MSU recycling

A team of students helps Residence Life staff get mattresses ready to send for recycling in front of Roskie Hall.

On a Saturday in May, as Montana State University graduates were receiving their diplomas, another group of students, working with Residence Life staff, were busy moving residence hall furniture, preparing various pieces for recycling and removal as part of MSU’s campus-wide efforts to support sustainability.

The work on graduation day started a week-long effort by Residence Life and Facilities Services and the Office of Sustainability to update specific furniture pieces in the residence halls, including old wooden platform beds, mattresses and metal lofts. The university is replacing these old beds and mattresses with new loftable beds in Roskie and South Hedges halls.

“Residence Life and Facilities Services have made large investments in a multitude of sustainability efforts over the last few years,” said James Tobin, assistant director of Residence Life at MSU. “We have seen major success with both recycling initiatives and water conservation that have either stabilized or decreased our footprint at the university, even with a growing enrollment and growing on-campus population.”

Specifically, the group removed approximately 600 platform beds from South Hedges and 300 platform beds from Roskie. The original plan was to take them to the landfill. But, after Logun Norris, recycling coordinator for the Associated Students of MSU, posted an ad on Craigslist, community members lined up to help tear down and take away the wood.

Most of the remaining wood was taken by Ralph Johnson, a professor in the MSU School of Architecture in the College of Arts and Architecture, and some of his students for their tiny house project in the Bozeman community and other projects in the college. This left only about one-eighth of a dumpster, filled with remaining debris, to go to the landfill.

According to E.J. Hook, environmental services manager with Facilities Services, the plywood taken from the loft beds will be the main recycled component used in the tiny house project.

“We are very proud of our involvement with the community,” Hook said. “And using these materials for the housing project is very significant, in my opinion, as it directly meets some of the needs of Bozeman’s underserved community.”

Of the 300 wooden beds taken from Roskie Hall, only 200 beds went to the landfill. An unknown community member took the remaining 100 beds to build a shed in his backyard. In all, Tobin and his team saved approximately 730 of an estimated 930 total wooden beds from going to the landfill. In addition, they sent approximately 700 old mattresses to a mattress recycling facility instead of sending them to the landfill.

Tobin and his team recycled all of the metal lofts removed from Roskie and South Hedges residence halls, a total of 15,000 pounds of metal, with Pacific Steel and Recycling in Bozeman.

“When we finish the loftable bed upgrades in the remaining residence halls during the next year or two, we will recycle that remaining wood and metal as well,” Tobin said.

Other sustainability initiatives included swap tables in the residence halls on closing day that gave students a place to donate and trade gently used items with other students. Thousands of items, which were not swapped, were donated to Gallatin County Love Inc., a local nonprofit organization that serves individuals and families in need in the community. Leftover electronics were recycled through the campus E-waste program instead of being thrown out, according to Tobin.

“Additionally, we had collection bins in every residence hall, where students could drop off non-perishable food items for the Gallatin Valley Food Bank,” Tobin said. “Several halls had so much food that it was overflowing, spilling onto the floor.”

Tobin said ongoing sustainability efforts include water fixture upgrades, including low-flow faucets and showerheads in residence hall bathrooms and resident rooms, which initial data shows would save millions of gallons of water per year. Another ongoing project includes the purchase of in-room recycling containers to encourage every student to recycle individually, according to Tobin.

“We look forward to continuing our effort and making sustainability projects a focus for our department in the coming years,” Tobin said.


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