The changing climate has Salt Lake Community College and its students doing their part to reduce their impact on the Earth.
“Here at Salt Lake Community College recycling has had an interesting history,” says Sean Stanton, recycling coordinator at SLCC. “Students actually came together and said ‘we want recycling.’”
The recycling program began sometime in the late 1980s, with students and faculty voluntarily recycling on their own in offices and classrooms. The grassroots effort continued to grow and took off in 2010 when the student body approved a nominal fee for all students to formalize the program.
In 2011, SLCC received the Thomas A. Martin Recycler of the Year Award from the Recycling Coalition of Utah, and the Utah Green Business Award from Utah Business Magazine.
Blue recycling bins can now be found on all SLCC campuses.
On a daily basis, student employees collect and sort the contents from the bins, which gathered 1,793,965 pounds of materials last year. But the bins are only one part of the program.
Everything from old computers to grass clippings are recycled at SLCC.
“We recycle anything we can,” Stanton says.
The recycling program also processes old machinery, car parts, used oil, lead-acid and light bulbs. Once everything has been sorted, the materials are given or sold to companies like Waste Management.
Students who gather the recyclables feel a sense of purpose.
“It is a good tasks,” says Gerardo Romay, an international student. “I feel like I am helping to care [for] or save the world. Taking this material is not too much for all the world, but it’s something little that could make a good change.”
Phil Pendergast, a media music major and fellow worker in the recycling program, agrees with Romay.
“It’s a small contribution overall,” Pendergast says. “But still it helps out the college. And it’s actually helped me to be more concise of what I throw in the garbage, and what I could be recycling.”
The work can be very personal.
“Something I like [about] this job is staying in touch with the people,” Romay says.
“You really notice how people rely on you coming, you know, to do the job your doing. They look forward to seeing you during the day.”
For students who want to help, it can be as easy as putting a plastic bottle or soda can into one of the recycling bins instead of the garbage.
“Making that little extra effort to put things in recycling cans is great,” Stanton says.
“Oftentimes we notice that if there is a trash can ten feet from somebody and a recycling bin twenty feet from somebody, they’ll just put it in the trash can because they won’t take those few extra steps. And, you know it really does help, it makes a difference.
“Keeping things out of the landfill where they will take forever to decompose, instead they can be turned into something useful.”