Recycling matters: From past to present
Plastic bottles peak out from two different bins. One, a large trash can. The other, a bright blue recycling bin.
From the beginning, the success of recycling at UVU had started with students. Recycling at UVU began over a decade ago as a student initiative. Since then, it has grown a lot and there is much going on behind the recycling scenes on campus.
However, UVU’s recycling program also faces its share of challenges. The solution to these challenges may be the same group that gave recycling its birth at UVU: the students.
According to Kenneth Mathews, Senior Director of Auxiliary Services & the Sorenson Student Center, the department which runs UVU’s recycling, UVU’s recycling program truly began as a grassroots initiative. More than ten years ago students banded together to bring recycling to UVU. They went to the Dean of Students at that time and presented their goals. From their united voices, UVU’s recycling program was born.
UVU’s recycling program has humble beginnings and started with almost no equipment. Since then, the program has grown bit by bit on what Mathews describes as a “minimal” budget. The program now employs a handful of students and continues to buy new bins and needed equipment with the money it earns from recycling.
UVU also recently began collecting plastic for recycling. Even though UVU doesn’t yet have the resources to make its recycling program self-sustainable or profitable economically, Mathews says UVU recycles to help save the environment, to support the green initiative and to keep materials out of landfills and going into something useful.
Currently, UVU recycles cardboard, plastic bottles, aluminum cans and all types of paper. Currently UVU cannot recycle plastic bags, glass, napkins, tissues, or paper coated with wax or plastic.
For the fiscal year of July 2010 to June 2011, UVU collected 344,774 pounds of recycling. This figure does not include the amount of plastic recycled.
One thing UVU still lacks is a separate recycling center. Currently, much of UVU’s recycling is done in parking lots and behind buildings. UVU does not have the facilities to recycle materials on-campus and outsources to various companies.
“We love what we do, and we’re excited to wake up in the morning for this job,” said recycling employee and UVU student Bradley Gelegonya in spite of the program’s struggles.
Both Gelegonya and his co-worker and fellow student Travis Taylor have worked with the UVU recycling program for about two years. Taylor said he enjoys “being able to help out the environment as much as I can and getting paid for it. It’s a win-win really.”
According to Taylor, students and faculty can help the recycling program by doing the “little things” like sorting materials into the right bin helps.
Clay Allred, an assistant director in the Student Center who oversees recycling, seconds this point.
“The biggest thing is just getting people to put [their waste] into the right bins,” Allred said. “Put your trash in the trash. Put your recycling into the correct bin, and then we can handle it.”
If students and others at UVU do not properly sort their waste, UVU’s contact-companies could stop taking UVU’s recycling. In fact, some companies have threatened to stop working with UVU because of trash and other non-recyclables mixed into UVU’s recycling.
The recycling program does not have the manpower to sort the recycling it receives. It is up to students and staff to take a moment to make sure they are using the correct bins.
“Everybody has to buy into [recycling] on your campus to make it right,” Matthews said.
According to a recent campus poll, conducted of 65 UVU students and a few others, such as faculty, the majority of the UVU population (71%) feels that recycling is very important. And 0% of those polled said that recycling was either not very important or not important at all. In contrast, only 15% of those polled said that they always recycle on campus.
Just as recycling at UVU began as a student initiative, the future of UVU’s recycling is also in student hands. A new website to help students learn about and understand recycling at UVU is currently in progress. In the meantime, bright blue containers sit next to nearly every trash can on campus, making recycling more than accessible to students.