Reusable solutions: Fixing the problem with recycling plastic on campus

Julia Taylor/ Sun Star Reporter

March 11, 2014

Students at UAF are able to recycle quite a few things, but plastic is not currently one of them.  It isn’t just UAF that lost the ability to recycle plastic when K&K Recycling, a company based in North Pole, abruptly stopped it’s plastic recycling program in January.

A sign has been placed where the plastic recycling bins use to be, saying the campus is no longer accepting plastic  Scott Taylor/ Sun Star

A sign has been placed where the plastic recycling bins use to be, saying the campus is no longer accepting plastic
Scott Taylor/ Sun Star

Richard Parker works for UAF’s Office of Sustainability on the Recycling Crew and does outreach to students in a variety of forms.  He says students are often surprised that there is no way to recycle any form of plastic on the UAF canmpus. That means all the plastic generated by the university and students is going into a landfill.

Alexander Bergman, 20, also works for the Office of Sustainability, and has been passionate about environmental awareness before he got to UAF. He sees the inability to recycle plastic as a temporary setback, but thinks that the UAF community needs to make sure that they are looking at the big picture. “I would be happy to see programs that have incentives for recycling,” Bergman said. He would like to see programs that cut down plastic used on campus, or that have bottle deposits to encourage recycling.  He thinks that the changes since the sustainability fee was put in place are “a start in the right direction, but only a start,” and hopes more students will get involved.

Bergman appreciates the leadership from Chancellor Brian Rogers, and tries to rise to the challenge given in 2010 to the entire UAF community to make sustainability “more than just recycling or growing our own food,” and instead make it “a philosophy and way of life that we should be living each and every day.” Parker also sees Rogers as a vital part of moving the UAF community towards more sustainable models with his words and money backing them up.  When students voted in 2009 for the $20 per student sustainability fee, the chancellor matched the money, and has continued to make sure the university matches the amounts raised through the fee.

Until January of this year, most forms of plastic were relatively easy to recycle in Fairbanks, with K&K Recycling, Inc. K&K still is the main way to recycle consumer paper, glass, cardboard, aluminum and tin, but they no longer recycle any form of plastic. The only place in the Interior to recycle any kind of plastic is a program at the Fairbanks Rescue Mission. They are very particular about the plastic they will accept. Plastics must be clean and FRM only accepts certain lighter weight plastics that are classified as a 1 or 2, according to their Sorting Guide.

The UAF Office of Sustainability wants to work with the FRM program, but making sure that all the plastic the kind that FRM accepts and thoroughly cleaned, is not easy, said Parker.  He said that UAF doesn’t currently have the staff or money to do that level of clean-up but they are hoping to find the space and the money to hire students to sort and clean the plastic collected on campus.  They hope that they can start the partnership soon, but there are still details to work out.

 

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2 Responses

  1. Lena says:

    Way to go Alex Bergman and Chancellor Rogers for making sustainability a priority at UAF.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Bergman’s statement that sustainability is “a philosophy and way of life that we should be living each and every day.” Kudos for looking into ways to recycle, but what we often forget are the first steps in the three-green-arrow recycling icon which are REDUCE and REUSE. Are there ways that students (and the campus) can cut down on their use of plastic? Or paper?

    An even bigger challenge to sustainability on the UAF campus is the lack of support for alternative transportation. Especially in an environment like Fairbanks, the campus should be more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. I arrived at UAF over 10 years ago, and I was shocked to find so little support for bicyclists and pedestrians on a university campus. Little has changed since then, except for the increased number of bicycles on campus year-round. UAF has a long way to go before we can call ourselves a ‘green’ campus, but perhaps we could start with becoming a bike- and pedestrian-friendly university.

    Lena

  1. March 12, 2014

    […] Students at UAF are able to recycle quite a few things, but plastic is not currently one of them.  It isn’t just UAF that lost the ability to recycle plastic when K&K Recycling, a company based in Read full article […]

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