Student-founded off-campus recycling service hopes to remain a fixture in Provo

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Members of the millennial generation with at least some college education recycle more than any other demographic of people, according to research found by the Pew Research Center.

Ryan Smith, a senior from Sandy, began doing his own research on recycling in Provo when he returned from his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Smith, a pre-business major with hopes to study supply chain management, felt unsettled about the lack of recycling programs in the area and wanted to do something to change that.

“I got back from my mission, and I would go to throw things away and the dumpster was full of cardboard, so I thought, why don’t we recycle?” Smith said.

Smith grew up in a home that recycled and said recycling is very common in Utah. He decided to see if BYU students even care about recycling or have experience with it.

“It’s a thing that always goes through my head when I throw stuff away,” said John Jackson, a junior from Los Angeles, studying animation. “I grew up recycling. I do it instinctively.”

According to Smith’s own research, which he conducted with the EcoResponse Club at BYU, nine in 10 students said they recycled in their hometowns, and 85 percent of students said recycling is important. Further, eight in 10 students said they would pay for a recycling service.

“I’d have a hard time paying, but if the landlord paid, I’d do it,” said Riley Knuth, a junior from Oakland, studying recreational management. “I feel guilty when I throw (recyclable) things away.”

With this research in place, Smith was disappointed that Provo did not have a recycling program secured for off-campus housing for BYU students.

“Provo is one of two or so cities that is getting Google Fiber, and we can’t recycle?” Smith said. “I wondered, how can I as one student do something?”

BYU does recycling on campus but has not provided any off-campus housing recycling services that have succeeded long-term. According to Smith, other students have attempted to get a program for off-campus recycling going. Some of these programs saw some success, but none remained intact past the founder’s graduation.

“In the past, students have signed petitions trying to get Provo City to do recycling, (but) BYU doesn’t want to be involved (in the off-campus petition signing) and people want it,” Smith said. “The majority of campus does this (recycling), but they’re behind the times in off-campus (recycling).”

In the past six months, Smith developed a company called Recyclops, which stands for Recycling Operations. The company is still in its early stages of development, but Smith has big plans for Recyclops. The company will involve students and landlords signing contracts to have their recycling picked up by Smith and taken to a designated recycling center in the Provo/Orem area.

Part of the recycling program includes Recyclops building recycling centers at apartment complexes near dumpsters where tenants can bring and sort their recycling into bags hanging in the center. This way, people do not mix in trash with recycling. Sorting out recycling from trash can be a time-consuming process, according to Smith.

Recyclops Recycling Centers, like this one, will be built to collect recycling on site. Image by Samuel Ricks. Courtesy of Ryan Smith
Recyclops recycling centers, like this one, measure 4’x8′ and will be built to collect recycling at apartment complexes. (Image by Samuel Ricks. Courtesy of Ryan Smith.)

Smith has devoted a lot of time and effort to this cause and said he believes Recyclops will be successful beyond his time at BYU.

“It’s more permanent,” Smith said. “We build the structures on property. When I leave, I either sell the business or continue to run it and hire a manager.”

There is some support from by BYU in favor of off-campus recycling. According to Smith, recycling services will be printed in the new BYU housing guide as one of the amenities in several off-campus housing complexes. Smith says the pricing for recycling services depends on the apartment complex and size, but prices will be similar to what the city charges for residential recycling services.

Smith said people know they should recycle and recycling is not going to disappear anytime soon.

“Growing up, I never saw myself as someone who was super green,” Smith said. “I grew up recycling. If I have a plastic bottle, I recycle it. I don’t think anyone needs to be convinced that recycling is good. It’s a poor representation of the state that Provo doesn’t recycle.”

Smith suggests students and landlords can encourage recycling simply by showing their interest in recycling services.

“I want to encourage the landlords of the Provo/Orem area to take a look and do good,” Smith said. “It’s so simple. My hope is that students will ask their landlords about recycling.”

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