December 2, 2020

Student, staff member promote recycling

Geoff Janovsky stands next to the cardboard reuse station in the first floor of the parking garage while Caitlin Zera makes cardboard signs. The station has intact cardboard boxes and packing material that students are encouraged to use. PHOTO BY DAVID NASH

Geoff Janovsky said nothing stops him from recycling Webster University’s trash.

“We’re going out every day — ice, snow, whatever,” said Janovsky, sustainable operations and development manager. “It has to be done. We have to get the recycling.”

Janovsky was hired in 2004 as a groundskeeper and recycling manager. Since then, Janovsky has worked to have recycling bins available everywhere on campus.

“If you want a trash can, I want a recycling bin by it,” Janovsky said.

He and members of the Webster University recycling program work to educate others on recycling.

“You know you can’t recycle plastic straws in single-stream recycling?” said Caitlin Zera, student liaison for the Webster University recycling program. “Recycling education is not just about what you can and can’t recycle.

“It’s a gateway for a person to ask themselves, ‘Is all this really necessary and do I really need a plastic straw to begin with?”’

Zera is a junior film production major and student employee in the Webster facilities operation department. At Ursuline Academy in Kirkwood, she was a member of the Environmental Club, which implemented recycling programs. Zera said she is excited to have a job doing what she loves.

Webster University produces about 14 tons of single-stream recycling each week. Single-stream is a process in which collection and processing is designed to handle a variety of recycled materials: paper fibers, plastics, metals and other containers.

The facilities operations department manages the single-stream recycling at Webster. Janovsky works with Zera and a team of student employees to gather recyclables on campus.

“How did we get sold on all this plastic?” Janovsky said. “Go out and get yourself some nice glass containers, put your meals in there and not some toxic plastic container.

“It’s not just about recycling. It’s a personal understanding of how we can either help or hinder our environment.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2010 the United States generated almost 14 million tons of plastic containers and packaging. Almost 11 million tons were generated as durable goods, such as appliances, and almost seven million tons as nondurable goods, such as plates and cups.

Webster participates in the annual RecycleMania, which is a competition and benchmarking tool for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction. Weights are taken every week to record how much Webster recycles and how much it throws away.

“A goal for me is to see that the university recycles more than it throws away,” Zera said. “I think we’re getting pretty close.”

According to data from the 2012 RecycleMania competition, Webster was at or just above a 50-percent recycling rate by the end of the competition.

Zera said she has a goal of supporting better programs for specialty recycling. If students have materials like electronics, old bike parts, batteries or VHS cassettes, those items can be recycled, but not in single stream.

Currently, the team can help students with their specialty recycling needs by either taking the products directly or referring students to special recycling
facilities.

“I would like to one day have bins available to collect special recycling,” Zera said. “It would help the process. The student wouldn’t have to approach us with their recyclables, but be able to handle them directly.”

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