In the age of “going green,” Western has its own recycling army that takes care of all the recycling on campus—the Associated Students Recycle Center.
The Recycle Center, located off campus near 25th Street and Taylor Avenue, has had its own facility since the late ‘90s. The center has a main yard filled with blue barrels from campus, a large pile of furniture, large bins called hoppers and small forklifts.
Emma Butterworth, Recycle Center staff manager, is in her second year at center and said she enjoys working there.
“It’s outside, it’s physical—not just sitting at a desk,” Butterworth said.
A typical day for Butterworth begins with getting to the facility around 9 or 10 a.m. She starts dumping paper and plastic into bins for sorting, and then goes out into the yard to tear down and sort furniture.
She next begins collecting composted materials from around campus; part of a pilot project the center began in fall 2011, Butterworth said.
The Recycle Center is trying to compost all the used paper towels in Haggard Hall, she said. There are also general compost bins behind the Environmental Science building, Miller Hall, Parks Hall and Academic Instructional West.
Recycle Center employees do daily runs in teams of two or three people.
Whoever gets to the center first backs the truck and loads it with about 20 to 25 empty barrels, Butterworth said.
Once the entire staff is together, they take service roads and head to whichever part of campus they are covering at that time. They park and exchange the full barrels with empty ones in their designated areas.
Each person typically has his or her own building to cover, Butterworth said. With bigger buildings, such as Old Main, everyone helps, Butterworth said.
After retrieving the full barrels, they load up the truck, typically with the paper-filled bins in the back of the truck and the AGP (aluminum, glass and plastic) filled bins in the front. Once they get back to the center, they grab all the retrieved cardboard and put it into the cardboard truck, take the AGP off and dump them into hoppers.
Finally, they back up the truck and begin to sort out the paper, which typically takes the longest, Butterworth said.
Sorting out the paper includes getting rid of any contaminants such as trash, AGP or compost.
The Recycle Center takes all of their sorted materials to Northwest Recycle, which has two locations in Bellingham. One primarily takes cardboard, while the other takes the glass, plastic and occasionally cardboard, Butterworth said.
The center is phasing out the collection of newspaper, a material not as common or profitable as others.
“When we dump [materials], we actually get paid to dump,” Butterworth said. “Right now, newspapers are not really used anymore, so they pay us less to dump newspapers than they would for us to dump mixed papers. So, we’re just putting [newspapers] in the mixed papers.”
Working at the Recycle Center is hard on the body, Butterworth said, but is beneficial in many ways.
“It’s easy to get your anger out on the job,” she said. “You’re just ripping things apart all day.”
The things the center’s staff comes across can be pretty interesting.
Giant bongs, broken pipe pieces, sex toys and sex-toy packaging, as well as porn DVD packaging have all been found in the recycling barrels around campus and the dorms, Butterworth said.
Among all the paper they go through, odd roommate notes are also common.
“We’ll find funny notes to and from roommates like, ‘Do your laundry’,” Butterworth said.
Recently, the center has found a Visible Horse replica, a lifelike and anatomically accurate equine skeleton, complete with all the pieces and an Electrostorm Ball, which only worked for 30 seconds, Butterworth said. Those two items are sitting in the center’s office.
Western students can always recycle more, Butterworth said. That is why the center is trying to be more accommodating to Western’s campus.
“[We’re] trying to help that by taking furniture, taking anything and everything,” Butterworth said. “People call and are like, “Oh hey, we have a ton of this in this department, can you take it? And we’ll be like, ‘We’ll try!’”
Butterworth encourages people to ask the Recycle Center and its employees any questions.
Recycle Center laborer Sydney Wagner said she’s recently noticed students placing more bags of trash and other non-recyclable items in recycle bins.
Those bags need to be thrown away because they are not recyclable, and staff will just throw them away rather than go through them, Wagner said.
Butterworth said the Recycle Center is a hands-on operation that works toward keeping Western on top of recycling.
“Most people don’t know that we do all the sorting by hand. We don’t use machines,” Butterworth said. “We are the machines.”