The Lory Student Center can’t recycle 98% of waste

Paislee Fernau

The Operations team at the Lory Student Center has made new efforts to try and increase the rate of recyclables around offices, lounge areas and the food court.

However, because so many students are uneducated on what is considered recyclable versus a contaminant, only about 1-3% of waste from the food court is able to be recycled, said Nancy Cowley, the environmental services manager of the Operations Department at the LSC.


LSC faculty throw away both trash and recycling because so much of it is contaminated and can’t be recycled at all, Cowley said.

The Operations Department has put up signs to try and help, but it can only do so much, said Tamene Abebe, the director of Operations at the LSC. The LSC cannot effectively get rid of waste in a safe and eco-friendly way without the help of students and staff, Department of Operations leadership said.

Cowley and her supervision team train employees on the job, along with formal training two times a year, to make sure everyone is up to date on the correct regulations and procedures. After the trash is collected, Sheela Backen, the Facilities Management operations manager, and her team take the trash from there.  

I don’t want my team sifting through a contaminated bag going between every item. If it’s not recyclable, it’s a contaminant.” Nancy Cowley, environmental services manager of the Operations Department

The amount of trash that is eligible for recycling depends on contamination, Cowley said.

“Office trash is mostly recyclable,” Cowley said. “(Hallway trash can be up to) 60% recyclable depending on events and food. More contamination decreases this amount.”

The Operations Department has included information in Ram Welcome as well to try to get the word out, but even then, it’s not enough. The amount of foot traffic throughout the LSC includes more than just students. Staff, students and guests for events and tours all contribute to the amount of waste that can contaminate the recyclables. 

“People need to be in the habit of paying attention,” Cowley said. “I don’t want my team sifting through a contaminated bag going between every item. If it’s not recyclable, it’s a contaminant.”

Many things that are used in the food court such as latex, plastic cups, plastic foam, takeout boxes and food are not recyclable, yet they are thrown away as if they are, which contaminates the entire bag, Cowley said.

If a single bag has a contaminant, it goes to the landfill with the rest of the trash across campus, Cowley said.

The Operations Department team in the LSC has started a new Green Initiative this January as a way to help minimize waste.


“We began collecting paper towels in bathrooms,” Abebe said. “Wherever there are hand paper towel dispensers in restrooms, there are collection containers stating that it’s compostable.”

This is helping the LSC become more environmentally friendly overall, Abebe said. This way, the paper towels are disposed of separately from the rest of the trash and can be sent to the compost field on the west side of campus.

The paper towels are used as brown matter along with dead leaves and grass to be turned into soil, Abebe said. The paper towels can be combined with animal bedding and green waste to help create a natural resource for CSU. This soil is then bagged and sold to farmers across Fort Collins and is a significant source of revenue. 

Although the food court vendors operate separately from LSC management, they contribute a significant amount of the waste that is being disposed of that the waste management team doesn’t see, Cowley said. Behind the vendors’ walls there are numerous trash cans and pounds of waste that are discarded daily. 

“There are no recycling bins anywhere inside the store at the LSC,” said an employee at the LSC Freddy’s who wished to remain anonymous. “Everything goes into the trash cans.”

The waste disposal area for all the food vendors only contains trash cans, with no area to dispose of recycling, the employee said.

There are many opportunities for recycling at the LSC. However, the amount of waste that is actually able to be recycled is very low due to lack of education and bad habits by all students, staff and visitors, Cowley said.

Paislee Fernau can be reached at or on Twitter at @PaisleeFernau22