ASPSU midnight breakfast goes sustainable

PSU Recycles!, student government and Sodexho are coordinating efforts to host Portland State’s first “zero waste” event March 15.

The midnight breakfast, a quarterly event offering free food, live music, testing supplies and massages will be held Wednesday from 9 p.m. until 12 a.m. in the Smith Ballroom. As part of Sodexho’s new contract with the university, they have agreed to help increase sustainability on campus. Biodegradable trash bags will be purchased along with 100 percent recyclable plates, forks, knives, straws and cups, said Kim Dinan, resource management coordinator for PSU Recycles!

“The point is to have this event and nothing goes into the landfill,” Dinan said. “Everything used will be compostable.”

The products were developed by a California-based company called Cereplast. Cereplast uses resins from renewable resources like potato and cornstarches to create what they call an environmentally safe and economically viable alternative to conventional, petroleum-based plastics for the manufacture of disposable products.

Dinan referred to the products as “PLAs.” This poly lactic acid, or PLA, is the end material generated from the breakdown of starches. It is then formed into plastic ware, cups and other products.

PSU Recycles! is now in the sixth week of the Recyclemania competition, a national contest between nearly 100 universities and colleges to see which institution can collect the largest amount of recyclables, produce the least amount of trash, and have the highest recycling rate.

For a week PSU ranked first in the waste minimization category, but has slipped back to second place this week. Dinan said she thinks that the zero-waste event will be beneficial in the schools quest for first place.

At the end of the fifth week Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego stole the top spot in waste minimization as well as the grand champion, or overall category. PSU ranks 71st in the recycling category and 19th in the grand champion category.

PSU wasted 50,088 pounds during the fifth week of the contest, which is down almost 9,000 pounds from the first week. That averages out to only 18.73 pounds of waste per student over the course of a week.

Dinan said Portland State’s relatively low ranking does not necessarily mean that the university is overusing. “Who cares if you’re recycling everything,” Dinan said. “You’re still wasting tons of stuff.”

Dinan said there are still things students can do to help. “Just use a mug instead of a plastic cup,” Dinan said. “Or print on both sides of the paper.”

The competition is halfway over, and talk between schools is heating up. Dinan said there is actually “trash talk” going on via e-mails and web postings.

“I really want us to win the waste minimization competition,” Dinan said. “Really, really bad.”

PSU Recycles! is also holding its first plastic recycling roundup Wednesday afternoon in the Peter Stott Center. This event allows anyone to drop off obscure plastic materials that they would not otherwise be able to recycle.

“The only plastic recycling on campus is pop or water bottles,” Dinan said.

Agri-Plas, Inc., an Oregon-based company, has developed the only agricultural plastic recycling center in the country. They can recycle twine, tarps, flowerpots, patio furniture, agricultural plastics and many other products that would otherwise go in the trash.

Agri-Plas, Inc. has designed machines that chip and clean plastic products with high-pressure air. The plastic is broken down into clean plastic pellets and sold to other companies to be melted and used to make new products.

PSU Recycles! borrowed the idea from the City of Portland. Every year the city sets up recycling centers around town where anyone can bring in old plastic items for recycling and drop them off free of charge.

Although there has yet to be any advertisement for the event, PSU Recycles! is still hoping for participation.

“When the city does it they get a really good turnout,” Dinan said. “Hopefully we do too.”