Iowa State’s newly appointed recycling coordinator Ayodeji Oluwalana, plans to change how Iowa State views recycling. Currently, Iowa State University generates nearly tens of tons of trash and recyclable waste every week. Most of this waste is trucked over to resource recovery center where it is burned for energy, and much of it ends up in landfills. Oluwalana says this method of recycling is not sustainable.

Oluwalana previously worked a similar position at Western State Colorado University. He organized a new sustainability commitment for the Western State and put them on track to generate zero waste by 2025, a plan he’s bringing to Iowa State as well. Zero waste doesn’t mean eliminating all waste production. Oluwalana explained it’s a process of dealing with waste effectively so that as little of it ends up in landfills as possible.

“My goal as a sustainability passionate person is to use higher education to promote sustainable waste management,” Oluwalana said. “We can’t keep doing things this way, and we need to ask ourselves what we can do better.”

Oluwalana’s position as recycling coordinator has been vacant for the past 15 years. It operates under Iowa State’s Facilities Planning and Management (FPM) branch, whose director said Oluwalana is a much needed addition to the university. “We’ve really had our recycling program on idle mode for those fifteen years,” said Bob Currie, an FPM director. “We knew if we were going to get serious about sustainability we’d need to assign this to somebody that’s passionate and has a background in sustainability.”

“Right now, Iowa State goes straight to the recovery stage,” Oluwalana explained. “We need to be asking ourselves ‘Do we really have the right set up?’” Oluwalana said we need to focus more energy on the top of waste hierarchy. “What we’ve been doing, I wouldn’t call it recycling,” he said. “We’re missing the parts of reduce, reuse and recycle.”

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