition to the flowers. The worn-out jeans are kept, too. They can be used to mend bags or not-so-important clothes. Since we can’t totally stop using plastic, we keep it for the waste bin so it’s used at least twice.

What’s more, we reuse the paper boxes for the goods we purchase online to build shelves. It makes full use of space and saves us money for shelves. Jing Hu came up with the idea and built the first one in our dorm, and we all think it stunning. The shelf really works well and its height can be added if you get new boxes. How creative she is!

I hope one day our city can build a well-functioning waste categorizing and recycle system so we can do this more easily and more effectively. But until then, we will just do whatever we can to spoil less and reuse more.


  1. Dave Chameides
    June 6, 2011, 7:24 am

    Great stuff here. While you are obviously straining to find better ways to recycle and waste less, you are quite far along the way to re-using which trumps recycling every time! I love the bookshelves, very cool. When they are finished, perhaps you can re-use the cardboard or at least recycle it. Another option would be to find a worm composter (or start your own) and feed the cardboard to them. Worms love that stuff.

    Good start!

  2. Christina Nunez
    June 7, 2011, 11:11 am

    Wow Dave, good tip about the worms. Zong, your roommate’s bookshelf idea is very clever.

  3. Zong Yu Dorm
    June 10, 2011, 3:50 am

    Thanks a lot! We’re so happy to see your praises. The worms thing is new to us and it sounds interesting. We will give it a try!

  4. Chad Lipton
    June 10, 2011, 1:43 pm

    Great comments Dave. I love the bookshelf, too. Zong–Keep taking pictures of interesting items out of recycled materials. I’d like to see what other students come up with.

  5. Ashley
    June 19, 2011, 8:14 am

    Great ideas! I’m going to send this to some students that will be in dorms this fall…it’ll def. help them.