By Stephanie Gomez, Contributor
Mason’s Recycling and Waste Management team, Office of Sustainability and student researchers funded by the Patriot Green Fund (PGF) are creating and managing ways to adopt recycling routines for students, staff and faculty.
“We need to reduce our trash and increase recycling. That’s the direction we want to go,” says Kevin Brim, the manager of Recycling and Waste Management.
He further explains, “People think of recycling as costly, but [students] only realize how much we spend in trash is far more than recycle.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, recycling plastic and other materials magnifies the amount of energy saved to reduce carbon footprint. Brim’s team and the Office of Sustainability collaborate to monitor and increase diversion rates with the use of a new ReTrack system, which categorizes all recycling produced by the Mason community for all the campuses.
Brim mentions that his team recognizes the recycling confusion within the community and want to make it easier for students, staff, and faculty to pinpoint the differences between recyclable materials and disposable waste. The Recycling and Waste Management team plan on using photographs and adding more noticeable recycling stations.
Mary Liang, the recycling analyst for the Office of Sustainability, also works closely with Brim. Liang explains that her department is aware of the confusion regarding recycling and are coming up with resolutions to work around the Mason community’s needs. Further adding, “Is it [recycling] an infrastructure question? Education question? We are moving towards increasing our efforts.” The Sustainability office continues in search for the bridge between students, faculty, and staff, to better understand the needs between these three channels of communication.
Both Brim and Liang oversee the single and three-stream system provided for every campus. Single-stream is the centralized recycling stations known as the Big Bins located outside campus buildings and around common walkway areas. Centralized single-stream is handled two or three times per week by Recycling and Waste Management crew and remove waste in the morning before classes begin.
The three-stream system contains two-blue and one-grey Slim Jim Bins, placed in designated areas inside each building. Another form of three-stream recycling on campus is the large wooden containers that showcase and categorize trash, plastic, white and colored paper. Liang mentions that Mason generates revenue from white paper and three-stream ensures that it does not get contaminated with other waste or recycled materials. She encourages students and faculty to recycle, she adds, “It’s the students that drive the change on campus. One of Mason’s values is that students come first.”
The Patriot Green Fund (PGF), sponsored by the Office of Sustainability, encourages students to take initiative on an approved research project to explore how to better Mason’s environment. John Recktenwald, a sophomore mechanical engineering major and president of Beta Theta Tau Robotics and Automation, along with nine club members, created a project that proposes 3-D filament made out of recycled plastic.
“Our project is both feasible for the university and economically beneficial for the university,” explains Recktenwald. The project is undergoing its prototype stage. The purpose of the project is to reuse recycled plastic bottles, shred them, and turn the final product into 3-D filament for people at Mason to use. Recktenwald adds, “I just like to build things and I found other people who wanted to build things.”
The projects process is divided into three teams and phases. The lead group is the extrusion team which oversees the design, known as the beginning phase. The shredding team will be the second phase that contains the fabricating process of breaking down the plastic. The purification team handles the final stage of the process. These members will be in charge of removing sticky residue from plastic water bottles and washing and drying the plastic shred.
Members within our community continue to make Mason greener. To learn more about Recycling and Waste at Mason or the Office of Sustainability and other PGF student projects, visit green.gmu.edu.
Photo by Stephanie Gomez