University Relations and Communications

Old containers find new jobs through student-led sustainability initiative

October 28, 2009



Joe Krenzer, Environmental Awareness Club, 690-2019
Jason Rodriguez, ASMSUB sustainability officer, 657-2365
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


Partnership with Coca-Cola moves recycling project forward


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Before Coca-Cola finds its way into 12-ounce aluminum cans or 20-ounce plastic bottles, the sweet pre-carbonated elixir begins its life cycle in 55-gallon drums.


Thanks to a group of progressive-minded Montana State University Billings students, some of those hard plastic drums will live on with a new purpose: collecting empty bottles and cans.


Through a partnership with the Billings branch of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Montana, students from MSU Billings will be recycling 42 of those containers into recycling receptacles. It’s all a part of an effort by the Associated Students of Montana State University Billings and the MSU Billings Environmental Awareness Club to make the university more sustainable.


It’s also a part of a trend at MSU Billings where students are becoming more active and engaged in service. Whether they are helping at a local Habitat for Humanity build site, becoming new friends with residents at a retirement home or helping raise awareness for breast cancer and recycling, college students this fall have not waited to get involved.


Grace and Ashley inside the recycling barrels“Students seem to be participating and coming to things more,” said Kathy Kotecki, director of the Office of Community Involvement. “I feel the difference.”


Joe Krenzer, president of the student Environmental Awareness Club, and Jason Rodriguez, sustainability coordinator for ASMUSB, have been pushing to make a difference at the university since April, when the two groups launched a new recycling effort at the university. That initiative carried over into the new academic year with renewed efforts to make recycling and sustainability more visible.


That program is called the Student Initiated Recycling Program (SIRP) and has been in development for almost two years. In April, students got together to deploy recycling bins throughout various academic buildings at the university. These days, multicolored bins for paper, cans and plastic can be found at the Liberal Arts Building, Library, Education Building, Science Building, as well as the Student Union Building and residence halls.


Eventually, the group plans to cover every building at the main campus and the College of Technology with 96 recycling stations.

Recycling crew with Coca Cola employeesThe initial phases of the effort proved to be successful and Krenzer and Rodriguez with some collection bins filling quickly with aluminum cans and plastic bottles. In order to make a bolder statement and help gather even more recyclables, the student leaders looked for a new endeavor.


That’s when Dough Becker and Coca-Cola stepped in.


Becker, the company’s sales center manager in Billings, was able to get his hands on the empty hard-plastic barrels. Rodriguez and Krenzer developed a plan so that the barrels could be divided to collect both plastic bottles and aluminum cans in the same barrel and they organized a work party.


Recycling crew drillingOn a recent chilly Saturday morning, a work bay at the Coca-Cola plant on Billings’ South Side was alive with about a dozen students and some company employees as they worked to give new a function to old materials.


Student Senators Grace Horman and Ashley Adams affixed new handles to the barrels while Krenzer and Tyler Rutledge, a Rimrock Hall resident assistant and student senator worked on cutting holes.  Jared Coyle, a student senator from the College of Technology, was doing a bit of everything while the Coca-Cola employees kept the barrels rolling.


The finished products are finding their way to different university buildings this month.


recycling crew at work on barrels“All this is just a way for us to help the university cut down on costs and make everything more reusable,” Krenzer said. “We got help from Coke on this project and that will help us keep up with the goals of our recycling program.”


A survey of 733 students done a year ago found that 97% of support recycling. The survey also showed that 96.5% of students would like to see more recycling and 91.2% said they would like the university, in general, to consider environmental impacts when making decisions.


Krenzer said the Environmental Awareness Club is looking for more members to help move the recycling initiative and other ideas forward for this academic year.


Those who want to get involved or want more information, contact Krenzer at 690-2019 or the ASMSUB office at 657-2365.


Photo 1 above: MSU Billings students and workers from Coca-Cola Bottling work on turning used and empty 55-gallon barrels into recycling bins. Wooden dividers will allow the bins to receive both aluminum cans and plastic bottles.  


Photo 2 above: ASMSUB senators Ashley Adams, left, and Grace Horman climbed inside the empty barrels to affix handles for the new recycling bins.


Photo 3 above: Montana State University Billings students and Coca-Cola Bottling employees stand with two of the recently completed recycling bins that will be dispatched around the MSU Billings campus.


Photos 4 & 5 above: students at work on the recycling bins


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