Back to the basics of recycling at YSU

Recycling bins placed in hallways for easy use by students. Jessica Stamp/TheJambar

By Jessica Stamp

Over the years, Youngstown State University’s recycling program accumulated numerous achievements. But since there’s less money to be made in recycling, the program is changing in recent years.

It originally started in 1999 and receives annual grant funding from the Mahoning County Solid Waste District Green Team. One of its earliest achievements was collecting items from the residence halls during move-out days to donate to charities. 

Dan Kuzma, manager of the Recycling Program, said early on, the program was different in the way it obtained funding and organized its operation.

“We’re kind of a unique program because we got funding directly from the Solid Waste District and that’s not necessarily something you see anywhere else, especially in Ohio,” Kuzma said. “With our aggressive campaign that we had been doing things a little bit different that set us apart.” 

Other universities, hospitals and prisons have used YSU’s recycling program as a model for their own recycling programs. 

“We were the go-to because we were the first to do it, and in such a large scale, even though it was just an experiment at the time,” Kuzma said. 

A couple of years ago, the recycling program started going back to an “old-school recycling program.” Some material is not recyclable due to the money generated. Kuzma said everything has the potential to be recycled but “there’s not enough availability in recycling programs due to the volume that’s needed to recycle those materials.”

Lately, one way YSU’s recycling program receives funding is through tipping fees — when people drop off their material waste in landfills.

“Mahoning County is unique because we get a tipping fee from the landfills and that’s what basically pays for the program,” Kuzma said. “The amount of money that funds the programs … that’s all going to dictate what can and can’t be recycled.”

David Ewing, associate director of both the grounds department and the motor portal department, oversees almost everything outdoors on campus. He helps the recycling program by disposing of the cardboard on campus, which used to be recycled at no cost for the university.

“There’s no money in cardboard anymore. We used to have it done for free. Now, we got to pay to have the cardboard taken away,” Ewing said. 

One of the downsides of recycling is the possibility of contamination in the recycling bins. With many of the bins being located next to a trash bin, some of the trash ends up in the wrong bin.

“Sometimes, we do have to throw away stuff because of contamination,” Kuzma said. 

Across campus, there are 400-500 recycling bins. The bins are in select locations with heavy foot traffic from students, staff and faculty. Kuzma observes the locations and if needed, adjusts the bins.

Tim Styranec, associate director environmental occupational health and safety, collaborated with Kuzma to get grant funding.

Styranec oversees the chemical management center and handles hazardous waste, harmful material and universal waste. He patrols campus and collects fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, used oil and old electronics to ensure it is being recycled or disposed of properly. 

“We just make sure we’re doing everything that’s environmentally sound and make sure we’re not putting things into the landfill that shouldn’t be there,” Styranec said.