The hub of rubbish

Photo: Judi Dunn, right, WSU’s recycling/sustainablity coordinator, worked with Aaron Mulim, left, and Matt Stampalia, resident advisers at Waller residence hall, to organize a dumpster dive for sustainability in September.  (Photo by Shelly Hanks, WSU Photo Services)

Reusing, recycling and composting aren’t just environmentally sensitive things to do, they make sense financially as well.

During 2005-2006, John Glass, director of WSU Materials and Resources Management (MRM), estimates that his department was able to save more than $1.3 million by diverting materials to surplus, recycling or compost that might otherwise have gone to the landfill. To figure out how much was saved, Glass and his colleagues have developed a formula that compares the cost of dumping waste at the landfill (an average of about $163.50 per ton) against the cost of disposing of the materials in a more sustainable way.

Some of that “cost avoidance” is a result of traditional recycling efforts — paper, glass, aluminum and plastic. But it also includes surplus sales that have branched out to e-Bay for specialty items, more aggressive composting practices and simply looking at everything with an eye toward sustainability.

Some examples: more than 385,000 pounds of material was recycled from five recently completed projects; buildings are being deconstructed instead of demolished; and concrete rubble from the CUB renovation is being stored on campus so it can be used in future projects.

The composting facility, which was the first large-scale organic waste recycling program on a university campus in the United States, is transitioning to different technologies that will allow even more organic material to be safely and efficiently composted.

“WSU Composting is moving away from being strictly an operational unit and is working more with research and education,” Glass said.

All of the units responsible for managing waste disposal were combined into MRM in 2001, resulting in an integrated waste-management organization that has provided significant benefits to WSU. 

“We started looking at things from a systems approach, a more holistic approach” Glass said.

Within his department, staff is always looking for ways to build sustainable policies, practices and principles into the fabric of WSU.