Students implement recycling programs in local apartment complexes

By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer, Video by BrenShavia Jordan | Broadcast Reporter

Two Baylor students are partnering with local apartment complexes to bring recycling services to student housing.

Danville, Calif., Senior Madi Jeha and Houston senior Catherine Szuhay helped the Ursa apartment complex implement a recycling program as part of an environmental science research project, and are in talks with other complexes near Baylor to do the same.

Jeha conceived the program last semester after observing the lack of recycling at Waco apartments, and said the research component was an extra benefit.

“I came up with the idea for [environmental science professor] Dr. [Melinda] Coogan, and then we ended up making it part of my research that I needed for my major,” Jeha said. “It didn’t start out as a class; it just started out as something I wanted to do for the community.”

Szuhay teamed up with Jeha later into the project. For her last semester at Baylor, Szuhay said she wanted to create a “last-ditch impact” before graduating. Szuhay said the recycling project is about affecting change now and setting an example for others.

“I’ve always been really passionate about sustainability and environmental consciousness. I think it’s really important to implement these types of traditions now so that they can be passed on to the future generations,” Szuhay said. “We only have one planet, and I think that we need to remember that.”

The pair’s research data is gathered through surveys, one before and one after implementation of the recycling program. The follow-up survey of Ursa residents showed that over 70% of respondents reported using the new recycling service. With more than 700 residents living at Ursa, this indicates a significant reduction in waste, and Jeha said that estimates show a large portion of everyday waste can be reduced this way.

“The average American creates [about] four pounds of waste per day,” Jeha said. “I think about two to three pounds of that can be recycled.”

Jeha and Szuhay are working to bring recycling to other complexes, pursuing agreements with The Grove, The Domain and The Outpost. Complexes with outdoor waste collection are the priority, as Jeha said some apartments are not well-suited to adapt to a recycling program.

“As many apartment complexes as we can get on-board, the better,” Jeha said. “Our only issue that we run into is if you look at Park Place, or The View or U Pointe, they’re all indoor facilities so they only have one trash chute… the issue is that people can’t put their recycling down the trash chute because it won’t go into a recycling bin. Right now, we are focusing on outdoor ones.”

While a priority for the project is still collecting data, Jeha and Szuhay have focused more on getting apartment complexes to adopt recycling programs. Szuhay said Jeha helped one apartment complex set up a recycling service despite not participating in the study.

“[Jeha] helped Oso Verde get their recycling, but unfortunately we weren’t able to collect data,” Szuhay said.

Jeha said complexes are generally willing to participate in the surveys and reap the benefits that come with it.

“It looks really good on them, especially if we end up getting published for this too. Their names get to be in the publications,” Jeha said. “They enjoy being on the forefront; they get to tell people they were some of the first people who got to recycle.”

Implementing the recycling program at Ursa involved inspections, certifying research, ordering materials and lots of time. Both students are seniors, and Szuhay said they are keen to future-proof the project.

“We’re looking for students to potentially take on what we’re doing now after we graduate,” Szuhay said.