The first, fresh days of spring are creeping up on us and I can already imagine lounging in the soft sand at Clayton beach and working on my skin cancer. Hopefully in a place like Bellingham, where you have access to so much natural beauty, you too will get a chance to get outside after our dreary, SAD inducing winter. We are lucky that here in Bellingham, not only is the out of doors incredibly beautiful, but we are working to keep it that way. One of the major contributors on Western’s campus to our outdoor community’s health is the AS Recycle Center.
According to their web site, the Recycle Center’s roots are in 1971, when Western became one of the first universities in the United States to create a campus recycling program.
Richard Neyer, the Coordinator of the Recycle Center, further explained the history of the program; “In 1971, Huxley started a group called the Huxley Environmental Reference Bureau, which started picking up paper around the campus. In 1976, the Associated Students picked up the Recycle Center because it needed more funding and continuity with a managing structure, which the AS could provide.”
When the program first started, the ten paid students picked up 233 pounds of recyclables from Western’s campus each day, according to the Recycle Center’s web site. Since then, the program has expanded greatly, and now employs fourteen students who are responsible for collecting 3,800 pounds of recyclable material daily.
The Recycle Center is now located at on off-campus building on Taylor Avenue, where all of the recyclables from Western’s campus and residence halls are taken by one of their five trucks and then are hand sorted into different grades by their employees.
Neyer said that he thinks that Western students honestly make an effort to recycle, but more can always be done. Though recycling is a fantastic way to preserve resources, reusing materials is another way that students can contribute to the environmental effort.
“One thing we notice the most [in recycle bins] is coffee cups,” Neyer said. Since the waxy paper of coffee cups are not recyclable, and so many college students drink coffee in order to plaster their eyelids open after long nights, Neyer suggests purchasing a reusable coffee mug. This will also benefit students financially, as most on-campus coffee retailers give a discount to students who use their own mug.
Another common find in Western’s recycle bins is plastic bags from grocery stores, according to Neyer. At this time, the Recycle Center cannot recycle the bags, although most grocery stores can if you make the effort to take them back. Neyer suggests purchasing reusable canvas bags for shopping, which are far more sturdy and useful anyway.
Though most students make an effort to recycle, there are still a few that could use some encouragement. The Recycle Center employs a Recycle Educator, whose main job is to supply information and resources to the Recycling Reps in the residence halls. Neyer himself was very eloquent at explaining the importance of recycling, “A lot of people don’t care [about recycling], so I try to make a connection with them personally by finding things that they enjoy that recycling is benefiting. Like outdoor activities, parks, clean water, etc. All in all, it does make a difference.”