We're moving!

We're moving our new stories to Denison.edu, the college's super-sweet mothership. Over time, we'll be moving some of our best past stories from TheDEN over there too. In the meantime, we've made available an archive of all stories here. This archive will be available for a few months before this site is permanently shut down. See you at Denison.edu! - June 2016

Gaga for garbage

Scott Barrett is Denison's recycling and trash collection operator, a newly created sustainability position.

Spread out over 900 lovely and leafy acres (including a 550 acre Biological Reserve), Denison’s campus is home to more than 2,100 students, 278 faculty and 435 staff. They produce an average of 2.67 tons of garbage per day—roughly a quarter of which gets recycled. And each day, with his trusty truck, one man goes forth to rout the rubbish and to do what he can to increase the recyclable portion.

Denison’s exuberant recycling and trash collection operator, Scott Barrett, is in his favorite place on campus, the Denison University-Granville Community Recycling Center, a big red barn on North Street that Denison opened for the campus and surrounding communities in 2004. It’s Thursday, and most of the really smelly stuff has been hauled off, although he’s frequently interrupted by people dumping off their cans, bottles, plastics, old magazines, and the like.

Barrett is no Oscar the Grouch. In fact, he’s just the opposite. He has an engaging grin and infectious energy, and he bristles with enthusiasm for his job, which is to collect both recyclable materials and plain old trash. Denison created this position last year, with the idea that a full-time employee can more efficiently manage trash and recycling collection than a contracted service.

And Barrett is getting the job done. Thanks to his work—and greater diligence by the rest of the campus community—Denison has recycled 154 tons so far this year, 20 tons more than at the same time last year. That translates to $25,364 in earnings for the sale of recycled goods through the first seven months of the current fiscal year, significantly higher than last year’s 12-month total of $16,308. But it’s not enough for Barrett, who aims to eventually save Denison $100,000 through recycling efforts.

So how does he get it done? Each morning, he climbs into his big white garbage hauler and sets out on his route. “I’ve got it timed so that on good days, I’m down to 12 1/2 minutes per stop.” Barrett’s course takes him around the Academic Quad, through the West and North Residential Quads, down to the athletics facilities, back up to East Hall, and finally down to lower campus and the Fine Arts Quad. He then follows the same route in his red flatbed truck, collecting recyclable materials.

Usually, he can cover the campus in one fell swoop with each vehicle. But Mondays and the days counting down to finals week can produce ginormous hauls with as many as three trips back to the recycling barn with his load of glass, paper, cardboard, and aluminum. (He does point out, however, that numbers go down overall during colder months, but he’s hesitant to speculate why.)

Once back in the recycling center, Barrett and his helpers, (Denison students and workers from LICCO, a local service that employs developmentally challenged adults), begin sorting the recyclables in 10 different varieties, including specific kinds of paper and plastic. They toss the items into “gaylords,” large cardboard boxes that hold more than a cubic yard of materials.

Once the gaylords are full, the materials are compacted and sent to vendors who recycle them into products used every day, including the recycled plastic outdoor furniture Barrett sits on as he drinks lemonade from recycled glass, while eating potato salad from a recycled paper plate.

Some interesting facts:

  • Barrett figures that he has 480 minutes in each day. That translates to moving just over 11 pounds per minute or about 660 pounds per hour.
  • During the 2009-10 year, the Denison community created about 911 tons of trash. Of that, approximately 234 tons were recycled.
  • At 67 tons, cardboard accounted for the most of any one material.
  • Denison earned $16,308 from its consumer recycling efforts in 2009-10. It earned an additional $8,400 from recycled construction materials.
  • Aluminum cans earn the most moola, at $1,260 per ton.
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