Wasted opportunity: UAA lacks comprehensive recycling program

The state of recycling at University of Alaska Anchorage needs to be salvaged from the trash heap.

According to Union of Students Vice President David Parks UAA hasn't had a recycling program for a while.

“It's been several years since there was a full-force recycling program on campus. Right now its only being done by individuals in various offices,” Parks said.

Parks is chairman of an ad hoc committee composed of UAA students that are looking to find ways to make recycling on campus a reality. The committee currently has a $2000 budget, with another $1000 for the next semester. Parks is also president of the currently inactive recycling club, a group that last year worked to get bins for aluminum, glass, cardboard, paper and tin set up around campus housing. Only the bins at West Hall remain, something that Parks plans on changing by next semester.

“The plan is to get bins set up at each of the halls, and it will be up to each individual if they want to use them. We are also planning on getting a large scale collection bin set up, possibly in the East Hall parking lot,” he said.

The bins at West Hall, and a newspaper and cardboard recycling station in the Arts Building parking lot, are the only two major recycling stations on campus, but other students and faculty are making individual efforts.

Philosophy professor James Liszka maintains the newspaper bins outside the philosophy department in building K. Liszka also has students in his classes study the feasibility of recycling on campus.

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“I think people want to see recycling here,” Liszka said. “Everybody in the administration has been helpful. We can figure out a good solution if we put our heads together.”

Liszka's students presented their ideas to vice-chancellor Cynthia Matson, who is supportive of recycling plans worked on by students and the administration.

“Any collaborative effort between students and faculty is a true step in the right direction,” Matson said.

One solution under consideration is the creation of a paid position in the student government for someone who manages the recycling program, a strategy employed by the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“Clubs and other programs die out if there is not someone consistently involved on campus. Student government is a constant, and it will ensure that someone is always maintaining the recycling program.” Parks said

“The problem is volunteers have failed eventually, and when they do the problem is still there,” Liszka said.

Trig Trigiano is director of Environmental Health & Safety/ Risk Management at UAA, and has seen volunteer-based recycling programs come and go. He recalls a program that was run by student volunteers that collapsed after three weeks, and left only him to collect materials from 70 sites.

“Relying on volunteer programs can be problematic because students have different priorities, they are here to go to school,” Trigano said of the volunteer fallout.

It appears that UAA can learn from mistakes made with recycling programs in the past and move forward with a program that will be around for years to come, perhaps by creating a paid position.

“We will have a full scale recycling program. There absolutely has to be one next semester,” said Parks.