Every day, the Santa Clara University community disposes of thousands of pounds of trash. On average, we dispose of 5,385 lbs of waste, 1,243 lbs of recycling, and 500 lbs of compost materials. Without the work of Chris Young and the entire Facilities crew, maintaining our waste disposal system, clean grounds, and countless other operations would be nearly impossible.
Chris Young began working for Santa Clara University in December of 1987. He started as a landscape technician repairing all the irrigation systems on campus. After 12 years, he was promoted to Landscape Maintenance Supervisor and eventually took over supervision of the recycling and waste crew, event-set ups, and building maintenance crew.
Chris runs a lot of operations on campus, but of all of his tasks, recycling and waste management provide quite the challenge. Every day, new work orders must be submitted to the crew so that they be sure to fit them into their schedules, Benson kitchen activity must be monitored, and the waste diversion system as a whole must be constantly analyzed for areas of improvement. The health and safety of his crew is another crucial factor that must be overseen as there can be several hazardous complexities when moving, hauling, and transferring waste to different containers. With the University's Strategic Plan focus on sustainability and justice, environmentally-friendly waste disposal practices is another factor that Young must consider. Waste maintenance is no longer an area that manages itself; new efforts for recycling and composting must be made–especially in the area of education.
Chris believes that teaching people exactly which items are recyclable and which are compostable is an extremely challenging aspect because "it's like teaching an old dog new tricks." Every year, there are new students to teach, and to train them to dispose of their waste properly could take a year or two. By the time they finally understand (if they are willing), they graduate, and then you have to start with a whole new batch of students. Though it might seem simple on paper, the reality is "a long tough road."
Despite this, Chris has helped orchestrate many great efforts to improve the University's waste system. Every quarter waste characterizations are held to determine the composition of SCU waste stream and target problem areas, bin signs are constantly updated to educate students, and interior and exterior bin switches are preformed to replace old, out-dated trash bins. More recently, faculty and staff been given new desk-side containers: recycling bins with a small waste container, to encourage them to reduce, reuse, recycle. Helping Chris run these programs are the people on his crew, the Director of the Office of Sustainability, and the waste diversion interns. All of these people contribute to making the waste disposal system run smoothly, and because of their hard work and pride, they add extra inspiration and motivation to Chris's job.
With all of these factors in place, Chris states, "there is no doubt the waste stream has decreased recently." Landfill waste per capita (the amount of trash generated per person, per year) has decreased 20 percent since 2006 (from 390 lbs. per person in 2006 to 315 lbs. per person in 2010).
Chris does much on campus to instigate change and try to improve disposal habits. It is due to his efforts that SCU has improved its diversion rates, but there is still much to be done. In the end, Chris hopes "that the nation and world become more in tune with sustainability, and that the new students will arrive with an understanding and recognition of our efforts and will respond positively."
Photo: Chris Young and staff from Dining Services by Bon Appetit and the Office of Sustainability tour the facility that accepts SCU's landfill and compostable waste
By Mimi Sanicola, '13, Sustainability Intern -- Waste Diversion