Brian Barry Recycling Center: Making a Difference

by Linda Buchalo

Misericordia’s recycling program started as a grass roots movement around 1997, when several staff recognized the need to better handle the amount of refuse that the campus generated. It occurred to staff that a significant amount of the refuse was recyclable, and thus was born the beginning of what has now become a well-orchestrated recycling center.
Jason Goldberg runs the current program with the help of Bryan Lee, and they work with various staff who attend with their specific cohort. Jason developed the current program based on perceived needs and researched how to properly handle the various materials collected.
In its early stages, the program consisted of collecting, crushing, and dropping off steel and aluminum cans, shredding paper on a personal shredder, and making handmade paper for greeting cards. Today, the program recycles cardboard, a variety of metals, motors, transformers, Styrofoam, plastic, therapy and medical equipment, and E-waste, including electronics, computers, circuit boards, and wire.
Thanks to charitable donations, the maintenance garage that housed the early program has been renovated into the Brian Barry Recycling Center. Donations also enabled the program to purchase the industrial equipment it now uses. The building is located on the west side of the campus between Holbrook Center and Quinlan Terrace. The Center houses a cardboard baler, paper baler, steel baler, dumpster for bulk steel, a steel/aluminum densifier, industrial paper shredder, personal paper shredders, and a myriad of tools for disassembling and separating various items. An additional cardboard baler is housed in the main building.
The items to recycle are collected in several ways. Some items are collected on foot in bins and cube trucks. Others are collected using a forklift or a large yellow DHL truck that can be seen driving through campus. Currently, only items collected on campus are taken to the Brian Barry Recycling Center, but in future, the program may expand to collect items from the community on a very limited basis.
On-campus recycling provides jobs for approximately 40 residents per week. Some are paid jobs while others are training opportunities. Typical jobs include the following tasks:
• Assisting on campus pickups to collect recyclable commodities from designated staging areas
• Sorting and rinsing general commodities, such as aluminum, plastic, and steel
• Shredding paper
• Loading the cardboard, paper, and steel balers
• Disassembling E-waste (for example, separating a computer into steel casing, wires, circuit boards, and fan motor)
• Separating therapy or medical equipment into steel, aluminum, circuitry, and motors
It’s evident by the positive attitudes and productive nature of the participants that this is a popular job on campus. Recycling is hands-on work that provides something both visible and tangible at the end of the day, so the residents are able to take pride in their work. Residents often express how much they like this program. Currently, the Center adheres to the cohort system, but when that restriction eases, interested residents are encouraged to ask about a trial day or two.
Individuals who work in the program are well trained to perform the duties that interest them. The Center provides work gloves, safety goggles, and safety training. The building has warning signage, painted safety lines, and designated boundaries around certain equipment. Areas are kept clean and well organized and are well supervised.
During non-Covid times, the program does enlist the help of volunteers. In the past, family members of one of the residents did woodworking projects with program participants, making planters and shelves, and refinishing vintage desks and tables. This project provided hands-on experience with basic tools, sanding, staining, disassembly, and reassembly. The finished pieces were repurposed on campus or auctioned off at various fundraising events.
Other items are also repurposed through the recycling program. These include bicycles, audio and computer equipment, and various pieces of furniture. The Center also works with outside agencies who buy their commodities. Recycle America buys cardboard, steel, and paper bales, as well as densified bricks of steel and aluminum. Cozzi Recycling buys the bulk steel, and American Metals buys motors, transformers, wire, and specialty metals such as bulk aluminum, copper, and brass. E-Works buys the circuit boards, and Abt picks up and recycles Styrofoam. Occasionally, the Center works with Loyola to do a special food scrap collection.
Although the Center is able to sell many of the materials that it collects and processes, sales are based on commodity pricing, which tends to experience significant swings. At this time, the program is not self-sustaining from a financial standpoint, but the more important aspect is that Misericordia is recycling a significant percentage of its consumption footprint, while providing a great, desirable job opportunity for its residents.
While working toward improving the income potential, providing work opportunities for the residents remains the primary goal of this program. Some possibilities for future expansion include bio-digesters to lessen and process food waste and setting up a paper shredding service that benefits the surrounding community.
Outside of the actual recycling program, there are several opportunities for residents to become involved. The building houses a classroom, Green Education, where Jill Victorn runs a program for Community Day Services. Jill works with residents to teach recycling and earth science concepts, and to oversee related projects. Residents also collect and transport materials from their homes to the Center.
Starting with the dream of a few people who saw a need, Misericordia is now actively involved in its mission to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. As Jason says, every day is Earth Day at Misericordia!