The Secret Life of Your Trash

recycling center

“The garbage piles up, sits for days and attracts rats and raccoons. Does anyone sort the recycling or does it wind up getting put in trash cans? You should ask about that.”–Anonymous question

The Siskiyou was asked to investigate the mounds of what looks like trash piling up around the recycling center to see if it really gets processed properly.

Here’s what we found out:

  • The recycling center processes some 7 thousand pounds of recycling each month.
  • It was started in 2011 by a student doing a capstone project
  • The recycling is sorted 6 days per week
  • The center was under-staffed at the start of term and piled up

SOU has over six thousand students and what is thrown away has to be sorted for recycling.  If it doesn’t happen daily–it stacks up quickly. Earlier in the year they were understaffed and mounds of plastic covered nastiness ensued, “We didn’t have enough people to go through it. That’s been fixed now and we have students working on it six days per week” says Roxane Beigel-Coryell, the Sustainability & Recycling Coordinator.

The Recycling Center is located to the left of Mcneil and behind the Campus Public Safety Building and if anyone (with emphasis on anyone) has seen it before they might see something like the picture above. This led many to believe that the recycling on campus is getting out of control. Mac Dennis, a junior custodian had this to say, “Well, by the looks of the trash compactor area, the trash rooms in Shasta and Mcloughlin and the mountain of recycling in the recycling center, I’d say there’s too much recycling.”

Jacob Raiter, a sophomore who has been working with the recycling center for nine months echoes Beigel-Coryell’s view that it got bad but is improving, “It really did at the beginning of the year because I was the only student worker, but now that we are fully staffed things are rolling.” However, there was, what seemed to be, a pretty big pile of recycling in front of the center that day and so we asked him about it. He said “That’s an average pile for us to have… we can usually get through a pile like that in two to three days.” They receive recycling every day, however the amount they receive varies, so it easy to see why this pile might get a bit big sometimes.

Beigel-Coryell agrees it’s a huge job which needs constant effort, “The recycling center processes an average of 7,000 lbs of material each month and an average of 87,000 lbs each year.”  But, according to the SOU Recycling Program page, these numbers have led to fifty four percent of the waste on campus to be diverted.

We then interviewed George Censkie, a custodian at SOU for more than five years. He seemed to agree with Raiter’s opinion saying “The recycling center does a pretty good job. Now there are busier weeks like move-in week, the week before breaks and move out week, but all in all they stay on top of it.” He believes the problem is getting the word out about the Recycling Center.

The Siskiyou also wanted to find out how the recycling was really handled. Raiter explained it this way: First custodians from different parts of the campus take the recycling or commingle, as it’s known on campus. They then take it to the trash compactor areas and leave them there. Later, another custodian or a member from maintenance comes by, picks it up and drops it off at the recycling center. From there, they sort out the trash and put the recycling into different categories like bottles, cans, plastic and paper. Lastly, Recology, a recycling company in Downtown Ashland picks it up at the recycling center and takes it for processing.

One request from the staff who handle recycling–anything with food on it or in it is trash. Please just throw that in the trash, not the recycling.