New opportunities for recycling

A study conducted by three Portland State University graduate students of the university’s waste underlines the lack of recycling on campus and opportunities for improvement.

“We saw a huge opportunity to impact the waste stream by recycling commonly divertible materials like beverage containers, newspaper, cardboard, mixed paper, et cetera,” said Alisa Kane, a PSU graduate student.

Drink containers were a concern, coffee cups particularly.

“Of the non-recyclable materials, which is mostly coffee cups, we have a two-year average of 20 percent [of total waste],” Kane said.

Kane is looking to work with beverage companies on campus to institute a program to use more reusable coffee cups.

Right now, there are recycling centers on campus at three areas besides the bins at various locations in Smith Union: Room 480 of Cramer Hall, Room 470 of Neuberger Hall and Room 144 of Science Building Two. Kane wants to improve the recycling program.

“[We need] better signage; larger, more appropriate-sized containers; and consistent service,” Kane said. “Right now, because we don’t have a dedicated recycling crew, we’re using general janitorial service.”

Kane is looking at possibly creating some student positions in recycling management.

Another area of interest for Kane is compost materials such as vegetable and meat scraps and food-soiled waste.

“The city of Portland is implementing a composting program where they’ll work with the haulers to pick up compost and take them to various compost sites around the city,” Kane said.

Those sites are not yet determined because the compost program is still in the planning stages.

“There aren’t any compost sites in the immediate area that are permitted to compost meat scraps,” said Judy Crockett, recycling program specialist for the City of Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development.

The permit is regulated by the Department of Environmental Quality and requires more stringent site standards than a yard-waste compost permit.

By 2005, Portland intends to recycle 60 percent of its waste. Now, it recycles 57 percent, and compost materials make up 23 percent of the waste stream, according to Crockett.

Portland’s new compost program is mandatory for businesses that generate enough food waste, and it appears that PSU will be within this requirement.

Aramark is a part of the program.

“They’re very eager to be a part of this. I’ve already been in contact with [them] about preconsumer waste,” Kane said.

PSU has a history with recycling that runs back to the late 1960s.

“There have been concerted efforts by students and staff to recycle, and it’s never been fully adopted as an institutional program,” Kane said. “We’re trying to do the leg work to come up with a very solid program that hopefully will be adopted into the university’s operational program.”

“With the response, we’re primed for a successful recycling program that everyone can feel good about,” Kane said.

This waste-stream analysis is the second of its kind performed for PSU. The first analysis was conducted by Community Environmental Services in 2000.

“It served as a good base line for 2002’s study. There wasn’t much variance in the materials; we did notice an increase in plastics. We saw a decrease of paper in the garbage, so hopefully it’s being recycled somewhere.” Kane said. “All the other numbers were almost equal, including glass, cans, random tin and metal.”

A universitywide recycling survey will soon be distributed electronically to assess the attitudes on campus toward recycling. It can be found now on the Internet at