The green routine at the University of Alaska Southeast is led by students Boni Parker, Chelsie Harris and Erin Weekly. They round up items ranging from cardboard to glass bottles and take UAS’ reusable waste to the Juneau Recycle Center operated by the City and Borough of Juneau and Waste Management. Employed through Student Activities and Housing, this trio is responsible for keeping the UAS recycling program going. Between the three of them, different items are rounded up Thursday nights and made ready to be taken to the recycling center early Friday mornings.
Weekly is a new student to UAS and had experience with recycling centers.
“I used to help my friend’s dad who ran the recycling center in Sitka, which is where I’m from,” Weekly said while wrestling with a garbage bag of shredded paper. “I got experience [with recycling] that way.”
Parker has been the main instigator of the UAS recycling movement in the last few years. She revamped recycling containers on campus, provided bins for every apartment at student housing, and reorganized the effort to improve efficiency.
“Organization is the key to recycling,” said Parker. “Before, the guys that did [recycling] flattened out all the boxes and tied these huge piles together with ropes. Now, instead of wrestling with 200-pound piles of cardboard, we break down most of the boxes and put them in other boxes. It makes it so much more manageable.”
Space is often an issue, since the vehicle usually used to transport recycling has a tendency to break down. Recently, due to transmission issues, two weeks of recycling had to be squeezed into two ancient vans. In addition to transportation issues, taking care of so much recycling comes with other unpleasant dilemmas.
“We’ve found some nasty stuff before,” Harris said. “Most of the time its nasty food people have thrown in there.”
Parker asks that students be mindful of what they are throwing away, and to try to minimize food items thrown in recycling bins.
“Food and plastic wrappers can’t be recycled,” she said. “They belong in the garbage and it makes our jobs so much easier if people do it themselves.”
Harris asks members of the UAS community to understand the UAS recycling force is only an army of three, and to not bring home recycling to campus for removal.
“We’ve had people bring their recycling from home and just leave it beside the bins,” Harris said. “That is something for others to deal with because we just cover campus.”
The recyclers also want students living at housing to make recycling a regularly scheduled event instead of waiting until there is an unmanageable amount in their apartment.
“Don’t stockpile all your recycling until the last minute.” Harris said. “People always wait until finals week to drop off all their recycling and that is when we’re the busiest with our own finals, so we get hit with this huge load of recycling with no time to deal with it.”
After cramming all the recycling in two vans, the ladies enjoy some perks that go with this job.
“Fridays are my favorite days.” Parker said. “It gives me a reason to get up early and then I get to have coffee and yummy burritos from the Breeze In.”
In addition to getting a good breakfast, Weekly, Parker and Harris get the satisfaction of knowing that they are doing their part to make Juneau and the environment healthier. Just one of the vans on a recent run delivered 700 pounds of recycling. On average, according to Parker, about 1,000 pounds of recycling are collected and brought from the UAS campus, bookstore and Student Recreation Center every week.
Recycling, says Parker, should be a no-brainer.
“There is no reason everyone shouldn’t be recycling,” Parker said. “Some people say that they don’t have time to recycle. It just doesn’t make sense. The recycling center in the most convenient location ever. It is located right in between the valley and downtown. Some people say, ‘It’s expensive to have to ship out all the recycling. It’s too much money.’ We have to pay money to ship everything in here anyway. Our landfill is pretty much full. If we don’t do something we’ll have to start shipping our trash out.”