The clashing, crunching sounds of scrap metal and glass go unheard to most Cal State Long Beach students — after all, the clamor is relegated to a corner of campus west of the Water Pyramid, past the long black stretch of Parking Lot 14. Weighing and compressing, sorting and collecting, the student staff of the Recycling Center turn everyday trash into cash.
Here, CSULB community members and the general public can bring in their recyclables to donate or exchange for their California Redemption Value, a modest refund that consumers can receive by taking their beverage containers to a state-certified recycling facility.
What CSULB Recycling Center manager Eric Bryan said began as “a booth in a parking lot” grew to become an award-winning, state certified recycling center with a four-star rating on Yelp – but this may come as news to many on campus.
Although the center’s purpose is to serve students, Bryan said, “[to the students] the knowledge of us being here at all is very low.”
The center was born from students. In 1971, when recycling was still in its infancy, students in the Ecology Club protested and sought a more effective way to handle campus waste. The center went public in 1974, welcoming the community and its recyclables.
Bryan hopes the center will develop into a more comprehensive sustainability center similar to the one at Orange Coast College. Early ideas include adding two classrooms, on-site composting and the ability to handle the same amount of waste on-site.
When it comes to making money off recyclables, it’s members of the community who make up most of the center’s visitors. Bryan says the center averages around 100 transactions daily during the week and around 120-150 on weekends.
Day-to-day, however, the Center is busy collecting a vast amount of material from recycling bins across campus. Each month they bring in around 8,000 pounds of aluminum, 12,000 pounds of plastic, 22,000 pounds of cardboard and 50,000 pounds of glass.
Bryan plans to work with environmentally focused campus organizations more in the future to bring awareness and innovation to the center.
The Recycling Center began collecting compost three years ago, distributing designated bins around the Student Union for students to use. Too unprocessed for CSULB gardeners to use, the accumulated material is destined for a compost facility in Los Angeles.
The center hopes to bring compost bins to all ASI properties, including the Isabel Patterson Child Development Center and Student Recreation and Wellness Center, by this fall.
According to a Daily 49er article from 2008, Long Beach recycling specialist Lisa Harris once called CSULB’s Recycling Center the “cleanest and most organized” recycling facility in the city.
“I’m proud of my center and I’m proud of my crew,” Bryan said. “But a big reason that we get so many people coming our way is that there’s a lot of other recycling centers that are closing. Last year, four [small] recycling facilities closed in Long Beach.”
Last year, rePlanet, California’s largest recycling network, closed 191 recycling centers, citing a reduction in state payments and a sharp decline in commodity pricing. In 2015, 200 other redemption centers were closed in California by rePlanet and other companies.
“As we are growing exponentially, it is absolutely necessary to understand that nothing is useless, whether it’s food waste or the plastic containers it comes in,” Bryan said. “By throwing that away and not responsibly handling it, it’s immediately contributing to a global problem.”
While Bryan says that Long Beach sponsors a lot of green initiatives, such as CSULB’s Earth Week and the city’s Earth Day events, there is always room for improvement.
“I want [us] to be the cleanest city out there,” he said.