U’s recycling program stands out for its efficiency and organization

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The U purports to follow the three Rs of waste management: reduce, reuse, recycle. But let’s be honest, every institution and organization these days claims to practice the reverent trifecta of Rs, while very few actually do. I’m proud to say that our university is one of those few that talks the talk and walks the responsible waste management walk.

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The U has a variety of recycling programs that handle specific types of waste. There are departments for all of the standard stuff, like mixed paper, aluminum, plastic and cardboard peppered throughout campus. One department manages the multi-colored bins that are placed strategically throughout the main campus, while another department manages bins at the dorms, and yet another takes care of the bins at the University Hospital. The sheer number of departments alone indicates that the U’s standard recycling program is extensive and apparently pretty successful. This should come as no surprise. After all, the color coded receptacles are easy to spot, easy to access and easy to use. They are also easy to take for granted. Although all colleges generate tremendous amounts of waste, a surprising number lack adequate on-campus recycling programs.

In addition to individual bins, the U has room-sized crates that store macro scale waste. The Surplus and Salvage department, nestled in an old brick building near the dorms, recycles and reuses literally tons upon tons of variegated refuse. Notably, the Surplus specializes in collecting discarded electronic waste that is generated by the university. Think of all of the computers, keyboards, monitors, mouses, printers, projectors, telephones, fax machines and the like that the university uses. If all of the broken and outdated electronics on campus were to be simply thrown away, they would eventually find their way into landfills, or the ocean, where their toxic entrails would leak out and pollute the environment. Fortunately, the school’s discarded e-waste is sent to the Surplus, where it is either refurbished and resold, or picked up by a socially and environmentally responsible e-waste recycling company called Met-Tech. Batteries are also potently poisonous when improperly disposed of, and they are omnipresent in many of our electronics. The Surplus is equipped to properly recycle batteries too, ensuring that the nasty chemicals that power our personal electronics are safely contained and disposed of.

Perhaps the coolest aspect of the U’s recycling center is its compost program. The composting program was officially conceived in 2010 in the Union cafeteria. Since then the program has expanded to include the Heritage Center as well as the various cafes scattered throughout campus. Initially, the Union cafeteria was able to compost about one ton of pre-consumer food waste per month, and now, through new efficiency measures, heightened awareness and extra help, that number has increased to 10 tons per month. Union and cafe compost, composed of cantaloupe rinds, avocado skins, potato peelings, ground coffee beans and similar nutrient rich food scraps, is donated to the U’s Community Gardens. The compost lends its abundant nutrients to the gardens, fostering fertile and fecund soil. The entire process is ripe with poetic beauty. Unused foodstuff that would otherwise go to waste is employed to fertilize a sustainable supply of healthy new fruits and vegetables, the recycled organic material rising from the rich, nourished earth like a flavorful food-phoenix.

Another cool component of the compost program is that it is driven almost entirely by volunteers. So if you are looking for an awesome way to contribute to one of the best elements of our university, and to spice up your résumé in the process, you can volunteer with the compost program or the community gardens. Or at the very least, you can utilize the colorful recycling bins that are scattered throughout the school.

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