Expanded recycling program takes off at Portland State

Portland State University is taking steps to increase the amount of recycling facilities on campus thanks to a recent grant.

The total grant of $60,238 from the U.S. Department of Environmental Quality to three projects in Oregon includes $20,000 to PSU. The new money will help Portland State more than triple its on-campus waste prevention and recovery results.

The grant came after PSU staff members spent six months compiling a baseline study of present waste disposal procedure. The staff proposed an alternative program to increase recovery and decrease the waste disposal problem.

Michele Crim, sustainability coordinator in the facilities department, affirmed that the grant will enable the university to expand greatly its categories of recoverable waste and as a result substantially reduce present landfill charges.

“Right now we’re recycling only 15 percent of our waste,” she said, “About 2,000 tons a year are going to landfill.”

She said half the campus waste is recyclable material.

“Our only recycling now is for paper,” she said. “We will now be able to recycle aluminum, plastic, glass and cardboard.”

The present system requires staff to move the non-recyclables to the landfill. The university will help fund its expanded program by reducing staff and other costs now marked for landfill expenses,

The grant announcement anticipates that university savings will add $62,100 to the program to supplement the government’s $20,000. Crim emphasized this $62,100 is not new money from an already cash-strapped institution but money from savings realized by cutting present disposal costs.

“We can use that money to pay for labor and materials for the new program,” Crim said. The additional expenditures will go to initiate and run the program, supply recycling containers throughout campus, and pay for the labor to collect the materials deposited.

The initial grant came through the City of Portland, which is working with PSU to improve recycling. The grant identifies a three-phase program for the university. It includes the hiring of an additional person, which was done this month, Crim said.

The new hire is Laura Pearson, a graduate student from the urban and regional planning program. She joins another graduate student already on staff, Alisa Kane, who fills the post of recycling coordinator.

Kane will head up an educational and awareness program on campus and work on special projects. Pearson will become responsible for hiring students to work on the recycling crew and with getting the new recycling bins placed in the various campus departments.

The amount of new student work created should total at least 100 hours a week, Crim predicted.

Plastic containers, in the familiar blue color already used for recycling receptacles, will be supplied in varying sizes depending on available space.

“We will let the departments design their own recycling areas,” Crim said. The receptacles will be labeled with a distinctive new recycling logo, displaying the slogan “PSU Recycles!” Additional containers for all recyclables except cardboard will also be placed in student lounges and other student areas.

The new program will be introduced on a building-by-building basis, with Cramer Hall, Neuberger Hall and Science Building 2 high on the list. Crim anticipates it will take about a year and a half to get the new program fully installed.

“Our goal is to increase our recycle rate from the present 15 percent to 50 percent by the end of 2004,” Crim said. She also looks ahead to a further expansion that would permit recycling of plastic foam, batteries and printer toner cartridges.

Introducing the idea to students will involve an educational program that can include such mementos as T-shirts and mugs. The money for the educational program also will come from savings realized from reducing present disposal expense.

The existing recycling program was moving in new directions even as the grant appeared.

“We’re already working with Aramark food service and Food for Thought Caf퀌� in separating out unused food scraps,” Crim said. These are being composted. She predicted that eventually “post-consumer” food waste will be salvaged.