PULLMAN, Wash. – Recyclables at Washington State University are collected in 1,600 recycling bins, moved and processed every day.
Recently, Facilities Management has kept a close eye on these materials as WSU participates with 300 other universities in the national Recyclemania benchmarking contest. Numbers are submitted weekly for the 8-week, friendly competition and schools are ranked based on various measurements.
Though Recyclemania ends April 1, Rick Finch, Facilities Services manager, encourages the WSU community to use the campus recycling and compost bins on campus year-round. About 1,000 tons of paper, cardboard and co-mingled materials are recycled each year.
In addition, 11,000 tons of compost and 1,200-1,500 computers are processed annually. A total of about 75 percent of the waste on campus is diverted through recycling and composting efforts, Finch said.
Dining center efforts
WSU Dining Services uses a system of checks and balances to calculate the amount of food needed for each meal to minimize food waste.
Most pre-consumer food waste comes from prepping products and a few leftovers, said assistant director Adam Koerner. The department is working with the Pullman Community Action Center to donate the leftovers to local food banks.
Dining centers recently began recycling bags from fried food products, diverting thousands of bags from the landfill.
“Recycling is second nature in our dining programs,” said Koerner. “Our initiatives are implemented fairly easily because of the support we have across campus. In 2015, Dining Services diverted an estimated 228 tons of recyclables from the landfill.”
Recycling and composting
Large buildings like the CUB and Student Recreation Center manage their own recycling with clearly marked bins for recyclable and compostable materials. Staff in the buildings manage their own recycling, compost and landfill waste individually.
“We’re trying to educate our patrons, and staff, and make these decisions easy and positive choices,” said Nick Prante, University Recreation Facility Services assistant director.
Paper, cardboard and co-mingled materials are compacted into 1,500-pound bales that can be easily stacked and transported to recycling plants.
WSU’s composting facility accepts food scraps, landscaping and construction waste and animal bedding from research facilities. Materials are sorted and placed on aerated pipes that control oxygen flow through the mixture. Combined with carbon, nitrogen and moisture, oxygen creates heat and allows the piles to be fully processed within 24-30 days.
“There’s a bit of a science to it,” Finch said.
Once processed, compost is reused on campus and old to gardening businesses on the Palouse.
WSU Facilities Management also processes surplus items like computers, furniture and other unwanted items. They are assessed for utility and value but not all items are sold; some are broken down and sorted into recyclable materials.
WSU was one of the first universities to recognize the importance of breaking down items like computers to separate hazardous and recyclable materials, Finch said.
“The goal is for everything to go somewhere, and none of it goes in the trash,” he said. “Even if a pallet of materials goes for $2, it’s better than going to the landfill.”
For more information on waste management on the WSU campus, visit http://sustainability.wsu.edu/operations/waste-management. To learn more about Recyclemania, visit http://recyclemaniacs.org.