University student stands out making a difference in environment

Rebecca Ley@@[email protected]@ was looking for employment when she joined the University’s Campus Recycling Program last fall, but what she found was more than just a part-time job; it was an eye-opening experience.

“I’m from the Midwest, and I had never recycled before I came to Oregon,” Ley says. “After being involved in educating students about recycling, it seems like a lot of people just don’t know how to do it.”

As Ley studies her way to a degree in biology, she also works about 20 hours a week for the program, and her time is segmented into four-hour shifts on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays — and occasionally on weekends.


University student Rebecca Ley sorts through paper at the Campus Recycling warehouse north of the Mill Race on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011. Ley, a senior studying biology, is one of 55 students employed by Campus Recycling and has worked there over a year. (Jeff Matarrese/Oregon Daily Emerald)

“My days are always different, and I like getting out and getting involved,” Ley says. “The coolest thing about being here at the recycling center is working with people who care about what they do and who put effort into keeping this campus beautiful.”

Students are tentatively assigned to various operations, including routes in program-provided vehicles to pick up paper, glass, plastic and compost; warehouse functions such as sorting; and graphic design, in which students create posters to promote reusing materials and reducing waste.

“The student employees are extremely valuable to the Campus Recycling Program, from driving the trucks to acting as ambassadors on campus for the program. They are the recycling program,” Housing recycling coordinator Robyn Hathcock says.@@[email protected]@

Ley has been involved in every operation since she began working with the program a year ago. She says she’s worked at zero-waste events where program employees encourage the use of biodegradable materials and work to collect and reuse what’s left behind. These events include the University’s dorm move-out, ASUO Street Faire and other assorted happenings around campus.

“It was amazing to see how much stuff is recyclable,” Ley says. “It opened my eyes to how much we throw away.”

Campus Recycling Program Manager Karyn Kaplan@@[email protected]@ says Ley adds positivity and energy to the program’s work environment.@@[email protected]@

“She comes to work with a really good attitude and a willingness to learn,” Kaplan says. “She’s responsible, dependable and she cares about doing the right thing.”

The 20-year-old program currently employs 55 students and provides experience in waste reduction, recycling, composting services and other sustainable practices, according to Kaplan.

“This program started through student initiative,” Kaplan says. “It’s now a summation of the work of thousands of current and past students.”

Kaplan says the program aims to bring out leadership potential on every level. It also encourages collaboration between workers.

“We work together as a community,” Kaplan says. “We’re a team, and we make a difference too.”

Ley isn’t sure what she wants to do with her biology degree but hopes to incorporate her environmentally savvy ways into the workforce.

“This is the type of job that, at the end of the day, I love what I’ve done,” Ley says. “And we need to consider the impact we have on the environment if we want to keep living the way we are.”

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