UConn Office of Environmental Policy

Promoting sustainability at UConn


Leave a comment

The Mystery of Single Stream Recycling

One of the most frequent questions we get at the OEP is “can I recycle X,” followed closely by “what recycling goes in each bin?”

At UConn, we have had single stream recycling since 2009.  This means that any recyclable material can go in any recycling bin.  Sometimes this is also called mixed recycling.  We have a number of different types of recycling bins on campus – we have the new green bins outside that are coupled with trash cans, we have the older rectangular cans with paper and bottle/can restricted lids, we have the small blue recycling bins for individual rooms or offices, we have white and red and yellow bins in the dorms.  Despite the difference in bins, any recyclable can go in any bin!

However, even with single stream, there are still a lot of questions about what is recyclable and what is not.

Some common items:

Plastic grocery bags – these cannot go into single stream recycling.  However, they can be recycled at most grocery stores.  This goes for any sort of recyclable plastic bag (such as newspaper bags, or plastic bubble packing material)

Paper coffee cups – these are generally not recyclable because the paper is actually lined with wax to prevent your hot beverage from leaking out of the cup.  Often the plastic lid and the paper sleeve are recyclable though!

Books – Check with your recycler, but Willimantic Waste Paper Company, the recycler for campus accepts paperback books for recycling, just put them into any recycling bin.

Shredded paper – Although shredded paper is recyclable, it can’t go into the single stream because the small pieces can’t be sorted out.  Offices on campus can contact central stores to pick up confidential documents for shredding. If your recycler can’t take shredded paper, contact them to find out where you can take shredded paper for recycling.

Ziplock Bags – Unfortunately these can’t go in the recycling.  Consider washing and reusing them, or purchasing reusable zipper bags for your snacks.

Envelopes with clear windows – These can go in the recycling bin!

Anything with food waste or grease – Even if the material would be otherwise recyclable, if it has food waste, please wash it before putting it into the recycling so you don’t contaminate the load.  If it’s contaminated with grease (such as cardboard from a pizza box), it can’t be recycled.

Check out this awesome video from WilliWaste explaining how their single stream recycling system works!


Leave a comment

Give and Go – Did You Know?

uconn_give_and_goby OEP Intern Meredith Hillmon

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. The recycling and reuse program encourages students to donate unwanted belongings to local charities and non-profit organizations instead of throwing them away. Parents of students, faculty and town residents are just as welcome to bring donations, or they may volunteer at one of the collection locations sorting donations and motivating the community about being more mindful of the environmental impacts of dumping trash.

The program has become a huge success. It is not only an easy way for students to recycle, but it is an event that generates heaps of donations. The 2010 Give & Go was record breaking. 14,137lbs of donations were received, and more than 300 students, faculty, town residents and parents volunteered for a total 750 hours at 15 different collection locations. Over 3000lbs of furniture and rugs were dropped off, 2000lbs of appliances, and over 1500lbs of clothing, shoes and nonperishable foods. The 2011 Give & Go brought in numbers close to the 2010 record with 12,897lbs of donations – over 4000lbs of rugs, nearly 3000lbs of furniture, over 1000lbs of appliances and clothing and over 700lbs of food.

Equally as impressive numbers are expected for the upcoming 2013 Give & Go program. Given the incredible success of the event so far, one can only predict an even more astounding number of donations. In order to get involved with Give & Go, contact the new Program Coordinator Sara Butter at uconn.co.giveandgo@gmail.com.


2 Comments

LEED: Minimizing UConn’s Environmental Footprint

by OEP intern Emily McInerney

leedsilverOn March 25, 2008 President Hogan signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). This pledge led way for UConn’s Climate Action Plan: a comprehensive outline that strategizes and maps out sustainability initiatives to help UConn reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Carbon neutrality is defined as proportional amounts of carbon released and carbon sequestered. This can be achieved through carbon offsets such as our Co-gen facility or something as simple as planting a tree. Realistically, however, carbon neutrality does not mean a zero carbon footprint. For UConn, the aim is to have the 2050 carbon emissions 86% below our 2007 levels. One of the very first initiatives implemented at UConn to lower GHG emissions was the adoption of our own Campus Sustainable Design Guidelines. These guidelines apply to both the construction of new buildings as well as the renovation of preexisting buildings.

The Sustainable Design and Construction Policy requires a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver certification as a minimum performance standard for all projects that exceed $5 million. The U.S. Green Building Council developed LEED to act as an international green building certification system. LEED buildings offer savings in water and energy, reduce GHG emissions, improve air quality to promote health safety for occupants, and lower operating costs.

Oak Hall

Oak Hall

Most recently, the construction of two new buildings at UConn, Laurel and Oak Hall, have been completed that fulfill the LEED silver requirement. Oak Hall is set next to Homer Babbidge Library at the site of the former Co-op. Laurel is located where the Pharmacy building was originally constructed. These locations prevented the clearing of forests, wetlands, and other natural environments. There are several sustainable features that are important to note. From the outside, porous pavement reduces storm water runoff and flooding by providing storage and infiltration during storm events and a bio retention basin reduces harmful storm water runoff by collecting and holding storm water. The area is lined with native vegetation that provides habitat and food for local species. To reduce transportation CO2 emissions, biking is encouraged. There are 132 bicycle rack spaces available to facilitate bike transit.

Moving inside the building, the focus is on increased energy and water savings. The bathroom offers dual flush toilets and electric hand dryers to reduce paper waste. The combination of all water efficient features is anticipated to reduce water usage by 48%. The high performance windows both increase natural lighting which reduces energy costs and provide insulation through window glazing which reduce heating and cooling needs. Laurel is expected to have 16% energy savings and Oak is estimated to have 18% energy savings.

Visually speaking, LEED buildings are most notable for the recycled content and renewable materials that comprise their exterior paneling and interior walls and floors. Oak Hall uses bamboo for wall panels, recycled copper for the exterior siding and regional bricks. The bamboo is more sustainable than wood because it only take 3-5 years to harvest, the copper is made up of 80-95% recycled content, and the bricks are produced within 500 miles of campus. Approximately 75% of construction waste was diverted from landfills and reused or recycled.

Beyond sustainability, LEED buildings also have health benefits. Indoor environmental quality is improved through green cleaning products that are biodegradable, have low toxicity and low volatile organic compound content (VOC), and have reduced packaging. All plywood is formaldehyde-free and adhesives, sealants and paint have low or no VOC. Both Oak and Laurel are definite eye catchers. These buildings are not only environmentally friendly and cost effective but also aesthetically pleasing.  It is something to appreciate that sustainability can be characterized as modern and hip. For those interested in seeing how these LEED buildings affect UConn’s GHG emissions, the Office of Environmental Policy is planning to upload energy and water saving dashboards online.

Here are some examples of the sustainability features in Oak and Laurel Halls:


5 Comments

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, which may be found here.


3 Comments

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. http://www.dining.uconn.edu/local_routes_sustainability.html.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.

http://ecohusky.uconn.edu/recycling/giveandgo.html

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). http://www.ehs.uconn.edu/Regulated%20Waste%20Management/index.php

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.  http://www.ecohusky.uconn.edu/E-Waste.htm#RecycleWhere

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/