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Catawba alumnus leads college's ambitious recycling efforts

By Tonia Black-Gold
Catawba College
Two years ago, Catawba College’s Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling did not exist. But since it was established within the Facilities Department in 2007, this office has championed recycling and waste reduction efforts on campus with a track record of success, measured in tons.
David Najarian, a 1997 Catawba alumnus, is an unassuming leader for that office’s efforts. Although he was intimately familiar with the college campus thanks to his days as an undergraduate, Najarian entered uncharted territory when he was tapped to head his office. He has spent the past two years learning the intricacies of recycling glass, paper, aluminum and cardboard and finding the most efficient methods for the college to employ.
A numbers game
In two years, the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling has recycled 175 tons of materials, generating $11,876 in revenue and saving an estimated $5,600 in tonnage that did not go into the landfill. The total tonnage includes paper, metal cans and glass, aluminum, plastics and scrap metals.
Installing a gauge on the on-campus compactor allowed Najarian and his staff to decrease number of times the compactor had to be emptied, also creating a cost savings. Instead of paying an outside company to pick up and sort the campus’ glass recyclables, Najarian’s office now sorts the glass on campus and then sells it to an appropriate vendor who will reclaim it.
Another initiative implemented has allowed the sorting of paper products on campus to be refined. Using gay lords placed at several different locations, cardboard can be broken down and collected, as can other paper products and books. These sorted papers can then be bailed and sold at market value.
Catawba’s efforts to recycle have also involved local special needs students from Salisbury High School’s Best Program, who have for the past two years visited campus each week to help with campus recycling collection.
Ride the bus
In September of 2008, it was the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling that took the lead in lobbying Salisbury Transit to try two bus stops on campus. With gas prices near $4 a gallon, it seemed a plausible idea to encourage students and other members of the college community to ride the bus.
Although some took advantage of the on-campus stops and the ability to buy discounted bus tickets in the campus business office, ridership during a seven-month trial period (October to May) was not enough for Salisbury Transit to justify continuing the stops. Even though the on-campus stops have been discontinued, Najarian is quick to note that a convenient bus stop is just a couple of blocks from campus, close enough for students and others to take a ride on the bus to downtown, the Salisbury Mall or to the Wal-Mart.
“And students can still buy their tickets to ride the bus in the college business office,” he says.
Najarian says his office plans to promote the benefits of using Salisbury Transit to the college community at least once a semester.
“If they don’t know about it, they won’t use it,” he explains.
A broader mission
While the efforts of the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling seem fairly simple to comprehend when viewed on a daily basis, there is a broader mission being pursued.
Najarian has been appointed the leader of an on-campus committee which oversees Catawba’s participation in the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. Catawba signed the commitment two years ago and has already made considerable progress toward assessing the college’s environmental impact.
Catawba has completed an annual greenhouse gas inventory and is the process of developing a climate action plan, all of which tie into the Climate Commitment. However, even the campus recycling efforts, the advocacy for public transportation use and the campus’ participation in this year’s Recycle-Mania competition feed into the institution’s commitment to this cause.
In addition to efforts on the Climate Commitment, Catawba is preparing to complete an Environmental Protection Agency Peer Audit of the campus this November, and Najarian’s office is in the thick of it. The audit will point out areas or practices on campus where improvement is needed and also areas or best practices where Catawba is in a leadership position.
“You don’t really realize it when you look at each initiative separately,” Najarian’s supervisor, Henry Haywood, director of the Facilities Department, explains. “It’s only when you see all of the initiatives at work together that you realize that we are on a much broader mission than just recycling glass and cardboard. Maybe it started with the glass and cardboard, but then everything seems to work together.”
Haywood noted some other Catawba initiatives which have reduced the institution’s environmental footprint. These include geothermal heating and cooling systems installed on 12 buildings on campus, the switch to green cleaning products in all buildings on campus and the installation of a 20,000-gallon storage tank on campus to capture clean well water runoff from the geothermal well at Hayes Field House and reclaim it as irrigation water for Catawba’s athletic fields, approximately 30 acres.
“What we’re doing as a college is something I’m proud of and something I think everyone on campus should be proud of. We’re doing our part to make sure we leave things in better shape than perhaps we found them,” Haywood said.
For more details on Catawba’s Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling, visit www.catawba.edu/administrative/facilities/recycling.asp.

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