Three years ago, UAA students started a recycling program. Last spring, the city stepped in to help with a grant. Now the program is looking to UAA’s administration for help.
The program needs funding to continue its growth but UAA won’t be ponying up the money anytime soon.
“As far as I’m concerned, recycling is a dead end,” said Trig Trigiano, group director of Support Services. “Recycling is the last step that we should evaluate.”
UAA was one of the largest producers of waste in Anchorage before the Union of Students started the recycling program in 2002. Now the student-run program recycles between 700 and 1,500 pounds of paper each week.
The program was aided by a $28,000 grant from the Municipality of Anchorage that will run out in October. Supporters of the program want it to continue and hope to expand it into an even bigger success with the help of the university. Student Regent David Parks, who founded the program as a USUAA senator, said that it is time for the university to step to the plate and do its part.
“Look at how hard the students are working to make this a reality,” said Parks, who aided the programs growth during his three years with USUAA. “The university absolutely has to start taking responsibility for the program and recognize the value of the program and take the burden off the students.”
Parks said the administration’s support is needed to make recycling at the university on par with peer institutions.
Before the city grant was received, USUAA funded the recycling program with money from student fees. USUAA President Chris Hall said USUAA would ensure that the recycling program survives without UAA’s help but that the university has a responsibility to support the program because the university is a large consumer of recyclables. Hall wants UAA to set a good example by being aware of environmental concerns.
Trigiano said the only way for the university to fund recycling is to cut something else.
“Recycling in Alaska is not free and it doesn’t generate revenue. It costs direct dollars to the university,” Trigiano said. He said he realizes if you look at the big picture, failing to recycle costs the environment. However, he thinks there are other ways to promote sustainability. Trigiano said the university should focus on reducing the amount of waste it produces by doing things like packaging with less plastic.
Currently, Environmental Health & Safety and Risk Management, which Trigiano directs, holds the lease for the large recycling bins and Facilities Maintenance handles the pick-up contract.
Recycling director Meghan Spencer has been trying to get the two departments to work together to purchase more bins to hold paper. The current bins are often overflowing so volunteers have to make more runs to the recycling center.
“We actually have money in the grant set aside for more bins,” Spencer said.
However, UAA administration maintains there is not a need for additional bins nor is there money to buy them.
Regular pick-ups have been an issue the recycling program has battled from the start. The volunteers are students with busy lives and those that participate regularly eventually graduate. Adding paid positions beyond the recycling director would help guarantee timely pick-ups.
Besides emptying bins, the program has worked to get recycled paper into printers and copiers and cut back the amount of foam packaging used by UAA.
Both recycling program members and Trigiano think some answers could be found through support by creating partnerships with the community.
Spencer said the university is growing and more people are interested in recycling. To meet growing requests, extra money will be needed.
GSS and the UAA Campus Bookstore have been recycling cardboard on their own. Last year, the two departments recycled 5,750 pounds of cardboard. Requests are made almost weekly for cardboard services from other offices, Spencer said.
Spencer said she realizes sometimes it can be hard to see that recycling is making a difference but she knows it will have a positive effect on the city.
“A person in their office only sees their little bag,” Spencer said. “What they do not see is the staggering amount of paper the recycling program collects each week and the amount of space it no longer takes up at the city dump.”