In the last few years, the K-State Recycle Center has undergone many changes. Bill Spiegel, program manager of facility refuse and recycling, said he has tried to make the recycling center more environmentally friendly and cost-efficient for the university since he took over in 2012. These changes have included the use of biodiesel fuel made by students, adding more recycling bins around campus and the implantation of the new motto, “one stop drop.”
“I thank (the students) every day for making the university more environmentally friendly,” Spiegel said.
The K-State recycling center uses trucks to take recycling to Howie’s Recycling and Trash Services, but these trucks do not fill up their tanks at the gas station. The Biodiesel Initiative, a student organization, uses cooking oil from the dining halls and Student Union to make a biodiesel fuel to run these trucks.
Rachel DeMyers, senior in chemical engineering, co-founded the Biodiesel Initiative her freshman year and has continued trying to grow the organization. According to DeMyers, production and manpower have increased since the organization’s founding and 2,000 gallons of biodiesel fuel have been produced for the recycling trucks.
“I always have been into renewability and sustainability,” DeMyers said. “I wanted to make the campus more green.”
Set up in a converted greenhouse by the recycling center, DeMyers and approximately 20 students convert cooking oil from around campus into biodiesel fuel through a process called transesterification. Students filter the food particles out of the oil and mix different chemicals and petrodiesel, similar to what is available at a gas station, into the final product to keep the recycling center’s trucks moving.
“To see (the Biodiesel Initiative) grow from an idea to application has been really awesome,” DeMyers said.
DeMyers and Edwin Brokesh, graduate student and instructor in biological and agricultural engineering and faculty adviser for the Biodiesel Initiative, have long-term and short-term goals for the organization as it continues to grow. They said they would like to see the organization branch out into different products, such as making soap from a byproduct of the biodiesel fuel called methanol glycerin.
“My focus at the moment is building an organization that will go for many years,” Brokesh said. “It’s a more modest goal, but it’s the short-term stuff that needs to get done.”
With many of the members of the Biodiesel Initiative nearing the end of their college careers, Brokesh hopes to build up the organization with new members.
Although DeMyers said she hopes to set up a more stable work environment for the organization in the future, she said changes in temperature in the greenhouse where the organization currently works can cause problems with the transesterification process and that a lab would be better for production.
“It’s a lot of work for the students because they volunteer,” Spiegel said. “We have great students that work (with the Biodiesel Initiative).”
Not only has Spiegel started working with the Biodiesel Initiative, he has increased the amount of recycling done around campus by adding more bins. In addition to more bins, “one stop drop” refers to what Spiegel calls “single-stream recycling”. Instead of having students and faculty separate their recycling by paper, glass, plastic, small pieces of cardboard, tin and aluminum, all recycling besides glass and large cardboard pieces goes into a single bin.
According to Spiegel, not only is this method more convenient for students and faculty, but also for the recycling center. It is also more cost efficient by saving on labor, since no one has to sort through the recycling for long periods of time. Glass is separated for safety reasons, but all other recyclable materials get baled together to be shipped to Howie’s Recycling and Trash Service.
“It’s hard to get (approximately) 20,000 students to do what you want,” Spiegal said.
Since implementing “one stop drop,” there has been a 30.85 percent increase in recycling on campus according to the recycle center. Spiegel said this is due to the convenience of not having to sort the recycling and the number of clearly labeled bins around campus.
“Numbers don’t lie,” Spiegel said.
According to Spiegel, there has been an increase in recycling of most recyclable materials on campus. The total amount of recycling on campus increased from 1,310,822 pounds in 2012 to 2,085,656 pounds in 2014. Paper, plastic, tin and aluminum recycling increased by 20.54 percent, scrap metal recycling increased by 142.19 percent and glass recycling increased by 88.45 percent according to the recycling center.
“We do (recycling) all together as a team,” Spiegel said. “It’s not one person who does it. We all do it.”
Many student organizations and different groups around K-state volunteer with the recycling center. According to Spiegel, there is an average of 50 to 100 Greek volunteers on game days. The recycling center also teams up with Housing and Dining Services.
“You’ve got to work with everyone,” Spiegel said.
The recycling center also works around Manhattan in order to get everyone thinking about recycling. Spiegel said he coordinates with off-campus events as well as on-campus. From Fake Patty’s Day to move-in day for the dorms, the K-State recycling center is involved.
“It’s like the recycle symbol,” Spiegel said. “It never stops and just keeps going.”