Zoë Jurkowski, S&E Editor
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of interviewing two important figures in Wooster’s recycling process: Claire Brennan ‘24 and Alena Card ‘24. Brennan and Card personally facilitate the collection and decontamination of recyclable materials from both administrative and academic buildings, helping to make the College’s recycling system more efficient. Here, they give insight as to what exactly their job entails and what recycling looks like at The College of Wooster.
What inspired you both to begin personally processing recycling?
Our freshman year, Claire sat down with Beau Mastrine in Facilities to interview him for a class, assuming he would confirm the misinformation we had heard about the dismal state of recycling on campus. Instead, he had some really encouraging work to share and we realized that working with him could be a great route to improve sustainability on campus. We were both aware that recycling in the U.S. is no longer functioning the way it used to. Materials that are recyclable are being thrown away because there is no market for them, people don’t understand their local regulations or they simply don’t care, and we thought we could do something about it.
How would you describe the current state of recycling on campus?
The College is working really hard to make sure that we recycle as much recyclable material as possible, but misconceptions on campus about recycling have made that exceptionally difficult. We are sometimes forced to redirect whole dumpsters of material because they are full of food waste and other trash.
Is there anything you wish students would be more aware of when participating in recycling or disposing of their trash?
Please separate your recycling and trash! Contamination of recycling with plastic liners and food waste makes our job more difficult and means less recyclable material makes it through the process to be put to good use. Don’t put your recycling in trash bags and remember we can’t recycle glass on campus. While processes exist to recycle glass, there is no longer an industry for it in the U.S., so the companies that accept glass usually don’t actually recycle it.
A common belief on campus is that the College does not recycle. Are there any misconceptions about recycling on campus that you would like to clear up?
We do recycle! We hear this misconception all the time and it’s so harmful because folks who really care about recycling and the environment have given up sorting because they think it doesn’t make a difference. We can promise you it does! We see it first-hand every day. The college has a longstanding contract with WM for recycling and lots of folks who work really hard to make sure it runs smoothly. Even after we graduate, the recycling program will be in good hands.
What exactly does your position entail, and how would you describe the work you do?
Our job is to increase the amount of recyclable material that makes it all the way through the recycling process by reducing contamination. We collect all of the recycling from all of the administrative and academic buildings twice a week and relocate the materials that are actually recyclable to a locked dumpster. This helps to ensure that the large majority of recyclables make it to WM uncontaminated and ready to be actually recycled. We also work with Beau and WM to come up with solutions to try and limit contamination and inform students of the work we do.
Is there anything you would advise the school to do differently in its current approach to recycling? Or, is there anything you see as an easy improvement to how we recycle here at Wooster?
We have been trying hard for a while to encourage the school to compost. It’s a massive portion of our waste stream and if there is a designated place for it we believe that food waste would contaminate recycling less. We also want recycling to be more accessible to residential spaces. As you guys know, lots of dorms don’t have their own dumpsters so students have to lug their materials farther, which is super inaccessible, especially in the winter.
Here at the Voice, we would like to thank and commend you both for your work. How has the College played a role in supporting your efforts to process recycling?
While the College might not have a great track record for overall sustainability, they work really hard with the recycling program. Beau Mastrine supervises and supports our efforts, encourages us to bring our own ideas to the table, and has done the same fantastic work with other recycling assistants before us. We hope that with the hiring of the new sustainability coordinator, the College can develop better sustainability initiatives and we can’t wait to work with him to continue growing and improving the recycling program.
Are there any final messages or thoughts that you would like to leave for the College or for students?
Please, please, please, sort your trash and recycling. We know that Wooster students care about their environmental impacts and simply aren’t confident in the College’s recycling, but we cannot overstate how important it is that people try to recycle and know that their efforts aren’t wasted. Also, wave if you see us in the truck, and reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com if you have any questions at all!