Monday, November 28, 2011

Recyclemania! and waste at Rutgers

Rutgers placed towards the top in the 2011 Recylemania competiton, claiming first for the Gorilla Prize again this year! While they didn't place in the top 5 for the Grand Championship, they claimed second place in the Per Capita Classic - a narrow loss to Union College. Pretty impessive!

What the heck is Recyclemania anyway? And what are these prizes? Well according to the Recyclemania organization, "RecycleMania is a friendly competition among college and university recycling programs in North America and Canada. During 8 weeks each spring, schools compete in different categories to see which institution can collect the largest amount of recyclables per capita, the largest amount of total recyclables, the least amount of waste per capita or have the highest recycling rate." There are eight categories: the largest amount of recyclables per capita, the largest total amount of recyclables, the least amount of trash per capita, the highest overall recycling rate, and prizes for the most minimization of paper, cardboard, bottles and cans, and organic food materials. Over ten weeks, universities compete to win one or more of these prizes. Winning the Gorilla Prize meant that Rutgers had the most overall tonnage reduction in combined waste materials (that means all papers, cardboards, bottles, cans, and food waste materials). This award is given regardless of population size, meaning Rutgers competed with schools much smaller or much larger than itself and still won the Gorilla Prize. The Per Capita Classic, which Rutgers placed second in, measures the total amount of collected  and recycled waste materials. Rutgers therefore collected and recycled the second best amount over this ten week competition period.

"Something like 70% of the waste at Rutgers is now being recycled," said Antonio Calcado. Students at Rutgers have likely noticed a change recently in Rutgers trash bins, which is part of the reason Rutgers took second in the Per Capita Classic. These new bins (picture shown below) are part of a new recycling system Rutgers adopted this year.
The system is called "Single Stream Recycling". Rutgers has employed a new company called W.M., who have a unique system of collecting and recycling trash. Students, staff, and visitors at Rutgers can put there trash into just one bin. There is no need to put bottles in one bin and paper in another. Anything and everything recyclable can go into these bins. W.M. sorts through and recycles ALL of the materials. Nothing gets left behind. According to Michael Kornitas, "Everything we waste is used for something else at W.M." Rutgers students have also instituted composting procedures in facilities on campus. "All our organic garbage becomes soil and we're do our best to contribute to making biodiesel," said Calcado.

In the most recent MOU released by the EPA, the total savings of mixed recyclables jumped from 591 to 762 tons of MTCO2e (Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) after the switch to W.M.'s Single Stream Recyling System occured. In total, Rutgers has saved 1414 tons of recyclables with this new system. Since the signing of the MOU, Rutgers has recycled over 9,150 tons of recyclables, a total cost savings of $127,480. "We recently adopted a recycled carpeting program," said Kornitas. "Every new carpet that goes in is made of only recycled materials. 100%." According to the MOU, 226 tons MTCO2e of carpeting have been saved with this program - a $1,251 savings for the university. "The LEED silver program gave us the idea and we plan to replace all carpeting with recycled carpeting when the time for new carpeting arises. We're effectively recycling everything we can." In addition to carpeting, Rutgers University recycles ceiling tiles and replaces them with recycled ceiling tiles and they recycle all construction wastes.

"I think the single stream recycling is definitely the project I am most excited about," said Calcado. "Its a real improvement from our past."

Look out, Recyclemania 2012!


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