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Recycling center sees big returns

Student-run center at OCC turns a $140,000 profit, a good portion of which will go right back to the school.

August 14, 2010|By Tom Ragan, tom.ragan@latimes.com
  • Tung Le, 25, a graphic design student at Orange Coast College, dumps aluminum cans into a bin at the college's recycling center on Friday. Le works at the center 19 hours a week.
Tung Le, 25, a graphic design student at Orange Coast College,… (KENT TREPTOW, Daily…)

COSTA MESA — Times are tough indeed.

One unorthodox financial gauge is the recycling business at Orange Coast College's Recycling Center. It's going gang-busters.

More and more people find themselves unemployed and at the steps of the student-run recycling center on Adams Avenue, hauling in pounds of plastic and glass and aluminum and paper and cardboard. They get paid for it by the pound, and many of them are becoming regulars.

In fact the economy is so bad that the recycling center turned a $140,000 profit last year, the largest in the history of the 40-year-old operation, said Mike Carey, the sustainability coordinator who runs the joint and has been working there since 1985. He said that the center on average turns an annual profit of $30,000 to $60,000.

A good portion of the $140,000 will now be turned over to OCC's Associated Student Body to be used for all sorts of academic-related items and purchases for the total good of the student population.

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In some cases, student scholarships have even been doled out. One such lucky recipient is Loretta Drummond, 28, who received $1,050 to help pay for tuition.

"I have always been a big fan of the recycling center, but I never dreamed I would receive money to help put me through school," said Drummond, who graduated from OCC with an Associate of Science degree in Ornamental Horticulture and has been accepted to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where she will work toward a bachelor's degree in Landscape Architecture.

And the choice of scholarship would seem logical.

Drummond said she plans to promote the environment in her future endeavors. For the past three years, she's worked at The Plant Nerd, Inc. in Huntington Beach. Her task focuses on designing residential landscapes that reduce water usage and prevent urban runoff.

Like tin cans and plastic bottles of water, water too can be recycled.

When you think about it, just about anything can be recycled, for that matter, if one takes the time out to become a steward of the land and air and sea.

And yet, as much as Carey loves to see the recycling center operate at a fast clip, at time it can also be a bittersweet moment at times, seeing some of the impoverished regulars haul in the recyclables on a daily basis for a payout.

"This lousy economy is definitely motivating people," said Carey, who, after more than two decades in the business will be teaching a course this fall online called "Introduction to Environmental Sustainability."

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