BYU sophomore pioneers glass recycling pilot program

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Recycling creates new life for glass objects like jars, containers and bowls. The Glass Roots Recycling program is piloting their environmental nonprofit on campus, partnering with BYU’s sustainability Office and the Ballard Center. (Photo courtesy of Glass Roots Recycling)

The Glass Roots Recycling program is piloting their environmental nonprofit on campus, partnering with BYU’s Sustainability Office and the Ballard Center.

Following in the footsteps of the former BYU Recycles club, which collects plastic bottles to recycle from campus, BYU sophomore and molecular biology major Chad Hyer started collecting glass after realizing there was no glass recycling available for BYU students living in on-campus housing.

“The issue is that glass can’t be mixed with other recyclables, so it needs to be collected separately. So we thought, ‘Why don’t we just collect it?’” Hyer said. 

Many apartment complexes around Provo do not have recycling bins for tenants to use, which can make it more difficult for residents to recycle.

“It’s an easy individual choice that you can make to exercise a little more global responsibility. Apartment complexes adopting recycling could be a significant difference,” said Michael Davis, a BYU information systems major and recycling enthusiast. 

Glass Roots Recycling was created in 2021 when Hyer decided to help students recycle their glass. He and his roommates founded a small grassroots nonprofit in the dorms, sending around sign-up sheets for glass recycling pick-up. 

After collecting the glass, the organization then transported the glass with a trailer hitch to Smith’s Food and Drug Store on Freedom Boulevard, where the main glass recycling pickup in Provo is located. 

“We want to help people know that glass recycling does exist in Provo. We’re trying to make it easier for people everywhere to recycle,” Hyer said. 

Hyer was born in Los Angeles and then moved to Georgia. He said although recycling wasn’t available close to where he lived, his family always made an effort and made the trip to recycle, even if it was 20 miles away. His desire to recycle came from those experiences as a kid, but he realizes not everyone is able to make the trip to recycle. 

BYU’s recycling program allows students to recycle various materials on campus like paper and plastic.

“We are the ones that are going to inherit all of these problems with the world that we’re creating now and it’s best to tackle that problem sooner rather than later,” Davis said.

The campus recycles about 4,000 tons of waste per year, which is sold directly to buyers through a broker, said Bremen Leak, BYU’s Sustainability Office Director. BYU also recycles carpet and electronics in addition to plastic, paper and cardboard. 

The Sustainability Office is now partnering with Glass Roots Recycling and Utah-based recyclers to start a glass recycling program and provide bins on campus.

“We expect to grow this program if we can show that it’s successful,” Leak said.  

Glass Roots Recycling has also received funds from the Ballard Center for Social Impact, “the world’s largest university program focused on social impact” according to their website. BYU Recycling has also donated recycling bins to Glass Roots Recycling.

Now Glass Roots Recycling is focused on providing glass recycling bins on campus and at off-campus apartment complexes. Their pilot program for glass recycling is expected to begin soon on the BYU campus.

The group is petitioning Provo City for glass recycling bins at Kiwanis Park and the Provo City Library, two public areas in Provo, so residents have greater access to glass recycling.

Eventually, other students who are interested in non-profit management could become involved with Glass Roots Recycling through the Ballard Center, Hyer said. His goal is to pass it on to other students to run the glass routes when he graduates. 

By allowing more access to recycling, Hyer said he hopes to make a difference in his community and environment. 

“Recycling is one of the ways that we can demonstrate good stewardship of the resources we’ve been blessed with,” Leak said. “We encourage students and faculty to make recycling second nature. Every bottle and every piece of paper can have a second life — or third or fourth — if we take simple steps to reduce waste each day.”

7 reasons for people to recycle glass. Glass Roots Recycling wants to help Provo residents have greater access to glass recycling. (Created by Ashley Pun Eveson in Canva)
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