Students and faculty work to expand campus recycling

Rebecca Chamberlin

Ames has the privilege of being able to send their garbage to the Resource Recovery Center, which shreds the waste and sends it to the Ames Power Plant to be used as fuel. However, with the increased amount of waste production in Ames, the Resource Recovery Center is only able to divert 70 percent of the waste from the Boone County Landfill. This is where recycling becomes important to try to minimize the amount of waste that will end up in the landfill.

Unfortunately, with the hustle of an average school week, it is easy for students to not go out of their way to seek out recycling containers on campus. In fact, recycling on Iowa State’s campus is pretty variable, and it is hard to even know where to go to recycle paper and empty food and drink containers. All buildings do things differently, and there is no university policy that dictates how recycling takes place. That is why last semester, the student branch of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Green Team decided it was time for an expanded recycling program on campus.

Faculty members founded the LAS Green Team in order to improve sustainability on campus. Allison Vincent, senior in environmental science and president of Leaders for a Sustainable Community, said the LAS Green Team decided to get students involved to incorporate the different viewpoints student bring to the table. Leaders for a Sustainable Community is the student-run division of the LAS Green Team. The Green Team worked closely with Facilities Planning and Management last semester to brainstorm how to put this plan into action.

The two teams decided to model the project after the Department of Residence recycling program that started a year ago because it has been so successful. However, summer approached, and the planning was postponed. In June, Facilities Planning and Management decided to test out a recycling program in their own building, the General Services Building.

“We’re our best critic,” said Bob Currie, director of Facilities Planning and Management. Currie said the trial went well, and when the school year began, the Green Team picked up where they left off with Facilities Planning and Management. The two groups collaborated and decided to carry out a campus pilot in Carver Hall.

“Carver has a lot of traffic, a big lobby and only has white paper and newspaper recycling,” Vincent said.

The recycling bins will be located in several locations, including the lobby and outside the auditorium in the basement.

The understanding behind the project is that it is self-managed, meaning Facilities Planning and Management will supply the recycling bins, but the Green Team will be in charge of emptying the bins into larger outdoor trash bins.

Iowa State has a contract with Waste Management, which provides large outdoor dumpsters for recyclables, picks up them up on an as-needed basis and charges accordingly.

The pilot at Carver Hall began Wednesday. There will be bins for mixed paper, cardboard, and plastic and glass food and drink containers. The Green Team will be monitoring the bins every other day and recording how long it takes to fill them for the next several weeks. From this, they will be able to create a more structured emptying schedule.

The ultimate goal is to get recycling expanded to more buildings on campus. Vincent said the Green Team is more than willing to collaborate with other groups to help them pioneer their recycling projects. Facilities Planning and Management will supply bins to any building if a group requests them and takes on the responsibility of emptying them into the outdoor trash bin.

Currie said: “I think that it’s important that [Iowa State is] a leader in sustainability. Recycling can reduce our dependence on landfills.”