OSU’s Waste Watchers Foster Recycling Culture

Volunteers assist a community member at the clothing station at a Repair FairThe vacuum cord that won’t retract. The leaf blower with the broken on switch. The socks with a hole in the heel. We’ve all been there: repair it, or toss it? The Oregon State University Waste Watchers is hoping you’ll go with the first option.

“We want to foster a culture of DIY, not just use and discard,” said Kyle Reed, the group’s student outreach assistant.

Reed works for OSU Campus Recycling and Surplus Property, which co-sponsors the Waste Watchers student group with Student Sustainability Initiative. Last fall, Reed gave a demonstration of how to make compost using a worm bin at the Waste Watcher’s Repair Fair, where volunteers fix those broken vacuums and leaf blowers for free.

The Waste Watchers also holds outreach events and runs marketing campaigns to promote recycling across campus, including the annual “recycle mania” competition, in which OSU competes with the University of Oregon for the most pounds of recycling and compost.

This year’s recycle mania will be held in February, and at the Waste Watchers’ final 2016 meeting, group members kicked around ideas for the sculpture they would make out of recycled materials.

They liked the idea of making furniture and a TV—“It’s interactive! People could sit in it! You could take pictures in it!”—plus, they decide, it’s a lot easier to make a sofa than a beaver. So they ran with it, and soon had slogan ideas: “Get tuned in for recycling,” “What’s your recycling frequency,” and “Trash talk here.”

To Andrea Norris, the marketing and development coordinator for OSU Campus Recycling and Surplus Property and the only non-student regularly involved with the group, this kind of idea generation is one of the Waste Watchers most important jobs as the department’s de facto outreach arm.

“They’re the think tank,” Norris said. “Their ideas and their brainstorming are very valuable to us, because they’re very in touch with the student population.”

For the students, the group provides an opportunity to see their ideas turned into reality. Callie Limbaugh, the group’s recruitment chair, turned a tip about how to repair an underwire bra into a successful repair fair demonstration.

“To see an idea that you have really do something is really important,” she said. “This was a real sense of reward.”

Others are drawn to the group by their personal commitment to the environment.  Amy Salisbury, a junior civil engineering major, has been involved in the group since she was a freshman.

“Our group is small, but it makes me feel like I can make an impact,” she said. “Everybody has their fight, and sustainability is the fight I’ve picked.”

Those interested in joining the OSU Waste Watchers are welcome to attend the group’s weekly meetings on Thursdays from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Or, for an introduction to the Waste Watchers and an overview of involvement opportunities, go to the group’s

“Meet ‘n’ Eat” event on Wednesday, Jan. 18 from 6 to 7 p.m. Both events are held in Room 112 of OSU’s Student Experience Center.

By Maggie Anderson

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