UC Davis' Recycling King-Pin

The R4 trailer housing the campus recycling unit itself looks recycled. Located on a back road hidden from university traffic, its ragged front steps and old wood siding seem incapable of holding off the onslaught of winter storms. Inside, however, it's a testimony to the value of reuse: a cozy den, teeming with furniture and working students. Presiding over this environmentally-concerned crew is Lin King, Program Manager for R4 (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rebuy), UC Davis' recycling headquarters. Although a soft-spoken man, King waxes passionate about the environment, both in his capacity as Program Manager and beyond.

Not merely passionate, King is energetic. When asked how he came to the field of recycling, he tells the tale of circumnavigating the grounds of Cal State Fullerton while a graduate student there: "One day when I was finished with a Coke, I started looking around campus for a place to recycle the can. I literally walked the whole campus with a can in my hand until I realized there were no recycling bins at all. This is how I got started in my profession."

His present position took him to world-wide recycling conferences where, most recently, King began to collaborate with Vermont-based waste recycler Robin Ingenthron on a not-for-profit trade association designed to bring ethical standards to the e-waste recycling industry. The resulting World Reuse, Repair, and Recycling Association (WR3A) hopes to promote "reuse, repair, and recycling trade overseas, without sending toxics along for the ride." The latter term refers to junk electronics not suitable for either reuse or recycling that are included with recyclable material sent to countries with lax environmental laws. WR3A takes a strong stand against such practices, stressing that they undermine "charitable work, the environment, and sustainable employment." What this means is that any organization, whether buying or selling used electronics, must adhere to standards agreed upon by the associa tion or risk being voted out of WR3A--without recourse to appeal--thereby losing the organization's valued stamp of approval.

As a Chinese-American, King feels a particularly strong connection to the regions blighted by dishonorable recyclers (see Asia Times article, "Toxic US tech waste trashing Asia". What's more, his knowledge of Mandarin Chinese has already proven useful in overcoming language barriers with some Chinese recyclers, and he hopes to recruit foreign-born UC Davis students or visiting international students to contribute their translation skills in dealing with recyclers from other parts of the world.

King returned to UC Davis nine years ago and now holds the position he once reported to when an R4 student volunteer. In between his undergraduate studies (Environmental Resource Science) and his present career, King worked as CSU Fullerton's first Recycling Coordinator. Upon receiving his MS at Fullerton, he worked for Orange County as a Staff Assistant in their Solid Waste and Recycling Department: "I handled environmental compliance issues at the landfill," he explains, a job that prepared him well for managing large-scale waste matters and with folks interested not simply in recycling but in cost-cutting as well.

King's master's thesis investigated the waste reduction and recycling programs at all 23 CSU campuses. "I realized," he explains, "that this was a needed document because there were limited resources available for campuses when I started the program." Fortuitously, the position at UC Davis became available just as King completed his degree in 1995.

And that King took the position turned out to be fortuitous for the university: his campaign to educate the campus community regarding recycling continues apace. To learn how you might follow in King's e-waste recycling footsteps--without having to walk a mile to do so--read the article "What to Do with Unwanted Computers: UC Davis' and Your Own".