University creates recycle houses for campus wide use

Carmella Jimenez/Contributing Writer

Recycle houses made of recycled milk jugs can now be found in every housing building on campus.

Janet Branch, a manager at FIU’s housing facilities, developed these recycle houses alongside Max-R, a company that manufactures recycling waste bins using recycled milk jugs.

Branch said she attended a conference and saw customizable Max- R bins with multiple slots, and considered the various needs this bin could satisfy.

Resident advisers would normally put out decorated cardboard boxes in the lobby to collect items for food drives, which Branch thought cheapened the appeal of each area.  

“Our lobbies, we think of them as these high end lobbies as if you were walking into a fancy resort out on South Beach, so to have a cardboard box sitting in the lobby wasn’t exactly the visual we were trying to achieve,” Branch said.

Branch refashioned Max-R’s basic model, into a house so it could complement its surroundings. Each bin has a slot for plastic bags, used batteries, old electronics and canned foods going to the FIU food pantry.

Branch worked with Max-R engineers to perfect the model and the housing department approved of her idea. The Housing Facilities department agreed to pay for the houses after Branch was denied grants to fund the project.

The Office of University Sustainability and the Graham Center followed by purchasing the bins too, $1,100 a piece, each made of 885 recycled milk jugs.

“[T]hat’s what it should be. Something that you put recyclables in should be recyclable,” said Nestor Solano, a freshman majoring in Art.

The recycle house model caught the attention of Max-R so much for its unique design and purpose, according to Kari Lyles, Max-R sales and marketing manager.

Lyles said that Max-R will be showcasing the recycle houses at one of their largest conferences, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Conference.

“Janet’s stood out because we had never done one that looked like a house with a little roof on top, just because it was unique and it’s proof as to what we can do with the partnership of a college campus,” Lyles said.

Branch plans to keep adapting her methods of sustainability to FIU’s specific needs. Students can now mix their recyclables all into the same standard recycling bin, and the recycle houses can collect other items if the need arises. The houses’ vinyl labels can always be swapped out for other items.

The recycle houses, according to Branch, can also help waste management save money. Though the weight of the electronics, batteries and plastic bags may not add up to much, Lithium ion batteries cannot decompose for hundreds of years if left in landfills and when they do, can contaminate the ground and water supply.

“Whatever allows the students to see that FIU is dedicated to sustainability, I think is good. The more the students become aware of keeping stuff out of the landfill and working towards saving the planet… is really important,” Branch said.

The recycle houses are now in every residence hall, Panther Parking Garage and the Graham Center.

“You can have one person with a good idea, but if everybody else isn’t willing to do the right thing, the good idea is never going to go anywhere,” Branch said. “It’s a community effort, and that’s what sustainability is.”

Branch’s ultimate goal is to have a recycle house in every building, including BBC. So far, others on campus have helped further the houses.

Featured photo by Natalia Farfan/PantherNow

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