With a decrease in outside recycle bins and the persistent rumors that Fresno State is not keeping up with the city of Fresno’s recycling efforts, concern remains over the status of the recycling program on campus.

Campus recycling, digging deeper

Ana Mendoza / The Collegian

With a decrease in outside recycle bins and the persistent rumors that Fresno State is not keeping up with the city of Fresno’s recycling efforts, concern remains over the status of the recycling program on campus.

Recently, The Collegian reported there was nothing to the rumor that the recycling program was on halt due to the retirement of Assistant Vice President of Risk Management and Sustainability David Moll.

But what’s not a rumor is the lack of outside recycling bins and the limited number of bins that are inside buildings.

During previous semesters, the campus had outside recycling bins with locks to encourage students to recycle, but they were removed due to vandalism. The university has not announced any plans to replace them.

“I can never find [a recycling bin],” said Antonio Corona, a history major at Fresno State, commenting on the shortage of bins throughout the campus.

“We are not going to have [bins] outside this time because we are not able to maintain them properly and people are not using them properly,” said Lisa Kao, administrator of environmental health and safety on campus.

“We are going to be expanding [inside recycling container] coverage into many other locations, including classrooms and conference rooms,” said Kao.

Containers that were outside in previous semesters had locks on them since the recyclables can be redeemed for money, she said. But the reason the containers were removed was partly because the locks were being tampered with.

“They were broken [within] a week,” she said.

But despite the absence of outside bins, recyclable materials such as cans carry a cash value, said Kao, and they will not be sent to landfills even if they are found in the trash bins.

“The waste gets sorted by the facility, and what is left is what cannot be recycled. That gets into the landfill,” said Kao, referring to recyclable materials that are thrown in the trash bins.

However, after speaking to General Manager of Sunset Waste Systems, Inc., John Mohoff, he clarified that the facility only recycles what is in the blue containers. The contents in the brown garbage containers go directly to the landfills with little to no sorting.

Materials gathered from blue containers are taken to the Sunset Waste Systems facility where the contents are sorted. Cans, paper and plastic are separated and recycled.

After visiting the site and speaking to their general manager, it is clear the facility does not sort the contents in the brown containers.

A resident of Fresno, who wished to be called Robert, said that when he tries to collect cans from the trash bins he is harassed by campus police on their car patrols even before entering the campus.

“When the bins were there, a lot of people were using them,” said Robert. He saw an increase of cans being thrown in the trash after the bins were removed.

But the waste is not limited to cans. It includes paper materials around campus that aren’t making it into the proper bins.

“I think we need more recycling bins because I see newspapers everywhere,” said Fresno State student Angel Guerra.

Mohoff stated that Sunset Waste and management has had ongoing talks with the university about compost recycling.

“Because of logistics, we haven’t been able to move forward [with that],” said Mohoff.

Miguel Vieira, president of The Green Issue, a special interest group at Fresno State, said he was very interested in helping Fresno State move forward with their recycling efforts, but didn’t know who to contact to actually make it happen.

Kao confirmed that other student groups had been contacted about recycling but did not wish to comment on the responses.

The Sierra Club, a national environmental organization founded in 1892, released a list of the top ten green universities in the country.

The University of California, Santa Cruz, which was ranked seventh by the Sierra Club in 2009, has several recycling containers around their campus to encourage student to recycle.

Universities like the University of California, Santa Barbara have four different recycling containers outside for students to put paper, cans, glass and trash.

“They also have a robust number of people that maintain them,” said Kao about why other universities might be more environmentally friendly.

In 2006, UCSB had a 52 percent (3,280 tons of recycled material) diversion rate. That same year, according to the Fresno State website, the university had an 82 percent (7,986.66 ton of recycled material) diversion rate. Even though UCSB invested more money and had many recycling containers available for students, they recycled less than Fresno State.

Data for most recent years have not yet been published. It is unknown how the lack of recycling bins will affect Fresno State’s current percentage.

To be part of the greenest universities list, the Sierra Club takes into consideration not only recycling, but efficiency, energy, food, academics, purchasing, transportation and waste.
Fresno State was not included in the Sierra Club’s most recent criteria review.

Even though Fresno State was not included, Kao would like all students to know that the university is still recycling and is currently working with the Local California Conservation Corps.

The program continually needs the cooperation of students to help Fresno State move forward, she said, and she welcomes any student who wishes to help in the recycling effort.