“It’s a completely apolitical thing,” said senior Andrew Holub, echoing sentiments expressed by others involved in the Hillsdale College Recycling program. “It’s just a good, honest attempt to be responsible with our waste products and do what we can to not be reckless with the environment.”
Psi Chi and Tri Beta, the psychology and biology honoraries, partner with Dr. Ranessa Cooper, associate professor of Biology, Botany Chair, and Director of the Arboretum, in Hillsdale’s growing paper recycling program.
Cooper said the program, which she started two years ago, is her third such project. She started the recycling program in her dorm in college and, as a member of her high school biology club, the recycling program in her hometown.
“We drove around in city trucks and collected, and it paid for our club activities,” she said. “I don’t know how that was allowed.”
Since then, the program that she helped to start has transformed into an actual city department.
The Hillsdale program partners with Key Opportunities, Inc., a not-for-profit vocational training organization, to dispose of paper waste.
“We do document destruction for businesses. Customers bring the items in, we shred it, then we bale it, and it goes up to the pulp mill and gets pulped,” said Mike Miller, marketing contact at the company.
Cooper explained that the college had a relationship with Key Opportunities before the recycling program, removing shredded confidential documents. “But I wanted to find more opportunities for recycling,” Cooper said. “It’s a win, win, win, situation. It’s good for Hillsdale College, good for Key Opportunities, and good for mother earth.”
The paper is collected by Key Opportunities once a month after student volunteers, usually from Tri Beta or Psi Ch, sort it. Junior Ellen Roundey is one such volunteer from Tri Beta.
“I and three other people empty the recycling in Delp once a month,” Roundey said. She then described how the material is sorted to divide computer paper, newspaper magazines, and cardboard. “I don’t enjoy the sorting,” she said. “But I enjoy the helping out.”
In addition to the paper recycling program that Cooper started in conjunction with Key Opportunities, Hillsdale also has a plastic, glass, and aluminum recycling program run by the Americal Chemical Society. Those bins can be seen in AJ’s and a few other places around campus.
There are bins for paper in Delp Hall, Mossey Library, Lane Hall, Kendall Hall, and Strosacker Science Center.
Key Opportunities collected roughly 1,500 pounds a month from the college, Miller said. “Since Thanksgiving, we’ve put together 4,500 pounds of paper we’ve bailed up.”
“I don’t think as many people are as aware of it as could be, but we wanted to take the gradual steps so we can manage the program,” Cooper said. “We have a good mechanism in place and it is growing. I would love for this to be a completely student-driven process. I think we’re close. The more students we have, the more efficient we can be.”
“I think it’s great,” Holub said. “I would really like to see it expand even further — make Hillsdale a campus that really supports recycling and is being responsible with our waste products.”
On a campus as conservative as Hillsdale, the concern expressed by those involved in the recycling program is that reception and enthusiasm will be dampened by whatever political stigma people see in it. Cooper hopes people can see that the program is about responsibility and stewardship of nature and not some political agenda.
“We’re trying to keep stuff out of landfills and recycle and reuse the products,” said Miller.
That’s something Cooper identifies with. “I definitely exemplify the reduce, reuse, recycle motto, and I’m proud of that.”