A few years ago, Hospitality Services unit supervisor Cyndie Buckle left her office regularly carrying bags of cans and bottles to take home. Later, she would drive them to a recycling plant about an hour away.
When Buckle was offered a spot on hospitality’s sustainability committee, she said she jumped at the opportunity.
Now she works closely with University Student Housing and the Physical Plant to be a part of Texas Tech’s recent initiative in recycling.
“It’s just the way the world is going,” said housing unit manager Jackie Kimbler.
Three years ago, Kimbler and her co-worker Melanie Tatum, also a unit manager in housing, attended a conference in Las Vegas, where they learned about recycling and sustainability options available to college campuses.
The first recycling effort was on move-in day that year. Kimbler said the two teamed up with local business “The Green Queens.” She said it was a noble effort, but a rainy day added to the group’s challenges.
However, Kimbler and Tatum did not give up. Move-in day 2009 was a huge success, and in 2010, more than 15 tons of cardboard were recycled.
Though student groups had tried to start a recycling program on campus, Kimbler said the efforts never lasted long. Kimbler said she knew she and Tatum could get the ball rolling, and after teaming up with Buckle and the Physical Plant, she knew they could keep it going.
Students are interested in recycling, Tatum said, they just need a way to get involved. One of the first steps housing took was putting recycling bins in each residence hall.
“We started out just putting them in the main lobbies of the halls,” she said, “and we couldn’t keep them empty.”
Now, Tatum said, there are bins or boxes on nearly every floor of every hall, which must be emptied daily.
Kimbler said after an item is dropped in a recycling bin, it is taken to a holding location — either a closet in a residence hall or a special recycling dumpster behind the dining locations — then it is taken to the Physical Plant. After that, the company Tech contracts with, RWR, takes, sorts and delivers the recyclables to proper plants.
Tech pays for the service, Kimbler said. For the fee, RWR provides consulting on all recycling efforts. Tatum said previous companies would throw out an entire truckload of plastic if one label was left on a bottle. RWR accepts bottles with labels and lids and sorts through any other complications, making recycling easier for students. The company then provides rebates based on how much is recycled.
Buckle said apart from paper and cardboard, housing and Hospitality Services also recycle aluminum and tin, and hospitality recycles fryer grease.
For every 55 gallons of grease recycled, 10 gallons of biodiesel are produced, and the rest goes to animal feed, Buckle said.
Impressed by the quantity of recycled materials, Buckle said it is upsetting Tech received a low grade in national sustainability ratings. She said the ranks are based on the number of programs and not the amount recycled.
Since Tech’s program is new, the university does not compost leftover food or provide every recycling option, so the university’s rating is remarkably low, despite Tech collecting more than 71 tons of recyclables this school year.
Kimbler said building up the recycling program is a process that must be taken one step at a time. In the future they hope to do more, but they are pleased with how well it is doing currently.
“There are times when it gets a little frustrating,” she said, “but we know the importance, and we know in the end it’s the right thing to do.”
Kimbler said between the three women and their staff, the residence halls’ staff, Kimbler and Tatum’s graduate assistant, and the Physical Plant, Tech’s recycling effort is becoming more unified and recognized.
“(The custodial staff and housekeeping has) helped a lot,” Kimbler said. “I don’t know if we could pull it off without them.”
Eventually, she said she would like to see more students involved, but for the amount of recycling generated, it would be hard for students to take care of everything. Instead, she said people in every department are going above and beyond their job descriptions to help Tech and the environment.
“I have to say, the reason this is so successful is because we have all partnered together,” Buckle said. “We’re all just kind of promoting the university, the students, just really giving back and to promote that student success.”