It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.
The AS Recycle Center consists of 12 student employees, three managers and one full-time coordinator. Recycle Center employees pick up about 4,000 pounds of recycling per day from 72 buildings across campus, Recycle Center staff manager Malia Hieb said.
“We sort the recycling,” Recycle Center operations manager Gina Trautner said. “So whatever goes in there, we're going to see.”
“Q-tips aren't recyclable!” Hieb added.
“We get a lot of hair,” Recycling Center recycle educator Sally McLaughlin said. “Big clumps of hair.”
In honor of America Recycles Day, and to help students learn about what can and cannot be recycled, the Recycle Center will set up a table from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 15 outside Miller Market. Students can stop by to learn about what the Recycle Center does and answer trivia questions about recycling for a chance to win stickers and coffee mugs.
“A big part of our job is to make recycling viable for campus,” McLaughlin said. “We work really hard to make it efficient.”
The choice of coffee mugs as a prize is not arbitrary, Hieb said. While recycling is important, it is equally important to cut back on how much waste you produce. According to Hieb, the simple act of using a mug, thermos, or reusable water bottle can make all the difference.
“You might be recycling those bottles and feel good about that,” Hieb said. “But you could go one step further and use 13 less bottles, and maybe just refill your bottle a couple times before you recycle it.”
Another goal of the event will be to educate students about their recycling options on campus, Hieb said. Last spring, the Recycle Center put two blue cages containing depositories for glass, aluminum, and plastic, near Haggard Hall and the Humanities Building. There is also a depot near Miller Market for paper.
The Recycle Center has put recycling bins in Red Square before. However, because not enough people were using them, the bins were removed, Hieb said.
“We get a lot of demand for recycling bins in Red Square,” Hieb said. “But a lot of times, people aren't educated on how to use them, and it turns out they're not efficient, and we have to remove them.”
Although the Recycle Center plays an important role at Western, it is sometimes overlooked as an AS organization because it does not often put on events, Hieb said.
“Every time you recycle something, it's an event,” McLaughlin said.
In addition to America Recycles Day, McLaughlin hopes to put together presentations for resident advisors to increase awareness about recycling on campus.
“I think students should know that the people sitting next to them in their classes actually care whether or not they're recycling,” McLaughlin said.
There are many advantages to having the Recycle Center as part of the AS instead of hiring out the labor. Not only does it provide jobs for students, but it increases student awareness of the importance of recycling, Trautner said.
“I think it really keeps it close to home,” Hieb said.
The Recycle Center can also collect used batteries. Put your used batteries in a box, tape it shut securely, label it “batteries,” and put it in a recycle bin.
Although they are not equipped to handle electronics, Hieb said she encourages students not to throw computer and cell phone parts in the trash. Off-campus organizations such as ReLectronics can recycle them.
Anyone with questions about recycling can contact the AS Recycle Center at (360) 650-3088, or visit their web site at http://recycle.as.wwu.edu.