After years of inactivity, UAF recycling stirs to life

Elika Roohi and Jeremia Schrock / Sun Star Reporters
May 3, 2011

Every day during the week, student employees of the Office of Sustainability at UAF head out to empty the various recycling bins in different locations around campus.

Ryan Good is one of these people. He is a senior majoring in psychology and has been the director of recycling at UAF for the last two years. According to Good, there has been recycling at UAF for a while, but the program hasn’t always been reliable.

“It’s been sort of off and on,” Good said. He attributes this to the fact that students are always graduating, which left the until-now student-run program in a state of flux.

This was the case when Good became director. The previous director graduated without leaving much in the way of instruction, and Good was left to figure out how to run recycling alone.

Having a sustainable campus really requires more than a few student employees emptying the recycle bins every week. This was part of the justification for the implementation of the sustainability fee.

That fee created an Office of Sustainability (OS) at UAF, as well as funding for a director to take charge of all recycling on campus. The fee is expected to raise an estimated $2.5 million over the next ten years. The Chancellor Brian Rogers has pledged to match that amount, giving the OS $5 million to work with.

Michele Hebert was hired as the director at the beginning of the current academic year, and she said she is pleased with the direction the program is going. The rainbow bins across from the SRC fill up with paper, plastic, aluminum and glass, and are emptied at least twice a week, according to Good.

Hebert takes sustainability seriously, having started recycling programs during her high school and college years. She considers herself a “Kumbayah-singing old hippie” and has four 55-gallon drums at home for her own recycling needs. “I really in my heart believe in zero waste,” she said.

One of the biggest projects the student employees of the Office of Sustainability have tackled this year was getting recycling bins up in more places. There are roughly 50 to 60 recycling bins at locations across UAF and even some off campus, Good said. Last year, students submitted a proposal to the RISE Board, which oversees projects and proposals funded by the sustainability fee. Their proposal was denied. Instead of using official blue recycling bins, the office took old trashcans and refurbished them to be recycling bins.

“Official recycling bins are really expensive,” Good said. “I guess it makes sense that we’re recycling trash cans.”

The progress made this year is in stark contrast to recycling in previous years, Hebert said. Last year, the recycled plastic accumulated in a trailer all year. According to Good, the plastic was shipped to Anchorage at the end of the year. He doesn’t know what happened to it after that. Another problem with recycling last year was paper placed in the recycling bins was thrown away.

This year, janitorial services are supposed to make sure paper is recycled.

An aspect of campus recycling that Hebert is particularly proud of is the purchase of a glass pulverizer. The idea for a pulverizer was first put forward by Garrett Evridge, a student worker with the OS. The glass collected on campus will be crushed into sand and used as a method of traction control during the winter. The $13,000 allotted to purchase the pulverizer was approved by the chancellor this Spring and will be overseen by Facilities Services.

“We’ve made great strides,” said Brandon Drucker, an employee in the Office of Sustainability. Drucker talked about the challenges involved in getting students to buy in to the recycling program. “It’s kind of hard to change your habits if you don’t even know what they are to begin with.”

“I feel like we don’t have enough students excited yet,” Hebert said. “The ones I’m working with are really excited, but I want to make more students engaged.”

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