Upcycled: The Story Behind Berkeley’s New Recycle Bins

An interview with Berkeley’s Facilities Management Director, Mike Steger

Jack Mouch and Isabella Schlact

Jack Mouch
ONE-STOP SHOP: Steger feels that the new bins’ modern design is more appropriate for the school’s future. “It’s a significant investment,” he says. “We want to make sure that that product’s gonna last.”

Students at Berkeley have noticed a change in the campus recycling bins. Not only is the design different, but the bins are in several new locations. The Fanfare spoke with Berkeley’s Facilities Management Director, Mike Steger, to ask some questions about the update.

Since Steger’s arrival in 2013, Berkeley’s recycle output has risen from a few small bins to approximately twenty tons per year. Steger is aware of Berkeley’s recycling history, and he wants to spread the word about the recent boom. “The facility and the housekeeping staffs [understand] there’s a rumor out there that we don’t recycle,” Steger said. “We need to make sure that we refute that rumor by actually doing the right thing.”

Isabella Schlact
THE NUMBERS: Over the past five years, Berkeley has recycled close to 100 tons of waste. Prior to 2013, Progressive Waste Services collected a few bins of recyclables from Berkeley, but no formal statistics were recorded.

The new receptacles feature both recycle and trash sections in one bin.  Steger says that Berkeley’s single-stream recycle system made this upgrade possible. In a single-stream system, all recyclables are collected together, rather than separate bins for plastics, paper and metal. “We figured we’d make it as easy as we can,” says Steger.  “That way, people participate.”

Jack Mouch
RECYCLE TO THE MAX: The new recycling bins are sustainable, made from nearly 1,300 recycled milk jugs. In addition to the items in the bins, Berkeley recycles bottles from sports drink shipments, old wooden pallets and cardboard boxes from the Berkeley Cafe.

Steger says that student awareness of sustainability and environmentalism is what drives the Berkeley recycling program. He encourages student groups to start initiatives to promote recycling and a clean campus. “If you’re out and about,” he says, “take every opportunity you can to do the right thing.”