Plastic and paper products intertwine with trash in one of the many waste bins situated around Saddleback College. This may at first may seem to be a complete disregard for the environment. However, the exact opposite holds true for the campus, which actually has been participating in the proper disposal of both solid and hazardous waste materials, as well as successfully recycling over 70 percent of all its waste products.
Saddleback’s drive to increase the reclamation of reusable materials began when the California Integrated Waste Management Act was passed by the state in 1989.
The bill aimed to divert 50 percent of all waste products from landfills through the utilization of the waste mantra of “reduce, reuse, and recycle.”
The state then designated two forms of material recovery facilities (MRFs), a “clean” MRF and a “dirty” MRF, in which California state law requires all Californians to participate.
A clean MRF accepts recyclable materials along with waste products, as long as both items have been separated prior to its disposal through sources like curbside trash collection at residential properties. A dirty MRF, on the other hand, separates recyclables and waste products in-house by manual and mechanical sorting.
Morgan Barrows, an environmental studies instructor at Saddleback, said that public places usually partake in the dirty MRF since the recyclables in the trash can be easily contaminated by other materials, and that these facilities also separate hazardous materials for proper disposal.
“Saddleback participates in a dirty MRF since if someone were to throw trash in a recyclable bin, those materials can still be recycled,” Barrows said, “unlike a clean MRF, where all recyclables must be free of foreign materials in order for them to be recycled.”
Although the majority of Saddleback’s trash is solid waste products, the campus also handles hazardous materials used in its many laboratory classes.
According to Senior Lab Technician Tom Burrows, all the chemicals used in the labs are stored in one-gallon containers, which are then collected every three months.
“The used quantity [chemicals] are stored in the Chemical Storage building,” Burrows said. “We don’t handle 55-gallon drums, so we don’t have as much quantity wise, but we still deal with ether and other flammable chemicals.”
Another form of a hazardous waste Saddleback College handles is the photographic fixers used by photography students to prevent the fogging of photographic images.
Ken Kinder, the photography laboratory technician, said that almost everything is dumped in the drain, but since the fixer has heavy metals, they have to dispose of it as a hazardous waste.
“We spend about $100,000 annually for trash disposal and another $100,000 for the hazmat collection,” said John Ozurovich, the director of facilities.
Although costly, the campus is credited by Ware Disposal, Inc. for all the recyclables they find in the college’s trash, offsetting the cost of disposal by a good margin.