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Trash piles on the Plaza promote sustainability for Recyclemania

Nick Dalla, a machine operator for the CSU Integrated Solid Waste Department, picks up a recycling bin at the Facilities North building on campus. The Integrated Solid Waste Department picks up recycling from approximately 60 locations around CSU's campus and Fort Collins five days a week.
Nick Dalla, a machine operator for the CSU Integrated Solid Waste Department, picks up a recycling bin at the Facilities North building on campus. The Integrated Solid Waste Department picks up recycling from approximately 60 locations around CSU’s campus and Fort Collins five days a week.

Student Housing Services took over the plaza Tuesday with a gigantic pile of trash from Recyclemania.

Every year around the first week of March, Student Housing Services collects the trash from two dorms and about 30 to 40 volunteers sift through it. All in the name of recycling.

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“It’s a interuniversity recycling competition,” said Tim Broderick, sustainability coordinator for Student Housing Services. “I think there’s about 523 that are participating in it this year and we track different types of materials in the trash — there’s one that’s just our recycling percentage, one that tracks recyclables per student, one for compost — there’s a bunch of different levels.”

Since 2005, CSU participated in the eight-week nationwide competition. Each year — except for 2011 — CSU placed in the top 25 schools for the amount of recycling percentage and diversion.

“For three years in a row now, we have placed highest in the level of recycling diversion,” Broderick said.

Organizers hope presenting the giant mound of trash in the plaza will expose students to their waste and inspire CSU to recycle.

Charmaine Parish, a senior majoring in ecosystem sciences and sustainability, was one of many who volunteered. It was her first time.

“This is weird and interesting,” Parish said. “You find a bunch of weird stuff, for instance; I found a bag of big Tony Frank heads and we also found things like full loaves of bread — there’s a lot of wasted food.”

A fence surrounded the pile and divided the trash from the students. Along the fence, volunteers hung all the interesting and wasteful things they found — from sweaters that could have been donated to unopened containers of food.

“I wanted to get more involved in conservation at the school,” said Gris Elda, a freshman studying fish and wildlife biology who volunteered to sift through the trash. “It really makes you aware of wasteful people are — it’s really eye-opening.”

After sifting through all the trash, the Student Housing Services staff and the volunteers weigh it all out and look at the results. Last year, CSU’s trash was 38 percent trash, non recyclable materials. Twenty-six percent could have been recycled and 26 percent composted.

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“I love my job, but you have days like this where it’s not the most glamorous thing,” said Broderick. “But, in reality, days like this are the ones where you get your hands dirty and it’s great.”

Collegian Reporter Rick Cookson can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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