Recycle Corps interns share what they’ve learned this summer

These 13 college students helped communities and businesses reduce waste and “Recycle Right.”

The end of the summer is bittersweet for many reasons. At Waste Management, it’s time to say goodbye and good luck to the Waste Management Recycle Corps interns.

Thirteen college students spent the summer helping communities and businesses across Puget Sound reduce waste and “Recycle right.”

In honor of the youthful energy and creative zest that these interns brought to the job, I’d like to do something a little different with this month’s column. I’ve invited the interns to share what they’re taking back to school, after a summer on the frontlines of recycling.

Take it away, Recycle Corps!

Safety is a team effort

As a cyclist, I’m now “eyes wide open” when it comes to safety and sharing the road with recycling trucks and other big rigs. When you’re on your bike, it’s easy to think everyone sees you and can anticipate your next move. Not so! Even with big mirrors, cameras, extensive training and the strict safety protocol that Waste Management drivers follow, there are blind spots. Drivers can’t always see everything. The No. 1 tip I’m taking back to campus and to my fellow cyclists is simple: Stay a safe distance from trucks and never pull up alongside a truck.

— Kaiti Lopez

Beware of the bag! I always thought people in the Puget Sound region were good at recycling. What I learned this summer is that a whole lot of people, even around here, are confused about plastic bags. Plastic bags should never go in your recycling bin because they wreak havoc at recycling facilities. They get tangled in sorting equipment and can shut a plant down for hours, adding delays and cost to our local recycling programs. Many grocery stores offer recycling specifically for plastic bags. Just return your bags to the store!

— Madeline Schroeder

Clean and dry wins

If I could share just one tip, it’s that recycling isn’t just about what you put in the cart — it’s also about the “how.” Recyclables need to be clean and dry before you drop them in the bin. Moisture and food residue can turn perfectly useful recyclables into garbage. No food, liquid or wet items, no matter what!

— Kennedy Dresh

Recycling is for everyone, but it isn’t one-size-fits-all

I spent the summer working with multifamily residences and businesses in multicultural communities. Coming from a bicultural and bilingual family, like many of the Recycle Corps interns, I worked with a diverse mix of people and cultures to get recycling information in the right languages to the right people, and to help set up recycling systems that are convenient and accessible for all. I’ve seen firsthand the importance of a multilingual and multicultural outreach team to help communities reduce waste and improve recycling. I’ve also been inspired by what unites us. No matter where we come from or what language we speak, caring for our planet is something we can do together.

— Lina Li

Thank you, Waste Management Recycle Corps. We look forward to seeing how you will serve your communities and protect our planet in the years ahead. The world needs your creative thinking and spirited approach.

Michelle Metzler is Waste Management’s recycling education and outreach manager. Learn more at sustainability.wm.com.

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