recycling

Recycling at UConn

Paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, bottles and cans – what do all of these materials have in common?  Did you know that all of them can be disposed of in the same recycling bin? Three years ago, the University of Connecticut, with the help of WilliWaste, revitalized its twenty-year-old recycling program and adopted a single-stream recycling system. The goals of the new program are to save even more energy, reduce more waste and further the prevention of pollution. In 2010, it was determined that faculty, staff and students at UConn recycle only about 20% of the disposable materials that they use each day. Since then, UConn has set a new goal of at least 58% by 2024. To expedite the University’s progress towards the lofty, sustainable goal, more than one hundred outdoor recycling bins have been added across campus. Just like the indoor recycling bins, any bin can accept any recyclable material.

Data shows that, since single stream recycling was implemented in 2010, the new program has been successful. The amount of waste tonnage by bottles, cans, and newspaper has significantly decreased as students and staff have started discarding all recyclables into the same container. The amount of waste tonnage by mixed paper and corrugated plastic has also decreased. Therefore, the amount of single streamed waste has grown and continues to do so. The University of Connecticut hopes to see the amount of waste tonnage for single stream recycling increase over the next few years. Ultimately, we wish to achieve our goal of having over half of our disposable materials recycled.

More can be recycled than you think!  Books, aluminum foil, and aerosol cans can all go into any recycling container.  There are also e-waste containers in several campus locations (Library, Student Union, Co-op) for printer ink or toner cartridges, batteries, and broken electronics.

Today, in 2013, the University has worked diligently to change the way the campus community views the importance of recycling with various events and programs. If you would like to help UConn further its waste reduction initiatives, get involved in the programs meant to promote the importance of recycling to students and to the community.  Each year, the Office of Environmental Policy (OEP) teams up with athletics to host three Green Game Days – one football game during the fall semester and two basketball games during the spring semester.  At these events, student volunteers encourage fans to recycle their used items instead of throwing them into garbage cans. Volunteers also collect recyclables from tailgate areas at football games, as well as lightly used shoes for donation at basketball games.  However, lightly used shoe and sneaker recycling is not a one day event.  Throughout the entire spring semester, lightly used shoes and sneakers are collected and donated to the student group Kicks for Africa. The shoes are then shipped and distributed to less fortunate children in African countries.

For other waste reduction, UConn runs a program called Give & Go at the end of each year. Give & Go is an opportunity for students to donate furniture, clothing, school supplies and nonperishable food items as they move out at the end of the semester (for a list of all collected and donated items, visit: http://ecohusky.uconn.edu/recycling/giveandgo.html) . The recycling and reuse program encourages students to donate unwanted belongings to local charities and non-profit organizations instead of throwing them away.  And of course we have regular surplus sales at the University Surplus store to send items the University no longer needs to a new home! (There’s one on Friday 8/9/13 – check it out!)

We don’t stop at reusing and recycling – we are also trying to reduce the amount of waste we produce.  The University has also opened a composting facility, and Dining Services has removed all trays from dining halls (with the exception of South Campus) to reduce the amount of food waste produced by students.  In addition to reducing the amount of food waste generated on the front end, any food that is disposed of is composted in eCorect machines located within the dining halls.  By composting organic waste, UConn is reducing the overall volume of waste while re-purposing it to divert waste from landfills.

Next time you have an empty bottle in your hand, remember to recycle it instead of tossing it into a garbage can.  Don’t be afraid to lift the lid of any recycling container and make use of UConn’s single stream program.  If you are unsure of what can and cannot be recycled, visit our recycling guidelines page or call the Office of Environmental Policy!

– Katie and Meredith

Basketball Green Game Days: Spring 2013

Click on a picture to learn more about our green game days this spring! Thank you to everyone at the games who donated to Kicks for Africa. Collection of lightly used sneakers will continue throughout the semester at bins placed around campus.

 

Back to School in Style

Every year before going back to school it’s always exciting to restock and update my clothes, school supplies, room decorations and everything else, but most often I hardly ever stop to consider the impacts of this fun process.  “Out with the old and in with the new” is the way most of us have come to live our lives, but this can be very wasteful.  You might not realize just how much you will throw away each time you buy new things.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to update your belongings, but before going straight to your favorite store and dumping what you already have into the dumpster, consider donating it.

In 2010, UConn diverted 14, 137 pounds of donations from going to dumpsters through the Give and Go program.  The program is especially useful at the end of the year when you don’t feel like packing up everything you’ve got. For now, if you’re still in the process of acquiring new items it’s not too late to be green about it!  Instead of purchasing brand new items, consider going to thrift stores, clothing swaps, or consignment shops. Not only are things cheaper there, but you can often find great unique pieces that no one else will have.  Look through your stuff and try not to get rid of anything that’s still useful, just for a newer model.  Also try trading with your friends, that way you can each have a change of scenery without having to spend a dime!  My favorite things are usually not what I buy new, but those random items I find at rummage sales or consignment shops because they are one of a kind and so different from items of mass production you see on every shelf.

Katie Kelleher
OEP Intern

Waste Management and Reduction: Part II – How to Use the University’s Systems

By Rachael Shenyo, UConn Sustainability Coordinator

In the last installment, I discussed the various aspects of the waste management and reduction program at UConn, in response to frequently asked questions. For this blog, I will walk you, the user, through the program, and tell you how to find the various resources you need for using it.

Using Single Stream Recycling:

The most important two things to know about single stream recycling are:

  • All recyclable items can be mixed together in any container with the single exception of the paper-only bins at the HB Library
  • Guidelines for what items can, and cannot be recycled, are available online here.

It is a common misconception that “single stream recycling” means that regular garbage and recyclables get mixed together. Single stream actually means that all recyclable materials are collected together, and separated at the plant upon arrival.

 If we use a single stream program, why do I still see dual-stream bins for recycling collection? We get this question a lot. The answer is quite simple: economics. There is nothing wrong with the old bins. Dual stream bins have openings shaped to permit cans and bottles, or paper, etc. to be placed inside. The reason we do not replace them is that it would cost tens of thousands of dollars to replace either the bins or lids. The old bins are still collected as recycling and processed as such. You can always lift the lid to add new items that do not fit the standard openings.

To use the bins, check the guidelines. Wipe out or rinse the items if they are heavily soiled with greasy or thick food residue, such as plastic food containers that have salad dressing in them. Light soiling is acceptable, but heavy soil interferes with the recycling process. Be conscious, and make it a point to check your items every time you throw something away. In many cases, all or part of most items is recyclable. For example, the plastic boxes that some biological equipment comes in are recyclable, even if the tips themselves must be disposed of as hazardous waste. Most hot beverage cups however are not. It only takes a few moments to educate yourself. For hard copies of the single stream guidelines for your area, in English or Spanish, please contact the OEP Sustainability Coordinator at x5773.

If you think an area could use more recycling bins, or a larger bin, please contact Dave Lotreck in Facilities to arrange a delivery.

E-Waste:

E-Waste is defined as material having electronic components, such as computer boards, digital displays, or microchips. This definition includes digital cameras, television sets, handheld devices, cell phones, etc.; and also includes printers, ink cartridges, and batteries. It should be assumed that none of these items should be disposed of in a regular waste stream.

Your first consideration with small items should be the E-Waste recycling program, which has collection centers in the library, Student Union, and Co-Op. The program accepts cell phones, cameras, laptops, ipods, PDA’s, and ink cartridges; and the small refunds provided by the company (a few cents per item) are used to support the Campus Sustainability Fund. Look for comprehensive guidelines to e-Waste to be posted soon to the OEP web site.

For e-waste items that the recycling program does not accept, Wayne Landry at Central Stores accepts all non-hazardous e-waste- from televisions to computer monitors to printers and faxes. Non University-owned items still in usable condition should be donated to the spring Give and Go program when possible to do so. All University-owned items are returned to Central Stores, typically through the department or via the IT representatives for your area. You can contact Central Stores by visiting this website:

Batteries and other items deemed as hazardous must be handled by the Environmental Health and Safety Department. Please see their guide on proper battery disposal, by type. You may contact them here to arrange for a pickup of hazardous items. It is also a good idea to check if your department has any regular collection bins or programs for these items. Used car batteries are accepted by the Motor Pool.

Taking Advantage of University (and Local) Waste-Reduction Programs:

The University of Connecticut provides several incentives for waste reduction at the point of purchase. The UConn Co-Op offers their wooden nickel program, which donates to one of 4 charities/ groups of your choice each time you choose to not accept a new plastic bag with your purchase. Our cafes offer a $.15 reduction on each hot beverage purchase made with a reusable cup. The Food Court has a re-usable food container program that lets you purchase your food in a re-usable container, then return the container directly to them for cleaning and re-use. Your program participation, after the first purchase, is verified via a card similar to the store cards you may already have.

For items, such as napkins and hot beverage cups, that cannot be recycled, the University has a post-consumer recycled content policy. Most of these items are created using the maximum amount of post-consumer recycled paper content allowed by law.

The Give and Go Program is the University’s largest donation program, but keep in mind that several other campus and local groups can use donated items either as re-use or for resale. Watch for fund-raisers for old clothes, and know that there are community donation bins in many regional areas. One of the closest is a book, clothing, and electronics donation/ recycle box on Rte. 44 just past the intersection with Rte. 32. Savers in Manchester is a great community store that accepts donations, and the Salvation Army has many regional locations. Community Outreach maintains a list of organizations always in need of donated clothes, household goods, and electronics. All of these organizations offer tax deductions for the value of donated items.

Other Items that Cannot Be Disposed of as Trash:

Items such as compact and overhead fluorescent light bulbs, rags soaked with solvents, aerosol cans, and antifreeze cannot be placed into the regular waste stream. The University Environmental Health and Safety Department maintains a comprehensive guide for proper disposal of these items.

Waste Management and Reduction: Part I – UConn’s Program

By Rachael Shenyo, UConn Sustainability Coordinator

In my position as sustainability coordinator, I receive a lot of questions regarding what I would refer to as our waste reduction and management program at UConn. A program, in this sense, is anything that your University does that touches the concept of waste management and reduction, including procurement of supplies, disposal of hazardous waste, placement of recycling bins, use of composting, etc.

I recently compiled information for the 2012 Sierra Club Cool Schools survey, where I had to detail the tonnages of waste from various sources, and trace what happens to that waste. The process prompted me to write a blog series on waste management at UConn, in order to help interested personnel understand how waste management happens at the University, and what kinds of volumes we deal with (where applicable). The next section will deal with how students, staff, and faculty can navigate our various recycling channels most effectively. The third section will cover the vision for the future, and ways that you can get involved.

Sources of Waste:

The major sources of waste at UConn Storrs Campus can be divided into a

few groups for simplification:

–  Dining Halls

–  Residence Halls and Student Areas-  Procurement and Supply

–  Construction-  Academic and Support Buildings

–  Laboratory and Medical/ Biomedical

–  Landscaping

–  Agriculture

Classification of Waste:

Waste from each area should then be considered by type; resulting in classes within each area such as hazardous waste, bio-hazardous waste, organic waste, bulky waste, reusable items, recyclable waste, compostable non-organic waste, electronic waste (“e-waste”), and non-compostable inorganic waste. Even within categories, there may be more than one classification. For example, cell phone batteries are a type of e-waste that are classified as hazardous, and must be handled as such when not encased in cell phones. Some organic wastes can be composted, and some cannot be. Proper waste classification is the key to any recycling or reuse program.

Composting:

Composting CenterMuch of our regular waste is comprised of organic food wastes, and Dining Services has pilot programs in place that are testing trayless initiatives

and food composting in three of the largest dining halls. Food waste, including meat scraps, is collected and composted in an e-correct machine to be reused as fertilizer in these programs.A large composting facility on Rte. 32 was opened in 2010 to handle agricultural and landscaping waste. It currently handles 100% of organic landscaping waste (grass

clippings, tree branches, discarded plants, etc.), and a significant portion of manure waste. The 2011 amounts reported were 800 tons of manure waste composted (50% of the total generated), and 21.25 tons of landscaping waste. The 800 and so odd tons of waste not composted were used as fertilizer for the farm fields. Due to varying nitrogen levels, not all manure waste is suitable for our composting facility.

Construction Waste:

Construction Waste

Construction and repair projects generate a lot of waste that does not get included in our regular waste stream. The work on projects is performed by independent consultants, who sub-contract for waste removal and recycling. While exact rates are unknown, a review of practices shows that contractors are recycling as much as 95% of all waste generated on any given project, due partly to regulations for LEED contracting, and partly due to high landfill costs.

Reuse and Donation Programs:

By far the University’s largest re-use program is run internally through Central Stores, which handles procurement, distribution, and collection of University-owned property. All large materials distributed to the University- furniture, computers, etc.- are returned to the Central Stores warehouse. Items that can be, are refurbished, and either reused at the University or sold through the Public Store. Only items beyond repair are discarded, and they get handled through the regular waste stream.  http://www.stores.uconn.edu/surplus.html#obtain

Recycling Shoes

Dining Services runs a food donation program at the end of the year, and the Office of Community Outreach coordinates a huge moving out program that collects items for donation and reuse by local charities and non-profits. Called “Give and Go,” this program collects over 12,000 lbs of items each year.

The Office of Environmental Policy also collaborates with Willi-Waste and the Nike “Re-Use a Shoe Program” for its  annual sneaker recycling drive, which in 2012 collected almost 4000 lbs of used sneakers for reuse and recycling.

Recycling Program:

UConn Storrs campus runs its recycling program through Willi-Waste, which recently went to Single Stream recycling. This means that all recyclable materials can be mixed together in the same receptacle, because they are later sorted mechanically and manually at the processing plant. NOTE: Single stream does not mean that garbage is mixed with recycling, simply that plastics can be mixed with glass, cardboard, and paper.  Last year, we recycled 888.76 tons of material through the mainstream program.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_H-B0jeFhE&w=420&h=315

Hazardous, Radioactive and Bio-Waste:

As a research and medical university, we produce a fair amount of items that cannot be disposed of via regular trash. By law, all hazardous and biological waste is handled through our Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) Office, which works with areas that generate this type of waste to provide appropriate receptacles and schedule pick-up times for secure and safe handling and storage. Loose batteries of all kinds are handled by either EH&S (lithium, alkaline) or the Motor Pool (vehicle).

E-Waste:

Waste that contains electronic components, dubbed “e-waste,” is handled in 3 different ways. Our e-waste recycling program collects used cell phones, printer and toner cartridges, laptops, i-phones, mp3 players, and other small handheld devices in bins located throughout campus. These items are collected by the OEP, packaged, and donated for recycling. The money from the sale of the items is used as a donation to the Campus Sustainability Fund. Students, staff, and faculty may contribute to the e-waste program.

Central Stores collects all larger items (computers, televisions, etc.) and recycles 100% of the ones that cannot be refurbished as part of their program, recycling over 60,000 lbs of material total some years.

Regular Waste Stream:

Garbage Truck

All items from academic and residential areas not covered by one of the above programs is handled via our regular waste stream. In 2011, the UConn campus generated 4253 tons of materials via the regular waste channels. This material is incinerated in closed systems for electricity generation, creating a byproduct of ash that must be stored in landfills. In the next two segments, I will be writing about how we are working to reduce this amount, and how you can get involved in the process.

http://williwaste.com/

The UTC Sustainability Case Competition

By: Emily Udal

So what if you take a problem on campus, relate it to a new trend and make it a competition? That was exactly my thought process when deciding to create the first sustainability case competition. Popular with business schools across the country, the purpose of a case competition is to take a given problem and to try to find a solution for it. There is no or right or wrong answer, however a good amount of thought and creativity are key.

Once I determined the goal of the case competition, I tried to find a way to appeal to a mass number of students to help them solve a campus-related problem, while gaining professional experience with a blue-chip company. The objective of organizing this case competition was for students from all majors and graduation dates to get hands-on experience to put on their resume for a future internship or job. The concept originated from trying to bridge environmental stewardship and business at UConn through a creative concept that is both feasible and respectful to a $10,000 budget constraint.

With over 100 students signing up, the case competition had garnered significant interest by the campus community.  In today’s competitive job market, landing the perfect internship is crucial to early career success. With the case competition open to freshman and sophomores to participate, it allowed students to gain professional experience early, which is often difficult considering most career-related opportunities are open to upperclassman.

UTC Case Competition Participants
UTC Case Competition Participants

The finalists included teams that proposed more efficient bus routes, an internship program for a biogas facility, retrofitting exercise equipment to produce its own electricity, and a Daily Campus smartphone app to reduce newspaper usage.

The winners of the competition introduced the concept of Ethos Based Recycling. The winning team members included key members from the EcoHusky Student Group. Their concept was based on increasing the amount that students at the University of Connecticut recycle through a fresh perspective on recycling.

The program would involve an overhaul of the current recycling receptacles on campus to provide an emotionally rewarding and educational experience to students as they recycle. Some of the new features that would be included on the recycling bins would be: information on recycling on the bins to intervene in the issue of improper disposal; motion sensors bins that will respond with applause and list the number of items that have been recycled on a given day; painted scenes of nature on the recycling bins to inspire students to protect their environment through the simple act of recycling.

The event was the first to bring environmental stewardship, business and friendly competition to find a student solution to a real problem faced at UConn. The winning proposal has been considered at major environmental workgroups, such as the University’s Environmental Policy Advisory Council, to try to implement such a program on campus. The overall goal of giving hands on experience was achieved, but more importantly, the event has brought a fresh student perspective to some of the current environmental initiatives at the University of Connecticut.

A Freshman’s Introduction to Sustainability

My name is Emily and I am a UConn freshman majoring in Natural Resources with a concentration in water and climate. My interest in the protection of our ecosystem is ethically, scientifically, and emotionally rooted. My dad is a geologist who has worked in the environmental field for the last 25 years. He began his career cleaning highly contaminated superfund sites and now manages a large portfolio of real estate. He is responsible for ensuring that the land and buildings he covers are compliant with federal and state environmental regulations. He works hard to preserve the environment and educate others on the importance of sustainable business practices. My dad’s belief in his work is seamlessly integrated into everything he does from family dinner conversations about rising ocean levels to detailed explanations of the latest fossil find. His enthusiasm and passion for his work and our natural surroundings is infectious. 

I’ve known for several years now that I want to follow in my dad’s footsteps and dedicate myself to environmental studies. When I started to apply for college my senior year of high school, UConn was not very high on my list. I knew it was regarded as an excellent public university but I had always pictured myself at a small school deep in the mountains. To be honest, when I ultimately decided to go to UConn, I was disappointed and this feeling of discouragement didn’t subside for quite some time.

It was recommended that I take an INTD course with Rich Miller, the director of the Office of Environmental Policy (OEP). The class would be a one-credit course that focused on UConn’s sustainability initiatives. The first few weeks concentrated on student introductions and familiarization of the campus layout. Within the first month, however, we started to discuss the University’s outlook and goals on sustainability. We went over UConn’s recycling, composting, education outreach, transportation, energy, and much more. I was very surprised at the diverse range of sustainable activities UConn had committed itself to.

Over the course of the semester, I learned a great deal about the University’s efforts and I must confess I was very impressed. My spring semester of freshman year I was lucky enough to receive an internship at the Office of Environmental Policy and this has served to further expand my knowledge on UConn’s devotion to environmental conservation. I attended several important meetings including one for EPAC (Environmental Policy Advisory Council) and a Recycling Workgroup. It was exciting to finally be introduced to others who shared my love for the environment.  Unfortunately, I have noticed that there is fallout when it comes to the general student body’s understanding and recognition of the OEP’s work. For instance, UConn has single stream recycling but very few know what this is and even those who do are unaware that it is used on our campus. I am very proud of what UConn has done to support sustainability and I only wish more would feel this same way.

Now that my freshman year has come to an end and I have had time to think back on all of my experiences, I must say that I am very happy with my choice to come to UConn. The tremendous size once intimidated me but now I see this only gives me a larger audience to influence. I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to help our University take a leadership role in sustainability and I want nothing more than to help educate my peers on the importance of protecting our environment and bring recognition to all that the OEP and UConn has done thus far.

Greening up the Holidays

The holidays are always a great time of year when you get to have time off from school, spend time with your family and decorate the house to spread holiday cheer.   Many people feel generous during the holiday season and are compelled to donate money or food to charitable organizations or even to lend a hand and volunteer.  While all this is great, there is one thing that we forget to consider.   Unfortunately most people neglect to think about the environment during the holiday season.   However there are plenty of ways you can green up your holiday, check out these tips that range from travel, to trees, to decorations:

  • If you’re sending presents to distant relatives, you can package them in old brown paper grocery bags instead of buying new shipping paper
  • Get creative with your wrapping!  You can wrap presents with a variety of things including old calendars, maps, sheet music, posters, wallpaper scraps, comics etc.  These wrapping ideas not only save paper, but they’re pretty interesting and unique.
  • For a fun edible decoration you can sting popcorn, cranberries or other fruits to hang around the house and when it’s time to take down the decorations you can eat them, compost them, or give them to the birds
  • It’s always a great idea to save and reuse whatever you have from previous holidays, you can reuse old gift bags and boxes or reuse old decorations.  You can even regift a gift!  If you’ve ever gotten something you don’t like or never used, think of someone who would appreciate the gift and give it to them (this saves you money and cleans up a little of that household clutter!)
  • When a friend or family member says they “don’t want more stuff,” take them seriously!
  • Often times just being with someone is better than getting a present from them, so instead of buying someone a present, take them out to dinner, a movie, or whatever you like to do best.
  • If you can’t avoid traveling long distances to spend the holiday with your family, consider buying carbon offsets to counteract negative impacts of your flight or drive.

For more tips visit these websites to make your holiday as green as possible!

Everyday Green Blog

5 Big Ways to Green Up Your Holidays

Green Holiday Tips and Ideas

Green Game Day: UConn vs Iowa State

On Friday, September 16th, the Office of Environmental Policy and UConn Athletics co-hosted Green Game Day, an environmental awareness campaign that encourages fans to do their part in reducing the footprint of UConn Athletic events. Thirty volunteers collected recyclables from tailgaters and educated fans about the importance of recycling. As much of the estimated eight tons of garbage produced at each Husky home game is recyclable, this event significantly contributes to reducing UConn’s environmental impact. Additionally, a student-run booth featuring a green initiatives display further enthused fans by providing them with recycling bags of their own.

A group shot of the Green Game Day volunteers.
A group shot of the Green Game Day volunteers.