By Ayrel Clark-Proffitt, Sustainability Resource Center
If you think recycling can’t make a difference, think about this: Americans dispose more than four pounds of waste per person per day. That’s 1,460 pounds a year, which for reference is the peak weight of a Kodiak bear – one of the two largest bear species currently residing on the planet.
But the good news? Those three R words you were taught as a child – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle – can make a big impact on our environment and even total GHG emissions. Traditional waste management represents 1 to 5 percent of the overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, but the provision of goods and food in the U.S. contribute 42 percent of overall emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
You can start making a difference right here, right now on the University of Utah campus by getting involved in Recycle Mania! More than 600 schools across the United States and Canada participate in Recycle Mania, a recycling and reduction competition that runs throughout the months of February and March.
While it is a competition, the most important component of Recycle Mania is the collective result. Last year, the program eliminated 121,436 metric tons of CO2 equivalents. That’s the same as the annual emissions from 25,299 passenger vehicles or the emissions from 13,613,901 gallons of gasoline consumed, according to the EPA’s Greenhouse Equivalencies Calculator.
Recycling on the U of U campus is easy. Main campus employs a segregated recycling stream – collecting white and mixed paper, aluminum cans, and plastics #1 and #2, which are then sold on the recyclables market. The funds are reinvested in the recycling program. What trips people up is that the main campus recycling program is different than how they recycle in their residences – whether they live off campus or even on campus – which tend to be single-stream recycling where all recycling materials go in to one bin.
Use the following chart to help with recycling at the University:
|Material||Acceptable items||Common contaminants|
or “office pack”
|White printer paper, pastel paper, envelopes, index cards, manila folders and envelopes (plus no need to remove staples, paper clips, and tape!)||Newspapers, magazines, cardboard, tissues, paper towels, paper cups, food wrappers, and pizza boxes|
|Mixed paper||Newspapers, advertisements, magazines, paperback books, colored paper, envelopes, folders (plus no need to remove staples, paper clips, and tape!)||Cardboard, tissues, paper towels, paper cups, food wrappers, and pizza boxes|
|Plastic||Only #1 (PET) and #2 (PE-HD) can be recycled on main campus||Plastics #3-7; read more about symbols here|
|Aluminum||Soda and other cans, aluminum foil||Food-soiled foil, liquids|
While these are the main areas of recycling, there are additional opportunities on campus to avoid sending items to the landfill. Batteries can be recycled at the CMS desk in the Knowledge Commons on the 2nd floor of the Marriott Library. Additionally, there are some cardboard recycling bins on campus. Call the Recycling Office at 801-581-5173 to find the nearest cardboard recycling bin. Additionally, you can recycle University documents with sensitive information by calling University Archives and Records Management at 801-581-8242. Lastly, University electronics and furniture should be sent to University Surplus & Salvage, which sells the items to other University departments and the public.
The U participates in Recycle Mania as part of its commitments established in the Energy and Environmental Stewardship Initiative: 2010 Climate Action Plan. Learn more about recycling on campus, including a complete list of mixed and white paper acceptable materials and contaminants, at the Recycling Office website.
Ayrel Clark-Proffitt is the Education & Outreach Coordinator for the Sustainability Resource Center.