Campus seeing recycling boom

Juancarlos Calderon, recycling worker, left, and Trevor Krapf, student recycling coordinator, empty bins on a recent weekday.
A large container at the recycling yard shows the kinds of materials the campus hopes to give new life. (Photos by Gwen Mickelson)

Workers pulling up to campus recycling containers on their weekly rounds have lately been greeted with an unusual sight: Full bins. Packed bins. Bins that are stuffed to the bursting point.

Recycling has been on the upswing for the past two years, but the campus has experienced a surge in the practice since students arrived with the start of this year's academic term, according to Recycling Coordinator Dave Wade. Recycling workers are having to give housing areas more bins and haul more material than before to the City of Santa Cruz recycling center, which handles most of the campus's recycling, said Wade.

The numbers for 2007 aren't available yet, but Wade and his staff at the UCSC Recycling Program estimate the university's total recycling could jump from 1,277 tons in 2006 to 1,500 tons this year--an increase of nearly 18 percent.

"We just know that at every stop we go to pick up recycling, there's more material," said Wade.

Part of the reason is UC Santa Cruz Dining's effort to get campus dining locations "green" certified by the Monterey Bay Area Green Business Program, Wade said. The program sets standards for conserving resources, preventing pollution, and minimizing waste.

Porter/Kresge Dining Hall, Cowell/Stevenson Dining Hall, and University Catering were recently certified; Crown/Merrill Dining Hall and Banana Joe's Café were already certified. In the works for future certification are Owl's Nest Café, Terra Fresca, and College 9/10 Dining Hall.

But Wade guessed that another reason for the upswing is the "broader conversation" society is engaging in about sustainability and global warming.

"Recycling is something you can do," Wade said. "You don't need to get a Ph.D., be a doctor or lawyer, or be elected to high office. It's like turning the lights off, wearing warmer clothes, or taking public transportation. It's a grassroots thing."

That the campus is recycling more is a serendipitous stroke: UCSC is striving to increase dramatically the amount of stuff it diverts from the landfill. UC Office of the President has mandated that all 10 UC campuses recycle half of all collected materials by June, according to Wade. Right now, the diversion rate at UCSC is about 32 percent.

To accomplish the increased diversion rate, "we're working to add equipment and staff and looking at different aspects of our operations and how we might make them more efficient and capture more material that's currently getting thrown away," said Wade.

UCSC is also doing increasing amounts of green waste recycling--items such as grass clippings and landscape trimmings--using a debris hauling roll-off-box truck it acquired a little over a year ago, said Wade.

By state law, every city and county has to have a recycling program, and UCOP concurs, said Wade. In fact, UC is attempting to mirror the state's policies because it recognizes the value of recycling, he said.

"It's a good neighbor thing," said Wade. "It's the right thing to do."