Inside Iowa State

Inside Archives

Submit news

Send news for Inside to, or call (515) 294-7065. See publication dates, deadlines.

About Inside

Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

May 13, 2009

Sue Mallas and Kelly McCool

FPM employees and ISU recycling committee members Sue Mallas (left) and Kelly McCool sort through cardboard boxes on the General Services dock ready for pickup and recycling. Thirty campus buildings have at least weekly cardboard recycling service, for several locations, it's daily. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Campus recycling efforts: keeping on

by Anne Krapfl

Quietly, consistently, parts of campus have been "green" . . . well, nearly as long as Kermit has.

Various units within facilities planning and management, in addition to environmental health and safety and the residence department coordinate about 15 programs that reuse or recycle products of daily university operations. This includes the more visible phonebook recycling or the weekly surplus equipment sale, to the less visible free wood pile (east of Haber Road between the railroad tracks and coal pile) or lab chemical redistribution program. The oldest, white paper recycling, began in 1992 at the prodding of the graduate student senate and currently garners about 10.5 tons each month from 106 buildings.

Did you know:

  • Central Stores is recycling 90 percent of the toner and ink jet cartridges it sells to ISU offices?
  • Last year, 210 tons of corrugated cardboard went to the Ames Area Redemption Center for recycling?
  • The university recycled nearly 45,000 fluorescent light bulbs and tubes last year?
  • The drop-off fee at the Ames Resource Recovery Plant (where many of these items would end up if ISU discarded them as trash) currently stands at $60 per ton?
Details and contact information on all the recycle and reuse programs are on the FPM web site (see "Recycling" under "Facilities Services" ).


If we hadn't noticed, others did. Iowa State was among the top 50 public universities recognized for campus recycling programs in 2005 by U.S. News and World Report. The university won the "best school recycling program" award from the Iowa Recycling Association in 1999.

Educating the campus community about programs in place and options being looked at is something recycling leaders would like to do better, said Kelly McCool, a program coordinator in FPM and longtime member of the ISU recycling committee.

"It's an education thing," she said, noting that the litany of "wows" heard during the sustainability symposium in February reminded committee members that much of their success actually is an unintended secret.

"We have a full-time advocate now [in sustainability director Merry Rankin]," said Sue Mallas, secretary in FPM's facilities services and a recycling committee member. "We're excited to have her on board to help guide the visibility of recycling programs.

"Awareness is key and we are working on a couple of items right now," she added.

One is a makeover of the recycling web site, another is a recycling identity program.

"We hope these will help make a difference in the campus community's awareness of some of the recycling options available to them," Mallas said.

Looking ahead

Iowa State hosts the Odyssey of the Mind world finals May 27-30, and McCool is coordinating several recycling efforts for the thousands of hard-working, prop-toting contestants converging on campus. One will be to install cardboard recycling bins next to all the dumpsters outside the competition sites. Another is 40 bins for beverage plastic bottle and can recycling at competition sites and the Memorial Union. Odyssey of the Mind teams come from states and countries with a wide range of recycling traditions, she noted.

"We're going to try a few things and see if we can reduce what we send to the Ames Resource Recovery Plant this time," she said.

Soda containers with a redemption value aren't recycled centrally at Iowa State, though many departments do this informally -- and have come to rely on the income for special purposes in the office. McCool said it's something the recycling committee may look into, depending how the pilot project goes later this month. Surveying the community for interest and commitment would be part of the study process before launching a new program, she said.

Other questions they must answer before beginning any new program include:

  • Is it sustainable?
  • If it works well and is done right, what will it cost (including staff, equipment or vehicle needs, and transportation costs)?
  • What are the safety considerations (including potential for things such as fire, personal injury, unsanitary conditions)?
  • Is there a place to take the material? What is the ultimate destination and how will it get there?

McCool said the markets for reusing and recycling materials is changing -- mostly expanding -- all the time.


Campus recycling efforts have been expanding since 1992, when offices first began recycling white paper.