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It's not easy being green! - Kermit T. Frog   Home Colleges & Universities 12 Steps toward Sustainability Solid Waste Reduction

Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling
Colleges and universities purchase large quantities of materials which often result in large volumes of waste. A typical college or university’s waste stream is either ultimately burned in a waste-to-energy plant, burned in an incinerator, or put into a landfill. However, burning solid waste is extremely toxic, and landfills leech chemicals into the groundwater. Therefore, as institutions which profess to demonstrate leadership in society, it is imperative to establish waste management, waste reduction, and recycling ethics and strategies.
    Recycling and trash bins should be placed in a convenient location and clearly marked. This bin, seen in Eastern's Student Center, is shaped to suggest the particular waste.
  Organizational Assistance   Best Practices  
  • Establish a Waste Reduction Ethic
    In order to encourage students and staff to commit to properly manage their waste stream, it is necessary to gain their support by instilling a waste reduction/recycling ethic on campus. One strategy is to reward students with a share of the money saved by recycling. Savings can be calculated by weighing the total recycling output. Savings from recycling can then be compared against the costs that would be paid to remove the same amount of material as trash. Establish a recycling center on every floor of residence halls, and have a student employee collect and track the material. Education is also an important factor in encouraging recycling, and habits formed during college may last for a lifetime.
  • Perform Waste Stream Analysis
    When trying to reduce waste output, it is necessary to analyze your campus to deduce the primary sources of waste. Whenever a department or dormitory has a higher than average waste contribution, the cause should be determined. With proper analysis of the source and types of waste produced, appropriate waste reduction programs can be designed and implemented effectively.
  • Minimize Waste
    Memos and photocopies are huge sources of waste paper, while electronic messaging and email require no paper. When possible, scan documents and distribute them in an electronic format rather than making photocopies. If it is necessary to make photocopies, make all copies double sided. Some universities have their default printer settings for double sided printing, saving thousands of dollars on paper purchasing each year. Also, minimize the amount of campus publications printed, such as newsletters and directories; many such publications are often over-printed. It is not usually necessary for two people who share the same office or cubicle to each have their own campus directory.
  • Encourage Single-Stream Recycling
    Single-stream recycling allows all paper products and containers to be mixed together and sorted for recycling at the facility. While this requires a proper recycling facility and vehicles, it encourages residents to recycle everything they can, in one convenient way. Single-stream recycling vehicles are less expensive than dual-stream trucks, as they only need one collection bin instead of two, and can actually be used to pick up trash as well. Many single-stream recycling facilities also recycle more types of paper and plastic products than do dual-stream facilities, further adding to the sustainability of a school or community.
  • Provide Convenient Recycling Stations
    No matter how ardently an administration may claim to support recycling, many individuals will not recycle if they have to put fourth too much extra effort. Therefore, in offices and dormitories there should be recycling centers located on every floor at a minimum. Studies have shown that people will almost always recycle when there is a recycling bin nearby. Also, make sure there are bins clearly labeled for paper, cardboard, bottles and cans, ink cartridges, and batteries. Ink cartridges and batteries are less frequently discarded, so a more centralized collection area may be adequate. If single-stream recycling is available, educate users to ensure success.
  • Special Collection Days
    Special collection days are events where students, faculty, and staff can bring their recyclables, and are given points based on how much they collect. Prizes are then given to those who bring the most. Collection days create incentives to collect recyclables while further instilling the ethic of sustainability on campus.
  • Promote Repair and Swap
    Many outdated office and classroom appliances are still usable. A print shop in the campus newspaper might get a new printer or IT a new computer even if the older models are still functional. Try to use this older equipment in other areas around campus. If there is no place where the equipment can be used on campus, consider donating it to local schools. This reduces the demand for new goods, which in turn reduces the financial burden on other institutions, and thus lowers societal costs. Reuse of computers should be an area of attention. Computer parts have trace amounts of a variety of rare metals that can be extremely toxic. Using these systems prevents them and their toxic elements from ending up in a landfill.
  • Recognize Performance
    Make sure that those who recycle receive recognition for doing so. Encourage a culture of recycling on campus. Any department or organization that reduces their waste output should be acknowledged.
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