It takes a special kind of person to be willing to dig through the garbage on a regular basis. Thanks to a partnership with Portland State University, this week marks the tenth year that those special people have been making a difference at Portland International Airport. Through PSU’s Community Environmental Services program, student consultants work for the Port of Portland in one- or two-year terms and work alongside Port staff to gain experience solving real-life waste management problems. Although they serve all Port facilities, they focus on the Port’s primary waste generator – PDX. The airport is like a small city with 10,000 employees and 35,000 people passing through every day. It’s a unique setting for developing innovative and creative waste solutions on a large-scale.
Through the students’ long-standing support, the Port has made incredible strides in reducing waste. They have played a large role in designing and implementing PDX’s waste collection systems and composting program. They have been involved in researching recycling options for coffee cups, conducting waste assessments for airlines and airport terminal tenants and holding annual clean up events for tenants to find ways to recycle and repurpose large and bulky items. Most recently, the students helped launch a highly successful food donation program through St. Vincent dePaul of Portland and helped redesign liquid collection stations at security checkpoints, dramatically increasing their use by travelers.
The partnership truly provides benefits for both the Port and PSU students. “I attribute the longevity and success of this program to two things: the Port’s impressive commitment to keep pushing the needle forward on these issues, and the great students that CES continues to attract. I can’t think of a better embodiment of PSU’s motto, ‘Let Knowledge Serve the City,'” says Eric T. Crum, director of the CES program.
Although the program has been in place for many years, there is no typical day for a CES student working at the Port. They do everything from collecting and managing data, to running outreach and education campaigns, to rolling their sleeves up and conducting waste sorts that determine where there are opportunities for program improvements. Their versatility is invaluable and we look forward to another ten years of success and collaboration.
For more information on the partnership between PSU and the Port and a full list of the students’ accomplishments, visit: www.pdx.edu