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Sources: Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, 785-532-0778, blynn@k-state.edu;
and Charles Martin, 785-532-3416, cwmgeog@k-state.edu
Note to editor: Kelsey Neppel is a graduate of Olathe Northwest High School.
News release prepared by: Kayela Richard, 785-532-2535, media@k-state.edu

Friday, July 15, 2011

GREEN RESEARCH: STUDENTS LOOK AT WAYS TO IMPROVE CAMPUS RECYCLING RATES

MANHATTAN -- Research by Kansas State University students has found that single-stream recycling -- where users don't have to sort their recyclables -- may be a way to boost campus recycling rates.

Students in the natural resources and environmental sciences capstone course this spring spent their time researching ways to improve campus recycling and access.

"The students found that less than 20 percent of the materials on campus are being recycled -- and that more than 50 percent of those materials could be recycled," said Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, associate professor of history and instructor for the course.

The students' main goal in the project was helping K-State's recycling committee find ways to improve the university's recycling rate. Students in the course come from a variety of majors.

The group collected its own data and put together statistics that had not been previously available about campus recycling. For the project, students created a sampling model and measured the weight of misplaced or lost recycling for three buildings on campus. They found a surprising consistency of results in their research, according to Lynn-Sherow.

The research, coupled with surveys of students, faculty and staff, suggested that single-stream recycling could be more effective.

"Single-stream recycling really helps because the user doesn't have to sort," Lynn-Sherow said. "In the long run, it could mean less stuff in the landfill and reduced landfill costs."

The results were sent to the K-State recycling committee. Lynn-Sherow said more research should be done to verify the results.

"Another group could add to this research on single-stream recycling," she said. "For example, we don't do much composting on our campus, so we could do a lot more."

Lynn-Sherow said the students enjoyed the project.

"I was extremely impressed with the way in which these students took on this project and really made it their own, improved it, and then created a professional report based on their results," she said. "It's one of the best NRES projects I've ever advised and these students deserve a lot of credit."

K-State's natural resources and environmental sciences secondary major is a multidisciplinary program that emphasizes collaboration and adds academic study in natural resource and environmental concepts to the student's primary major.

"Students are coming from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints to work as a team to produce a product," said Charles Martin, professor of geography. "It gets students into areas that they otherwise might not explore -- and that's an important part of an education."

The students involved in conducting the waste characterization research include:

Craig Ronnebaum, May 2011 bachelor's graduate in biological and agricultural engineering, Axtell; Brian Zinke, May 2011 bachelor's graduate in fisheries and wildlife biology, Lenexa; Kelsey Neppel, May 2011 bachelor's graduate in park management and conservation, Olathe; Callie Miller, May 2011 bachelor's graduate in geography, Paola; John Webber, May 2011 bachelor's graduate in civil engineering, Prairie Village; and Melinda Kahmeyer, senior in biology and political science, Topeka.

"Students have a real sense of pride at the end of the project and it gives them confidence that they can do something bigger," Martin said. "Gaining that confidence in their abilities is important. They learn to push their limits."