Roxane Beigel-Coryell

536421_899678829550_1684165445_nAs a college campus, SOU faces some unique waste challenges. Roxane Beigel-Coryell, SOU’s Sustainability & Recycling Coordinator, explains that the student body population, “turns over every few years and we constantly have new people coming in.” Because SOU’s student body population changes so frequently, educating students about what can and cannot be recycled is an ongoing and often laborious process. Roxane explains that recycling standards are, “very different community to community which adds to the confusion when people are coming to campus from Portland or even as close as Medford where the rules are different even though we’re neighbors.” In order to educate students, garbage bins and recycling bins are color-coded and have signs on them that explain the proper usage of each bin. Roxane also coordinates student outreach by hosting events and activities that focus on waste management and sustainability.

In spite of educational efforts, two food-related items are incorrectly recycled at high rates: Coffee cups and pizza boxes. Disposable coffee cups are not recyclable in Ashland, yet they are frequently tossed into recycling bins throughout SOU’s campus. Often, the cups still contain small amounts of liquid, which can leak out onto other items in the bins, such as paper, thereby rendering the contents unrecyclable. Likewise, pizza boxes are often incorrectly put into recycling bins. Roxane explains, “some communities will take them for recycling but it’s a very expensive process because of the grease that gets onto the cardboard.” Cleaning the grease off is a “very intense process.”

In general, “food waste is a really big challenge for us, not only from the waste made by people who take more food than they are going to eat, but also just in-house, in the kitchen.”  Currently, pre-consumer food waste is sent to Recology Ashland to be composted. Post-consumer food scraps go in the trash, but various groups at SOU are interested in creating composting programs that include post-consumer waste.

Another type of food waste on campus is seen at the end of the year when students move out of the dorms. “We have been trying to partner more with the SOU food pantry to collect the students ‘non-perishable food at the end of the year because it’s a big waste stream. They buy a lot of packaged, non-perishable stuff and when it’s time to move out they don’t want to take it home, so we are trying to get the food pantry to take it.” This is one of many projects going on at SOU. Roxane revealed that, “A lot of students are very concerned with food waste issues on campus and I think they’re just trying to find the right way to plug into it.”