Center tries to clean up trash

By Jami Peterson

When the director of the NIU Recycling Center first glanced at her new operation this summer, she didn’t know what she had gotten herself into.

At times, she still wonders.

“The center needs to be massively renovated,” remarked Recycling Center Director Martha Kern, who took over the position in July. Since then, Kern has been slaving away at the center day by day attempting to clear away the enormous conglomerations of cans, bottles and sometimes even garbage spread across the front of the building reaching heights of over 6 feet.

“It’s an overwhelming job. When I started, you couldn’t walk through the center. There were aluminum cans piled up to the ceiling,” she said.

Kern inherited the mess from the previous administration but can only do so much to clean it up with a limited budget and a beat-up old truck.

According to Kern, the Recycling Center has turned into an outdoor garbage can where people in the community come to unload anything they have no use for—including toilets and rotten food.

“It’s scary,” she said. “It looks like a garbage dump and that’s what people are using it as.”

Kern’s first priority when she began was to improve health and safety standards. She said the building is a fire trap, with no heat and no running water and conditions only will worsen when the winter season rolls around.

“Wind comes whistling through the sheet metal,” she said. “It’s very cold. In the winter you have to bundle up like a snowman.”

The center received a $27,000 budget this year from the Student Association, $13,000 of which will be paid back through funds gathered from the selling back of recyclable items. Each year, the center has received a 5 percent increase in funding. But this year’s raise looks gloomy due to budget restraints.

One option discussed to alleviate some budget stress on the center is to require students to pay a student fee which would go directly to the center. Presently, the center doesn’t receive any direct student fees. “I’d like to see $1 from every student,” Kern said. “This would double the budget.”

SA Public Relations Adviser Anna Bicanic said setting up a student fee system for the center similar to the Mass Transit Board is something the SA should consider. “Since recycling brings in revenue, that would be something to look into,” she said. “It would be a big change, something to look into for the long range.”

Bicanic went on to say it is the university’s responsibility to keep up the building and the center’s supplies. “The university should really look into making repairs on that building,” she said.

The center also would like to push corporate sponsors to help fund the program. “Pepsi cans go into the bins, Pepsi can pay for the bins,” Kern said.

According to Kern, the recycling center has switched from a five-day-a-week, 24-hour program to only offering hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. This will allow the community to only drop off their recyclable items at a time when employees are available to go out and sort through them.

Despite all the difficulties, Kern said she feels the job is worth it. “I believe the environment is very important, not because the planet needs to be saved. We need to save our environment. The planet will do just fine with or without us,” she said.

“We are doing something to be very proud of.”