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Complaints of trash arise at CCSF as college ramps up recycling capacity

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A resident near CCSF recently complained about an increase in trash in the Balboa Reservoir parking lot after the removal of trash cans. (Daniel Kim/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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Inching closer toward its goal of exclusively recycling its waste, City College of San Francisco is set to expand its beverage container collection and recycling capacity by 60 percent annually.

The effort is funded by a $140,000 CalRecycle grant that was approved by the college’s Board of Trustees on Thursday.

The grant will allow for the expansion of CCSF’s existing recycling program to three buildings at the Ocean Avenue campus, funding recycling infrastructure and signage, a trilingual outreach program and the employment and training of student monitors. The college aims to increase the collecting and recycling of beverage containers by 43.3 tons each year.

“The goal is to reduce trash and increase recycling diversion,” said Carlita Martinez, CCSF’s Recycling Coordinator. “We have 10 campuses and it’s an ongoing challenge and ongoing job.”

Little by little, the college is phasing out its traditional garbage bins with The City’s “three bin system” — a blue recycling bin, green compost bin and a black landfill bin, Martinez said.

The effort is in line with The City’s vision of reaching zero waste — or sending no discarded materials to landfills — by 2020.

Despite the incoming funding, Martinez acknowledged the college still has “a long way to go.”

“It’s unfortunate that we don’t have enough money to do the whole thing [at once] so we do [a building here] and a building there,” she said.

Complaints of a pervasive “trash problem” at the college’s main campus were brought to the attention of CCSF Chancellor Mark Rocha this month by some of college’s neighbors.

In an email addressed to Rocha on Dec. 11, Estelle Smith, a nearby resident of the college, said an “enormous amount of trash” continues to invade the lower Balboa Reservoir parking lot, land owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and utilized by CCSF for student parking.

Despite outreach to The City and to CCSF, Smith purported that trash on the outskirts of the campus “has been an issue for years.

“There is trash everywhere — it’s like someone took garbage bags and dumped them out there,” Smith said. “There are [remnants of a] homeless encampment there. Someone went down there and changed their oil … it’s been there for months. It’s hazardous materials that can leak.”

Rocha did not respond to requests for comment by press time, but in an email response to Smith said that the college had “one cleanup day this summer” in the area but “we obviously need another.” Rocha promised that he would “work with The City to clean this up. “

Smith said that all trash cans “have been removed from both parking lots.”

“Simply put, there is no where to discard garbage except on the ground,” she wrote in an email to Rocha.

Martinez confirmed that random bins have been removed throughout the campus, but that the college has largely replaced them with the three-bin recycling system.
“There is a method to the madness,” she said.

“The old system is a million trash cans all over the place and that’s not how we are doing it anymore,” Martinez said. “This new world of zero waste does ask you to step out of your comfort zone a little bit and go to a place where you can do the right thing.”

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