See a bin, drop it in: Recycling on campus gets boost

Mar. 12, 2009 by Vanessa Tarango NMSU Round Up

“See a bin, drop it in,” is the new slogan that was created in efforts to boost recycling on campus in this Year of Sustainability.

Recycling at NMSU has significantly increased over the past few years because of the incredible efforts put into the program by manager of Solid Waste and Recycling Art Lucero.

“As an institution of higher learning we should be setting an example for the community and the state,” Lucero said of recycling.

It is mandated by the state of New Mexico that all institutions of higher education divert 25 percent of their waste, so NMSU had to develop a recycling program to comply with the diversion criteria. Last year Lucero teamed up with Associated Students of New Mexico State University and received $55,000 from the legislature. They were able to buy equipment, containers and to market recycling around campus with the money that was received.

There are currently over 400 blue recycling containers and over 125 clear screen containers throughout campus. Bins are collected on a daily basis totaling over 30,000 pounds of material per week.

NMSU began recycling aluminum and plastic bottles in March of 2008 and 400,000 have already been collected. Plastic bottles are especially important to recycle because they could take 700 years to decompose in a landfill.

Last year NMSU managed to recycle 220,000 pounds of materials and their goal is to recycle 10 percent more this year.

In extra efforts to encourage students and staff to recycle there have been some additional bins conveniently located outside from Hadley Hall to the Educational Services building. Faculty will now also have more convenient resources to significantly increase recycling. Small blue bins are going to be placed in all the offices on campus and serviced once a week. Faculty will be able to place all recyclables into one bin and the recycling center will separate the materials appropriately.

Lucero said the director of building services Juan Fisher has allocated more resources to get to offices once a week. They are estimating that the amount of recyclables collected will double with the added convenience for faculty.

While students are aware of the basics that are recycled such as plastic bottles, aluminum cans and papers of all sorts, there is a great deal more than meets the eye. The recycling program at NMSU has several facilities on campus and is able to recycle a variety of materials including paper, cardboard, ferrous metals, tires, asphalt and concrete. The Aggie Recycling Center is the facility used to process and remove paper and cardboard. The Center for Hard to Recycle Materials is the facility for processing appliances that use Freon and other toxic chemicals including used oil and used tires. The Re-Use Facility is the housing area for equipment and material that can be reused with little or no processing including building materials such as commodity lumber and some metals. The Construction and Demolition Facility houses and processes non-hazardous debris left over from construction and remodeling projects on campus.

Lucero said they are attempting to recycle any items that can be recycled and/or reused by the university. Yard trimmings, leaves and grass is being recycled and turned into compost. Between 300-500 tons a year is being put back on turf areas, plants and trees, which minimized fertilizing uses. Lucero created an operation that has produced more than 55 tons of compost that is going back into the university.

The Aggie Recycling Center has made recycling on campus very easy with at least one location in which white paper, plastic bottles and aluminum cans may be recycled in each administrative building. The various recycling facilities around campus will also accept delivery of recyclable material or, alternatively, can schedule a pick up if necessary.

A major item that is always questioned is glass. Lucero said the faculty constantly asks him and his staff how come glass is not recycled, but he says there is no market for glass. The golden rule that is used by the center is “Don’t collect anything that cannot be processed don’t process anything that cannot be marketed.”

“There is no budget for recycling,” Lucero said. So any profits made are put back into the program to continue making improvements and for operational costs. The program has made $15,000 since July 1, 2008. The average amount made in a fiscal year is between 15 and 25,000.

According to the NMSU website, it currently spends an estimated $25,000 monthly on garbage disposal. However, with a diversion rate of almost 30 percent the NMSU Recycling Program saves the university over $100,000 a year in garbage disposal costs. The amount of material recycled at NMSU saves approximately 13,719 trees, 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 1,614 barrels of oil annually. The sale of recyclables has generated over $100,000 in revenue over the last decade. Paper alone generates about $14,000 annual income.

Lucero said he is excited to begin a new initiative for NMSU. The recycling facility will be the first in the state to densify aluminum cans and shred plastic because research conducted said this method proves to be highly effective. This will reduce the volume of storage space that is used by both the plastic bottles and the aluminum cans. Lucero said it is difficult to bale and wire the aluminum cans so this will turn 800 cans into a 12 by 10 block that would weigh 25 pounds.

“My goal is to get with the public school to do field trips and tours, so it [recycling] can begin sooner than college,” said Lucero.

Students and faculty gave comments on their contributions.

“I’ve seen spots on campus where you can recycle your cans and bottles, which is supported by ASNMSU,” senior Carmen Blanks said. “I’ve always been a big advocate of recycling and going green. It’s turned into a trend now.”

“We have recycling bins on the second floor. Things that are archived and outdated are definitely recycled,” MBA advising coordinator Dave Reiff said. “They have been being serviced on a weekly basis so that has been great.”

“I’m usually forced to recycle by my roommate,” sophomore Belem Frisby said. “They just placed bins outside [Monagle Hall] so my friend always takes the stuff I throw out to the recycle bin. I don’t do any kind of recycling on my own.”

“I recycle all my water bottles. There isn’t a lot of recycling resources by my house, so I save them there for now, but I will eventually bring them to campus to be recycled,” criminal justice major Wendy DeLaTorre said.

“It depends what you call recycling. If I see a recycle bin and have a coke bottle I’ll throw it in the bin, but otherwise no,” junior Cory Marcum said.

“We do paper recycling in the library because we go through a lot of paper.” We use recycled paper when at all possible. The printers we use are filled with paper that has only been used on one side,” science librarian Nirmala Gunapala said. Although it is taking some time, the library is working on getting recycling bins out front and in their lounges. They will soon be able to sort all types of things like books, colored paper, paper, etc. as Branson Library does. We hope our containers will be brought to us soon. We do understand that Art is a very busy man and is understaffed though.

“We do have several bins throughout the building and we use them frequently. It was not a good system until recently. The system has been greatly improved and I’m happy to see that. It was getting pretty frustrating at times when the bins would stay full for weeks,” undergraduate secretary for the College of Business Nate Whitten said.

“We have recycle bins throughout the building and we put them out when we have events so people are more likely to use them,” English department secretary Christine Reeder said.

A major incentive to recycle on campus right now is to defeat universities nationwide in the RecycleMania competition currently underway. RecycleMania is a friendly competition and benchmarking tool for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities. Over a 10-week period, schools report recycling and trash data, which are then ranked according to who collects the largest amount of recyclables per capita, the largest amount of total recyclables, the lease amount of trash per capita, or have the highest recycling rate.

“After week five we’re No. 2 in the grand champion category against 294 competing universities,” Lucero said. “We’re No. 1 in our WAC division, so we’re excited.”

The competition began on Jan. 18 and will run until March 28. Lucero said NMSU has already collected over 130,000 pounds in just five weeks.

The 2009 national winners will be acknowledged in an awards ceremony at the annual National Recycling Coalition (NRC) conference in Portland, Oregon in October 2009.

NMSU took fifth place in last year’s competition.

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