SOU Students Receive $57,500 to Launch Waste Management Project

Project goal is “zero waste” on the SOU campus in five years

(Ashland, Ore) The Ecology Center of the Siskiyous (ECOS), a Southern Oregon University student group, has succeeded in raising $57,500 to build a recycling center on the Ashland campus, staff it and install recycling bins in every University building. The waste management project is set to begin next fall with a campus-wide education campaign on how to reduce waste through the new SOU system.

“Hopefully this will put SOU on the path to having zero waste in five years,” says Misty Munoz, a junior majoring in environmental studies, and one of the four students who launched the project through a classroom capstone project last fall overseen by Professor Mark Shibley. The other three students are seniors Christina Becker, Benji Nagel and Charlie Chao.

The funds come from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation ($23,000 in green tag reinvestment funds), SOU student fees ($23,500 in emergency funding from the student government), the Ted Turner Foundation ($6,000), and the University ($5,000 in savings from infrastructure costs).

The money will pay for the creation of a recycling sorting center, indoor and outdoor bin systems, a fulltime recycling coordinator and student assistants. Munoz says she will begin setting up the recycling sorting facility this summer so that it will be ready to go when the new school year begins in September.

ECOS members realized the need for an enhanced recycling program on Earth Day 2010 when students dumped a week’s worth of trash on the patio outside the Stevenson Union, then sorted through the pile to determine how much could be recycled. “We discovered that 75% of SOU’s trash is recyclable,” says Munoz. To make recycling possible, Munoz and the other students in her capstone class created a comprehensive proposal based on a successful recycling program operated at the University of Oregon. The proposal included clear guidelines for sorting recyclables and an administrative infrastructure to support the project.

The proposal also outlined cost savings: $68,000 in SOU student fees currently pay for waste disposal. “In the next two years, we should be recycling 75% of the recyclables” that currently are going to the dump, says Munoz. “That’s $49,000 in annual trash savings.”

ECOS students see the recycling project as one phase of a comprehensive waste management program. A program for collection and recycling of plastic is also planned for next fall, and “we hope to request funds for a digester next winter,” says Munoz. The digester would be part of a composting program that would produce methane to be sold to a utility company, compost to be used on campus grounds and more savings in waste disposal costs.

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