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Abstract: Solid Waste and Recycling

For many people, municipal solid waste management is “out of sight, out of mind.” In this era of increasing regulatory oversight (and the university community demanding greater environmental stewardship), the disposition of an item is considered before it is even purchased.

Solid Waste Definition

Solid Waste. Infectious wastes are typically generated as a result of biological, medical, or pathological activities. Hazardous waste is classified as such because: (1) it can cause injury, death, or damage or pollute air, land or water; or (2) it is ignitable, corrosive, reactive, or toxic. (e.g. solvents, fluorescents, laboratory animal carcasses, or low-level radioactive wastes generated through laboratory research.) Many states reclassify wastes more stringently than the EPA, therefore the state, not the federal classification will most likely be what managers will have to know to determine proper disposal methods for campus waste.

Legal Aspects of Waste Disposal

Legal implications affect three areas: (1) legislation, with more than 15 major federal laws that pertain to the environment having been passed since 1970, subtitle D  of the RCRA empowers the EPA to require states to submit solid waste plans for the disposal of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), (2) regulatory agencies, each state has its own regulatory agency that acts much like the EPA, directly impacting solid waste disposal practices at institutions of higher education and (3) flow control, a growing component of MSW management that has designated approved disposal sites for various categories of MSW. Flow control is growing in popularity among state and local government officials because it allows them to control where waste is taken, thus greatly affecting facilities managers’ disposal options.

Integrated Approach to Disposal

Different Solutions for Different Wastes. The current accepted philosophy in MSW is to follow an integrated approach, considering type, location, and quantity of wastes generated and disposal options. Factors such as collection, storage, logistics, and disposal costs determine the best alternative for waste. The hierarchy of steps for integrated MSW is to first reduce or reuse, then incineration, and finally landfilling is the least preferred alternative. A true hierarchy may not be a realistic option given the amount and type of resources devoted to MSW management at the institution. (e.g. incineration requires substantial capital investment and the need to “feed the incinerator” may run counter to reduction and recycling goals.) Given the difficulty of instituting waste reduction practices, waste reduction can be the most effective method in terms of cost and operational considerations. But, because recycling receives more attention from administrators and students, establishing and conducting a recycling program will be the focus of this chapter.

Municipal Solid Waste Disposal

Refuse  Disposal  and  Collection.    (1)  Refuse  disposal and collection is being changed  by  recycling,  providing an opportunity to reevaluate refuse disposal. Managers must carefully consider the many choices available to determine the type of system that will best suit their campus, either contracting the service or  providing  it with in-house forces.  (1) Waste removal from the building, using trash chutes and a trash room or by using trash carts with appropriate custodial staff to remove refuse from buildings and assess the volume and type of trash. (2) Waste storage, choosing carts (manual or automatic, 55 gallon to 120 gallon), dumpsters (compacting or non-compacting, 2 yard to 12 cubic yard), or roll-offs (15 to 30 cubic yards) with consideration for storage capacity and collection frequency. (3) Disposal destinations include transfer stations, landfills or incinerators, making sure to dispose of the waste properly and in a timely and efficient manner. When choosing storage devices, the benefits and costs must be compared by cost, accessibility, environmental concerns, frequency and difficulty of maintenance and cleaning, impact on regulations, and the potential for on- the-job-injury.

Establishing a Recycling Program

Local or State Requirements. Collection systems for recyclable material should be based on state and local requirements, convenience, and economic return.

Municipality recycling coordinators, the EPA and the environmental compliance department may be consulted.

Administrative Support. Effective recycling programs have administrative support from both business and academic areas. Budgetary support from upper-level administrators can make or break a recycling program.

(1) Policy statements can make recycling mandatory and emphasize waste reduction and recycled product purchases. (3) Program placement  can  integrate recycling into the larger environmental stewardship effort. (4) A recycling coordinator (preferably full-time) can be appointed to develop and manage the program.

(5) A recycling committee (e,g., ad hoc task force, standing recycling committee) can provide feedback, oversight, and continuity. (6) The waste stream and disposal process can be analyzed to understand the campus waste life-cycle (e.g., classify  buildings, examine a few buildings in each class over a period of time, gain insight into how and what waste is generated and sent to disposal). (7) Reviewing custodial operations can identify work tasks, frequency of service (e.g., emptying trash cans and recycling receptacles), and staffing levels of the group most affected by recycling changes.

Other Recycling Efforts. Recycling program design is improved by becoming familiar with other local, regional, and national recycling efforts, focusing on local opportunities. Designing a  program  “from  finish  to start” means basing a collection program  on requirements for how the recyclable materials must be sorted, prepared, and delivered to the recyclable product end market while keeping consistency in mind (e.g., modify and compartmentalize roll-offs to accept sorted recyclables, consider residual liquid when compacting recyclable bottles, implement source separation or comingled recycling).

All recycling programs benefit from pilot program equipment testing, waste stream analysis, and a plan to alert customers of possible changes in the recycling program. An economic analysis is  needed  before applying findings on a broader scale to the entire program. Many administrators want recycling to reduce overall costs, but facilities managers should not overlook costs or inappropriately assign them to another cost center, which risks a reduced recycling scope  in  the future because of a lack of financial support.

Program Implementation

A campus-wide recycling program  is  a  major undertaking. Managers can choose to coincide recycling start-up with the beginning of the school year. For large campuses, it might be necessary to phase in a recycling program by geographic campus regions or by types of recyclables collected.  Either way,  a large-scale educational effort is key, including securing custodian buy-in to the program.

Measuring Program Success

Success is  measured  in  various  ways.  The  most common metric is the quantity of waste recycled as a percentage of total waste (i.e., diversion). Other metrics are measured by surveying buildings to determine the percentage rate of participation or conducting a waste stream analysis for items that are (and are not) being recycled (including measuring for  possible contamination).

Educating the University Community

The importance of education cannot be overstated, especially at the start of a new program. Because of the transient nature of the college campus community, education must be continual and institutionalized.

Education campaign materials can emphasize (1)  an article in a magazine distributed to residence hall  students each academic year; (2) posters on buses; (3) table tents in dining commons; (4) reusable mugs for students; (5) recycling promotions at welcome activities, at special events, and in housing information packets.

Other methods include using campus media (e.g., student newspapers, radio public service announcements), established facilities office contact networks, manager interviews, presentations to and by student groups, information packets for students who choose recycling for a term paper or student project, social media networks, and special event recycling programs to support town-gown efforts.

Contracted Services

Request for Proposal. If the institution decides to use contractors, the request for proposal is a starting point; it considers service frequency, equipment type, collection equipment redundancy, safety history, bonding capacity, access to material recovery and disposal facilities, recyclable market contracts, educational programming, and value-added services.

Evaluation Process. The evaluation process includes a review by purchasing officials to eliminate those proposals that do not meet technical and legal requirements as well as an objective analysis of the service proposed based on a weighted evaluation sheet, narrowing the list of vendors to a select few.

Cost-Benefit Analysis. Cost can be considered as a criterion on the evaluation sheet, or it can be assessed separately after all other criteria are evaluated. Once in- house services are contracted to vendors, reestablishing in-house capabilities is difficult and expensive.

Other Recycling Opportunities

Composting. Composting is used to recycle organic material (e.g., leaves, food waste, even low-grade papers). Composting is gaining popularity as states pass regulations to ban yard waste from landfills; finished compost can be returned to campus as a soil amendment.

Construction and Demolition Debris. Markets for construction and demolition debris (e.g., building materials) are sometimes difficult to find but available, so facilities managers should incorporate recycling of construction and demolition materials into contract language.

Garage Services. Garages generate many types of waste (e.g., tires, automotive batteries, oil) with readily available recycling markets.

Other Recyclables. Nontraditional recyclables (e.g., mixed office paper, white goods, clothing) need to be assessed based on the incremental cost to collect them.

Special Events. Recycling is relevant at the beginning and end of school years, when students are moving and disposing of large volumes of waste. Athletic events, concerts, and festivals can be targeted for recycling, involving students at every opportunity.

Buy Recycled Products. Institutions complete the loop by buying recycled products and identifying recycled- content products that are equivalent in price and quality to virgin products whenever possible, evaluating for price, quality, and user comfort. Systemic barriers (e.g., decentralized purchasing, specifications, price) can obstruct the purchase of recycled goods.

Waste Reduction

Although integrated solid waste management plans have not received nearly the attention that recycling has, waste reduction is a primary component of such a plan.

Purchasing Decisions. A good place  to  start  is changing the products that are purchased (e.g., avoiding excessive and unneeded packaging, using new products or equipment that require less use of the product).

Facilities managers can purchase chemicals in smaller quantities to offset high disposal costs of unused chemicals.

Computers and  Computer  Systems.  Facilities managers can use computer technology more efficiently (e.g., reducing reliance on computer printouts, reformatting reports more concisely). They can replace paper-based systems with Internet systems and use double-sided photocopying.

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