CansArt Illustration by Sarah Schreff/Photo Editor

Trash worth keeping: Campus teams with recycling company

News Assistant

As the landfills in Southern California begin to reach their maximum capacity, recycling has become an important part in controlling the amount of waste buried into the ground. The closest landfill to Pepperdine is directly through Malibu Canyon near A.E.Wright Middle School and reached its capacity more than five years ago. Now non-recyclable materials must be hauled out to Sun Valley, Calif., for dumping.

But for the past nine years Pepperdine has been partnered with Crown Disposal Co., a mixed processing plant, to recycle as much of Pepperdine’s waste as possible. 

The Sun Valley-based recycling plant recycles up to 80 percent of all waste that goes through their system — more than 1,700 tons a day. But any waste that is not recycled must be sold to the neighboring landfills, two of which are already closed.

“Crown Disposal is a really great company because they have an economic reason to recycle,” said Rick Leach, Director of Campus Services Facility Management and Planning. “It keeps the heat on to finding new ways to recycle,”

Recycling has always been a hot topic on campus as many student groups have tried to start recycling programs with little success.

“Recycling is an enormous concern because of all the products that Pepperdine students throw away that can be reused,” senior Dania Lopez said. “But it is very unrealistic to set up separate recycling centers at each trash can. The student recycling programs may start out successfully but then they die after a few weeks and students do not use the separate bins anymore.”

Despite their good intentions, the student recycling programs may be hurting more than they help. The trash that piles up in dorm rooms and common areas can invite pest problems, rodents, ants and create health issues.

“[The student programs] have actually created a hazard,” Leach said. “Most of the recycling clubs have fallen apart because of logistical problems.”

While students have been worried about their use of their extensive trash, Pepperdine has been taking the lead by recycling all of the materials thrown in the garbage. The Crown Disposal’s system takes the discarded trash, including aluminum, food, metals, plastics, cardboard, paper, cement and landscaping waste, and put it through their sorting process, sorting 5-7 tons of material in five minutes.

According to General Manager and Director of Crown Disposal Tom Ybarra, aluminum cans and metal objects are picked up by a magnet and then collected into 3,000 tons bails. A wind tunnel sorts the plastic and paper by blowing the light plastic and paper to the sides and the heavy plastic and paper to the bottom. The landscaping waste is sorted and then turned into mulch. And recyclable wood is ground in woodchips.

Eighty percent of the sorting process is automated, leaving employees to sort the last materials that may have escaped the system.

To make use of the products, all of the recycled materials are sold back to their perspective buyers or own customers. The aluminums and plastics are sent to the manufacturers and the wood chips are sold to energy plants for fuel.

But the compost is one of the largest sellers. Crown Disposal sells 220,000 tons of compost a year and use the material on their own vineyards and corn fields.

“[The compost material] come back to us to become the top layer of the baseball field,” Leach said.

Despite Crown Disposal’s grown success in the recycling business- they now have two franchise agreements with the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles counties and over 21,000 customers-  they engineers are finding new ways to recycle items.

The newest program set up recycles residential and food waste. The program is only a month old, but has been successful in sorting food that can be composted and turned into farming mulch. Crown Disposal is also looking into laser technology that can break down and recycle glass, according to Ybarra.

As Crown Disposal has grown over the years and created new methods of recycling, they were the first to create compost out of garbage and also build new electric grinders and stainless steal truck to transport the materials- they are creating a cleaner environment and reducing green house gases. In 2006 Crown Disposal saved 25,593 tons of green house gasses.

“It is important to know your carbon footprint on the environment,” Ybarra said.

In addition to the waste recycling, Pepperdine recycles their water through the Malibu Mesa. After the water leaves Pepperdine pipes, it goes through a sorting process and then ultra violet lights sterilize the water before it is put into the lake. That water is then used for irrigation, according to Leach.

More research is being done to increase the amount of recycling on campus, including Cogeneration, a fuel cell which uses excess CO2 in green houses to produce energy.

So far Pepperdine’s relationship with Crown Disposal has proved to be a successful partnership.

“They are a very innovative company and we are glad we partnered with them,” Leach said. “Everybody wants to be green and do the right thing.”