Nov. 3, 2014
Recycling and composting awareness has steadily grown on campus over the last couple of years.
According to Sustainability zero waste coordinator Kami McFall, recycling at UCCS started about six years ago and has seen steady progress.
“I’ve seen an increase in recycling,” McFall said. “I definitely have. I think it’s also due to our students here on campus coming in as freshmen and they’re getting acclimated to how we live here on campus.”
Along with the current recycling and compost bins, Sustainability has also implemented a new cardboard collection program.
Cardboard would traditionally go into the singlestream recycling bin, but is being separated because of monetary benefits.
Separating the cardboard brought in close to $3,000 and allowed for two new parttime positions, according to Sustainability program manager Kimberly Reeves.
“Overall, we’re saving more money by not putting the cardboard in the single-stream,” Reeves said.
By segregating the cardboard, the number of Waste Management pick-ups has been reduced, which cuts back on transportation costs. She estimated that UCCS has saved about $20,000.
They are also continuing to encourage wise recycling of plastic bags, which cannot go into the single-stream system.
McFall explained that the bags are too thin and get jammed in the recycling machines. The process is then halted, which causes Waste Management to lose money as they fix the problem. But McFall cautions to not just throw the bags in the trash.
There is a box near the Student Life and Leadership Office in the University Center that is specifically for plastic bags.
“It’s not like we cannot recycle plastic bags, we just cannot in a single-stream at this time,” she said.
Once the bin is full, the bags are taken to a recycling company. It is estimated that four large bags are recycled every month.
Sustainability has two locations on campus for composting: one in Café 65 and the other in the Lodge. McFall said that they are also composting paper towels from specific trash cans in the bathrooms.
“We’re always looking out for gaining more locations to compost,” she said.
When full, the compost is taken by Waste Management and transported to the Midway Landfill where the compost is sorted and tilled. Sustainability aims to eventually keep the compost on campus.
“It is beneficial for an outside hauler to come and take it,” Reeves said. “If we did it on campus we would lose the product that we purchase.” She explained that the compostable paper plates and utensils need a larger container to compost in that the university cannot currently provide.
McFall encourages students to promote sustainability through word of mouth. She also mentioned that students with their own personal gardens may benefit from the compost.
“We’re just trying to get the outreach out there into the community,” she said. Sustainability has partnered with Students for Environmental Awareness and Sustainability in order to promote the on-campus garden.
For students wanting to get a good idea of what is recyclable and what is not, they can participate in Mount Trashmore on Nov. 13. at the El Pomar Plaza.
“It helps us to determine what products are going in [the trash] and how we can help educate the campus,” Reeves said.
“This is when we need all hands on deck. This is when we need all the volunteers,” McFall said. “It doesn’t take a lot of time. You can come by, you know, for 10 or 15 minutes to get some kind of educational piece from that.”
“We encourage anyone to take a minute to stop by and if you want to, put on a pair of gloves and dig in,” she said.
McFall explained that she goes around to waste bins on campus and inspects their contents to ensure trash and recycling are actually being separated, a process called “ground truthing.”
“I will look for what belongs and what does not belong,” she said. “I try to understand maybe where it’s coming from and understand what the educational piece is that’s missing. Is there something more that we could have done?”
McFall hosts waste demonstrations based on the results of her “ground truthing.” The demonstrations show students how to separate trash, recyclables and compostables.
McFall believes that if students analyze the effect of sustainability on themselves, their community and others then the campus’ recycling and composting initiatives could improve.