The Story of Campus Waste
Waste has become a global issue riddled with enormous risks to personal, environmental and economic health. There are many causes to this increasingly troublesome issue and many things are at stake.
Due to the current management methods of waste the global community is encountering issues of social justice, environmental degradation, limited resources, health risks and reduction of arable land, just to name a few.
Some causes include a "throw-away" mentality about products we purchase, production of single-use products, lack of technology for managing long-lasting toxic wastes as well as a general apathy toward future issues associated with today's waste products. Thanks to the beloved garbage haulers and municipal sewage systems, we no longer have to manage our personal waste products. This allows us the luxury of throwing things "away", forgetting about them and being distanced from the results of our consumer by-products. Landfills, incinerators and litter cause quite a bit of damage, especially to the environment.
Waste begins with production of goods to meet consumer demand and the remnants, referred to as "trash", are collected in bins on upper campus and housing units. Custodian's manage waste inside buildings on upper campus and residents are responsible for their household waste removal. From the dumpsters our campus trash truck gathers the waste and hauls it to a transfer station in Lacey, WA where it is gathered with the rest of Thurston County's trash and compacted. The compressed trash is driven to Centralia via large trucks and boards a train car to Roosevelt Regional Landfill located in Eastern Washington's Klickitat County.
Roosevelt Regional Landfill is far from any urban centers and utilized a minorly permeable clay base to protect the aquifer 1,500 feet below. Opened in 1991, the 2,545 acre facility is certified to accept 220 million tons of waste over its 40-year lifespan. Roosevelt Landfill overlooks the scenic Columbia River Gorge along with trash from numerous other destinations around the Northwest and beyond. Roosevelt accepts more than 2.5 million tons of waste per year, including municipal solid waste, construction and demolition debris, wood wastes, petroleum contaminated soils and municipal incinerator ash from municipalities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, California and Alaska (2).
While buried at the landfill, some of your trash will decompose into a chemical slurry called leachate that is collected with a system of thick plastic and pipes. The leachate is re-circulated through the landfill prompting rapid decomposition of waste and accelerating methane production (1). Methane is a greenhouse gas resulting from the decomposition of solid waste, and is a top contributor to Global Warming. Roosevelt was designed and built as a “bioreactor’; methane produced as a result of waste decomposition is captured and used to create electricity at an on-site power plant. Currently the landfill’s gas produces approximately 12 megawatts of electricity – enough to power over 10,000 homes (2).
Composting on campus is located in the Residential area of campus and is available in Dining Services Locations and a few offices around campus.
Commercial Compost is collected in the Food Service areas where students, faculty, staff and visitors are responsible for correctly seperating their waste. Bins are wheeled from their collection spots to the dumpsters where a staff member sorts through them to make sure no plastic, metal or other contaminent was deposited. The compostable material is wheeled to a campus waste collection area. LeMay Inc. collects compostable material weekly and hauls it to a transfer station and onto Silver Springs Organics - Commercial Composting Facility located 20 miles from campus between Raineir and Tenino, Washington. When compostables arrive at the facility they are mixed with other goods from that day and made into a very large pile that sits for 45 days monitored day-in and day-out by a high-tech system that regulates air, moisture and temperature to achieve a high quality organic product that is used by WSDOT and is for sale at a few different soil companies around Olympia.
Single Stream Recycling is collected in blue bins throughout campus and collected by LeMay hauling company to be shipped to a Pacific Disposal location. Research is being conducted regarding the recycling process for this material.
Glass is collected in red bins and brown dumpsters around campus and taken to Jones Quarry on Black Lake Boulevard where it is crushed and made into a fill material used for various projects including home construction.
Cardboard is collected in yellow dumpsters across campus and is sold for a profit to a recycling facility.
Fluorescent lights are collected and recycled through EcoLights, a subsidary of Total Reclaim. TESC collects college generated spent florescent light bulbs only.
The campus community can recycle their own fluorescent lights through Thurston County HazoHouse.
Thurston County HazoHouse http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/solidwaste/hazardous/haz-hazohouse.htm
What to do if you break a fluorescent light bulb:
While the amount of mercury in bulbs has been reduced, in the case of breakage you should take the following precautions:
- Ventilate the area by opening the windows, then vacate the room for 15 minutes
- Do not vacuum
- Wear rubber gloves, collect the pieces into a secure container (such as a lidded glass jar)
- Scoop up smaller pieces using two stiff pieces of paper (such as index cards)
- Collect remaining fine particles with tape (duct, packing, masking tape all work well)
- Wipe area with damp paper towel or wet wipe
- Continue to ventilate the room for several house and open the window next time you vacuum
E-waste is one group of waste items that really deserve the extra time it takes to recycle them correctly. In the United States, an estimated 70% of heavy metals in landfills comes from discarded electronics,3 while electronic waste represents only 2% of America's trash in landfills.4
There are a few areas on or near campus to recycle your electronic waste:
- Housing Office on 3rd floor A accepts cellphones and donates them to Shelter Alliance.
- The Bookstore accepts non-rechargeable batteries and cellphone
- Printer cartridges and toner cartridges can be recycled at many office supply stores; Staples and Office Max to name a couple
- Used and broken computers can be recycled through Goodwill (corner of Cooper Point and Harrison).
- Florescent light bulbs can be recycled through Thurston County HazoHouse
- The Computer Center has a Technotrash can, acceptable items listed below.
Small Batteries are collected at the Bookstore and the Computer Center for general campus disposal. Batteries purchased for and used by Faculty and Staff are recycled through Batteries Plus in Olympia.
The Bookstore collects only non-rechargeable batteries (alkaline, rechargeable, Li, etc). Rechargeable batteries and their chargers can be recycled in the Technotrash Can in the Computer Center.
According to an EPA fact sheet, batteries "account for a disproportionate amount of the toxic heavy metals contained in municipal solid waste," even though they make up less than 1 percent of that waste(5).Single-use alkaline batteries contain fewer toxic chemicals than rechargeable batteries, but there are many more of them in the waste stream.
Learn more about batteries & recycling http://www.informinc.org/fact_CWPbattery.php#note4
Computers/TV/Monitors – Only TESC owned large electronics can be recycled at Evergreen. This is due to the cost associated with this disposal. These products are recycled through Total Reclaim.
The campus community can recycle their personal computer/TV/monitors through Goodwill.
Total Reclaim: http://www.totalreclaim.com/index.html
Small electronic media – the Computer Center has a Technotrash bin for small electronic media. The Technotrash bin is made available through Green Disk and allows the following materials:
- All forms of electronic media and their cases: diskettes, zip disks, CDs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs, DVDs et al, video tape (i.e. VHS), audio tape, game cartridges, DAT, DLT, Beta or Digibeta, and virtually all other type of computer tapes.
- Hard drives, Zip and Jazz drives, jump drives, etc.
- All forms of printer cartridges including both inkjet and toner.
- All types of cell phones, pagers, PDAs and their chargers, cables, and headset accessories
- All types of rechargeable batteries (not regular alkaline ones) and their chargers
- All of the small computer accessories such as MP3 players, iPods, digital cameras, hand-held scanners, handheld games and other connected devices.
- All of the cords, cables, boards, chips, etc. attached to or removed from a computer.
- Laptop computers.
- Note: We do not accept CPUs, monitors, printers, or other components.
Learn more about Green Disk: http://www.greendisk.com/Pop-ups/Items-to-dispose-of.html
Printer cartridges – The most common plug for recycling in regards to printing is the reduction of paper use and rightfully so - double sided, smaller fonts, selective printing and electronic viewing and reading of documents all help us reach this goal. The other part of the equation is regarding the actual ink and the waste produced through disposable ink cartridges. There are over 500 million ink-jet and 75 million laser cartridges sold annually in North America and about half of these, when emptied, are discarded into the landfill. The majority of printer cartridges contain vinyl plastics (PVCs) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs); two types of materials that are impossible to recycle at this point and wreak havoc on the environment by releasing dioxins and other carcinogens into the air or leach into the soil and water systems. In recent years, more environmentally friendly options have become available; recycling of cartridges, purchase of refurbished cartridges and re-fillable cartridges as well as less destructive materials used in the manufacturing of the cartridges and even cartridges containing soy ink and new fonts designed to reduce ink usage.
In previous years, TESC Grounds was responsible for recycling printer and toner cartriges. Typically the custodial crew members would collect the cartridges and place them on a pallet on the loading dock to be picked up by the Grounds staff member in charge of recycling campus waste. The cartridges would be recycled through ECO Recycling. Towards the end of the 08-09 academic year, the college engaged in a contract to recycle used cartridges through the original provider. When cartridges are purchased for staff and faculty they arrive with pre-paid return labels that are kept in the campus mailroom. Staff and faculty should bring their cartridges to the mailroom for shipping at no cost instead of utilizing the old system of relying on custodial to dispose of the cartridges through the Grounds department.
Students can recycle printer and toner cartridges in the Computer Center Technotrash bin, or in greater Olympia at many office supply stores.
Cell phone waste has joined many other electronic devices in the increase of harmful E-Waste. With ever advancing technology and typical contract renewals come the desire to get a new cell phone. To manufacture a cell phone requires a multitude of raw materials and a lot of energy. To best reduce this environmental impact, it is recommended to only update your phone when necessary, purchase a refurbished phone and donate your old phone to be recycled or refurbished.
At Evergreen we make cell phone collection available in the Housing Office (3rd Floor A-Building) and Police Services for students, faculty and staff to drop off their used and or broken cell phones. The cell phones are donated to Shelter Alliance where they are wiped clean of any personal information and either reused or recycled. The sustainability program in Housing receives a variable refund for donations and uses the money for future sustainability programming and events. This recycling program began in 2008 thanks to a Sustainability Intern focused on increasing sustainable practices in Residential and Dining Services at The Evergreen State College.
Approximately 60% of recycled cell phones have resale value as refurbished cell phones. Through Shelter Alliance's Reuse program cell phones are distributed to wireless markets worldwide in need of affordable communication. The other 40% of recycled cell phones do not have resale value, and are processed through an environmentally responsible “Refining” program. Through the Refining program, phones are shredded and smelted at their copper refiner, and various metals are “reclaimed” back to their natural state. Visit their website to learn more about Shelter Alliance's sustainable practices.
Another program that was initiated in the 08-09 Academic Year is available in the Computer Center, located on the 2nd floor of the Library Building. This program is made available through Green Disk and is refered to as a TechnoTrash Can - you can place your cell phone, charger and cellphone accessories in this can to be responsibly recycled or disposed of.
TechnoTrash Website: http://www.greendisk.com/gdsite/technotrash.aspx
Where does my E-Waste end up?
E-Cycle Washington is a program implemented in 2009 that disposes of electronic waste using environmentally and socially responsible methods. The majority of the electronics collected by E-Cycle Washington are disassembled for recycling here in Washington. Some electronics go out-of-state for processing and some materials are exported for recycling at approved facilities. Obsolete electronics are not exported to third-world countries. The Department of Ecology requires recyclers to meet standards designed to protect worker safety and health as well as the environment. To learn more, select the link above.
- Municipal solid waste landfills are the second largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States, accounting for approximately 23 percent of these emissions in 2007. At the same time, methane emissions from landfills represent a lost opportunity to capture and use a significant energy resource. Landfill gas (LFG) is created as solid waste decomposes in a landfill. This gas consists of about 50 percent methane (CH4), the primary component of natural gas, about 50 percent carbon dioxide (CO2), and a small amount of non-methane organic compounds (6).
- The disposal of solid waste produces greenhouse gas emissions in a number of ways. First, the anaerobic decomposition of waste in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Second, the incineration of waste produces carbon dioxide as a by-product. In addition, the transportation of waste to disposal sites produces greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of the fuel used in the equipment. Finally, the disposal of materials indicates that they are being replaced by new products; this production often requires the use of fossil fuels to obtain raw materials and manufacture the items (7).
- In 2007, the per capita generation of waste was 4.6 pounds per person per day and total waste generation was 254.1 million tons (8).
- Methane gas is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas (9).
- In 2007, 12.7% of landfill waste was comprised of food scraps and 12.8% was yard trimmings, both of which could have been composted in the Commercial Compost System (10).
- A breakdown, by weight, of the waste materials generated in the US in 2007 illustrates that paper and paperboard made up the largest component (32.7 percent), followed by yard trimmings (12.8 percent) and food scraps (12.5 percent). Glass, metals, plastics, and wood each constituted between 5 and 12 percent of the total waste generated. Rubber, leather, and textiles combined made up 7.6 percent of municipal solid waste, while other miscellaneous wastes made up approximately 3 percent of the solid waste generated in 2007. (11)