Like all Goshen College students before me, my time for S.S.T. finally came. Last semester I spent moments embarrassing myself in a language I couldn’t possible master, while teaching Chinese middle school students how to interact with the first foreigner they had ever seen.

When I returned to the clear skies (well, comparatively) of Indiana, I was bombarded with questions about my experience. In addition to the awful inquiry “So how was SST?”, many people asked me what I missed about the Middle Kingdom.

Because Study Service Term is such an immense experience, I had trouble coming up with a single good answer. This winter break, that all changed during a family road trip.

China is a fantastic nation for recycling, which is ironic if one considers its environmental problems. Every single public trash can has an adjacent container for glass and plastics. When I was in a city, I was never more than a three minute walk away from recycling my recyclables in a recycling receptacle.

Although this convenience is probably more of a testament to their centralized government than a dedication to a sustainable lifestyle, I still appreciated the availability. It was this easy access to recycling that I came to miss here in the states.

Anyway, while on this aforementioned road trip I ran into a big problem. Every time we stopped to fill up on food and fuel, I never knew what to do with cans or bottles. I would get out of the van and instinctively look for a recycling bin, always to be met with disappointment.

All in all, I think Goshen College students do a good job of recycling, and it’s helpful that we’re provided with great locations to place our reusable items.

What irks me is that easy access to recycling is not available for the masses. I understand that installing similar setups as the ones I saw in China would be expensive, but I think it’s something that the federal government should encourage.

I would support a program that gave monetary incentives to states that pass laws promoting recycling. For if it’s the job of a government to take care its people, shouldn’t it also be their job to work towards the well-being of its future citizens?

Ideally, such programs would include recycling bins in every location where garbage could be thrown.

I’m probably being way too optimistic.