Campus-wide recycling program helps raise environmental awareness

As the city of Los Angeles grows to be one of the top ranked recyclers in the nation, students, faculty and staff at Cal State Northridge have made it a priority to follow in the same footsteps to become a more sustainable and environmentally friendly campus.

“[Recycling] helps the environment and we’re trying to get the campus to become more sustainable,” said Judy Gutierrez, recycling student outreach assistant. Gutierrez, alongside two other student assistants, plan out the recycling events that are held on campus each semester.

According to the Zero Waste Report conducted by the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation in collaboration with UCLA, Los Angeles has been ranked the top recycler out of the 10 largest cities in the US.

When recycled materials are used to create new products, natural resources are conserved. A report from Stanford University finds that recycling is necessary now more than ever, as it not only benefits the environment, but also helps create jobs for the processing aspect.

The Recycling Services office, a part of the Associated Students (AS), started in 1992. In order to comply with the growing numbers of recycling programs, Gutierrez and staff decided to bring that cause to the CSUN community.

Starting Feb. 2 through March 29, an eight-week-long, nationwide competition of student campuses was held and organized by RecycleMania, Inc., a non profit organization that “seeks to tap school spirit as a motivator to reach students who may not otherwise respond to environmental messages.”

The event is held every year, and this year was the first time CSUN participated openly in the competition aspect of the tournament.

The competition has two sections open for colleges to enroll in: competition and benchmark division. CSUN participated last year in the benchmark division, which involved the participation of the campus, but without the competition with other schools.

This year, the competition aspect was held on campus, where the amount of recycled material, including bottles, cans, cardboard and paper was gathered by AS’ recycling program from all involved campus individuals.

Staff at the recycling program office were in charge of conducting the event and keeping track of all recycled goods. The office focuses on two sections, operations and outreach. The outreach section was responsible for conducting the event.

The operations section is in charge of recycling on campus, providing recycling containers abundantly around campus for student use. This section also receives service calls around campus for events.

The outreach branch of the recycling program is designed to hold events that allow students, faculty and staff on campus to become involved in helping the environment by getting involved in recycling events and by getting informed on the necessity of it.

“We are the people behind the events,” said Gutierrez, who joined the AS team in August of 2013.

The amount of material recollected is then input by RecycleMania and distributed in various aspects, whether it be by weighing the amount of recycled goods and dividing it by the campus population, accumulating the pounds individually or by dividing each of the materials recycled categorically.

According to statistics from RecycleMania’s website, the overall weight of all recycled material  accumulated at CSUN, known as the “Gorilla” aspect of the competition, was 52,059 lbs. this year. Compared to last year’s numbers, there was a total increase of 1.3 percent of overall accumulated material.

CSUN, in comparison to other campuses, ranked at 227 of 365 campuses that participated in the Gorilla aspect of the competition.

Regardless of the outcome, Gutierrez said they’re happy people are participating.

“Keep in mind, we are a growing department and we’re trying to get more people involved,” said Gutierrez. “That’s what CSUN is about, we’re getting the importance of recycling out.”

True to the fundamentals that drive the RecycleMania campaign, Gutierrez feels that this should be something that everyone strives for.

“We’re looking forward to making this a bigger event, along with other we have planned,” said Gutierrez.

Other events planned by the program involve their participation in the Earth Day Fair held on campus by AS, where they will be tabling and conducting games for attendees to take part in. Also, America Recycles Day is on Nov. 15, and the recycling program will hold an event on campus commemorating the day.

Aside from these events, the recycling program has been conducting other services. Over spring break, the program, alongside the Physical Plant Management (PPM), set up containers throughout Sierra Hall where students can recycle mixed paper, bottles and cans in a three-unit receptacle.

“This is a big deal since we’ve never had them in hallways,” said Cyndi Signett, recycling coordinator of the program. Signett has been running the program since its start in 1992 and said that she’s seen the program grow more and more each year.

“We’re working on building a small facility that will house the recycling program and the Institute for Sustainability,” said Signett. Although this process has been unofficial for several years now, she’s hopeful that it will be resolved before the year ends.