Chico Grad Recycles Herself
After Robyn DiFalco graduated from CSU, Chico and moved to the Bay Area, she and her husband kept trying to find another Chico. “There’s something about Chico that brings people back and keeps them here,” she said. “It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what that is, but it has to do with a sense of community.”
DiFalco, a Sebastopol native and 1999 CSU, Chico graduate, regained that sense of community when she was hired as the A.S. Recycling coordinator in January, a decade after she helped Barbara Kopicki start the program. The path that led her to working in the recycling field was a winding one. As a high school student, she wanted to be a herpetologist and study snakes. Once she graduated, though, she got involved in leadership efforts and event planning. So when she entered CSU, Chico it was as a recreation administration major.
DiFalco, who ended up getting a BA in social science, studied for a year in Zimbabwe through the CSU, Chico exchange program and for seven months in Brazil through a local Rotary Club exchange program. She speaks Portuguese and Spanish, and has a lifelong love of learning.
“ But I realized recycling was what I wanted to do,” DiFalco said. “As I found myself looking at recycling issues as a student and considering how to implement a comprehensive recycling program here at Chico State, it opened my eyes to what a big industry it is—the collections, the remanufacturing, and public education. By the time I graduated from college, I had not only knowledge with how recycling works but was beginning to get more interested in that bigger picture.”
DiFalco moved back to the Bay Area, where she first worked for Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI) in San Carlos as a commercial recycling coordinator. BFI, the second largest waste-management company in the world, handles the waste for large corporations like Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems, and DiFalco was eventually promoted to manage the recycling services for all of the company’s large waste generators.
After she left that position, she was an independent recycling consultant, working with the city of San Mateo public works department to help building contractors comply with the city’s 75 percent recycling requirement for new construction. “My job was to convince contractors it was not going to be as hard as they thought,” DiFalco said. “I went out on the job sites and helped everybody fill out their forms and comply with reporting requirements.”
DiFalco, whose husband, Peter, is also a Chico alum and was hired by the University last fall as an instructional technology consultant, said it’s great being back in Chico. She finds the commitment that the campus has made toward sustainability commendable. “It’s really more than just lip service, and its in stark contrast to where we were 10 years ago when we were fighting to get a recycling program started,” she said. ”Now, people are persevering at implementing some of the more complicated sustainability tasks.”
For example, A.S. Recycling took part in a pilot project May 1–5 to use compostable dishes and utensils in the Marketplace Café. Mechanical engineering and manufacturing professor Joseph Greene, in conjunction with A.S. Food Service, conducted the research project using compostable plastics made mainly of corn. A.S. Food Service student staff collected the compostable trash at six different trash locations while A.S. Recycling volunteers provided customers with information. The compostable materials were then delivered to four different locations to undergo different composting methods. The café hopes to begin using the compostable dishes campuswide in the near future.
DiFalco encourages faculty and staff to recognize that many things that they throw away are recyclable, especially on campus. “What you can recycle in your household programs is much more limited, but here on a college campus, we process every little thing that can be recycled,” she said. “So contact us to find out what is possible to recycle, especially if you have large quantities, such as during an office move. When in doubt, call us, and we’ll either be able to take it off your hands or steer you toward someone who can recycle it.”
—Marion Harmon, Public Affairs & Publications