A.S. recycling program waste of students’ money

Samantha Womack

Since 1991, the Associated Students at CSUN have been using our money to pay for recycling. It seems like a valid service that most students would be more than willing to support, but take into account the fact that over $160,000 is spent and only $7,100 is brought in as revenue, according to the 2006-07 AS budget.

Don’t people recycle to make a little extra money? Especially now since the CRV is going up shouldn’t we be seeing the A.S. recycling program as more of a money maker than a black hole for student fees? The story written by Ms. Hernandez in today’s paper states the recycling coordinator is hoping the extra cent to be gained in recycling bottles or cans will encourage more students to recycle. But following the history of the University Recycling Services record, more recycling will simply mean more student fees allocated to their budget. At one point I raised this question to AS Senator and Director of Student Affairs Committee Igor Kagan. He replied that most of the allocated money went to student and staff compensation, which $130,000 of it does.

But don’t we actually have people on campus, although not affiliated with CSUN, who actually go through our garbage for free and recycle the bottles and cans in order to supplement their own income? We could be charging them a small fee to collect all our recyclables and help the community out as well. Not to capitalize on others misfortunes, but wouldn’t it be some helpful assistance to the little lady who hovers around campus looking for bottles and cans to have it all in one place for her and others like her?

Although I don’t consider Showtime’s Penn and Teller Bullshit to be the final word on anything significant, I did think their first season episode on recycling was enlightening. The teaser on the DVD states, “The recycling industry creates pollution, has to be subsidized by the government because it’s cost ineffective, and is completely unnecessary. Contrary to popular belief, our landfills are not running out of space – we have enough room to last for thousands of years.”

While doing my own research, I found that there are four ways to deal with waste as stated by the Journal of Waste Management and Resource Recovery. First of all, household and commercial waste only makes up 9 percent of the overall solid waste disposal. Secondly, there is research that shows that incinerating waste actually saves more energy than recycling. Thirdly, the journal states that recycling uses more energy than is saved by recycling and actually causes pollution. And certain types of material like contaminated paper and plastic are not even suitable for recycling.

As a firm believer in global warming and helping the world in my own small ways, I was also surprised to find that although the raw material for paper making is predominantly trees, it only takes on average one tree to produce 15,000 A4 sheets of standard office paper. And it is a common misconception that recycling waste paper saves trees. Trees for paper making are grown and harvested as a long-term crop, with new trees planted to replace those cut down. Nearly all paper is made from wood grown in sustainable forests.

It surprised me and may also surprise you to learn that landfills are the source of an increasingly valuable commodity – energy, according to a Canadian website on natural resources. All landfills generate a by-product known as landfill gas, which is an excellent source of renewable energy which can be used either directly by industry or to generate electricity for public consumption. In fact, when landfill gas is handled effectively instead of being released into the environment, this previously ignored resource has a lot to offer, such as reducing greenhouse gases.

Landfill gas contains approximately 50 percent methane, which if harnessed correctly makes an excellent source of energy that could produce the same effect as taking 1.5 million cars off the road, instead of creating a harmful greenhouse gas.

The best way CSUN could be applying student fees would be to start composting our waste or to provide a centralized facility that will compost our waste then sell the resultant compost. That profit would surely be more than the measly 4 percent revenue A.S. rakes in annually on our student-funded recycling program. A.S. could be spending $160,000 on something CSUN students and generations to follow will actually benefit from instead of adding more waste.