America Recycles Day 2018: UNT Recycles EVERY day!
To help improve the national recycling rate the America Recycles Day started in 1997 as a nationally-recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States. The national recycling rate has increased over the past 30 years, but it is currently at only 34 percent and has been "stuck" there for several years, according to the Keep America Beautiful organization.
Every year on or around Nov. 15, America Recycles Day is scheduled to educate neighbors, friends and colleagues through thousands of events and activities. Founded in 1953, Keep America Beautiful works to end littering, improve recycling and beautify community environments much like the Don't Mess With Texas campaign that began in 1985 as a Texas Department of Transportation project. In addition to the DMWT program, the State of Texas also gets credit for inspiring ARD because the Texas Recycles Day that began in 1994 as the brainchild of two employees at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was proposed and adopted by the National Recycling Coalition’s Congress.
The good works the nation focuses on in mid-November are what UNT works on all year to keep the campus clean, beautiful and doing its part to reduce, reuse and recycle. The 2017 America Recycles Day campaign success can be measured in the following statistics: 73,800 people pledged to recycle, and 1,500,000 people attended ARD events across the country.
UNT recycles together and a lot
At UNT, it takes several departments working together to properly dispose of trash, recyclables, hazardous materials, data-processing equipment and other e-related waste, such as batteries. Information technology, facilities, dining services, risk management and property management staff often are involved. While Facilities Services may have the bulk of the recycling, they do not recycle computers. Not because computers and other data-processing equipment are not recycled—they are, but the disposition of data-processing equipment is prescribed by Texas Government Code and it goes through a particular process for disposition carried out by staff working in information technology and the UNT Surplus Warehouse.
For the UNT team members taking care of the trash, stuff and junk most of us never consider beyond the nearest trash can, America Recycles Day is a big day for their efforts to shine.
Facilities Services: paper, cardboard, metal, plastic and toner cartridges
With a crew of six, Doug Turnage, UNT recycling coordinator, collects and recycles about 200 tons of paper and 110 tons of cardboard a year. Chad Freeman takes the south paper route, Ken Horn goes north. Matt Jenkins picks up the plastic and Ricky Fields runs the cardboard route. Thor Mayfield picks up everything headed for the landfill and Kevin Pulido, student assistant and business marketing major, does a little bit of it all depending on who needs help. And they do this for 173 buildings to keep UNT as Texas’ greenest college campus, according to ecollegefinder.com.
"UNT has been recycling more than 20 years. The program really started to grow in 2004, when we started including plastic, metal, shredded documents and toner cartridges," Turnage said. "The paper and cardboard are picked up by Pratt Recycling three times a week and turns the paper and cardboard into new cardboard." UNT's recycling and energy efficient practices have helped to reduce its carbon footprint by a half-billion pounds, or 15,500 acres of forest.
UNT recycles 350 tons of paper and cardboard, 4,800 pounds of cans and 600,000 plastic bottles annually!
Remember: Nothing that touched food can be recycled; empty your drink containers
We often need to teach recycling to new students and the most important rule is that anything touched by food cannot be recycled, Turnage said. The oils in food make the paper or cardboard unrecyclable, so it must go into the landfill. Drink containers are a different matter though. If you empty your drink container before putting them into the recycling bin, it would help a lot and cut down on weight and potential spills.
A good practice for pizza boxes in residence halls and at office luncheons
Often the lid will be spotless while the bottom has the grease stains. Rip the lid off and recycle it then trash only the greasy bottom half of the box. Likewise, sometimes the bottom has only one or two areas of grease and those areas can be torn off so the rest of the box to be recycled. A whole pizza box doesn't have to go to the landfill just because one or two areas have grease stains.
Dining Services: Another department uniquely contributing to recycling
Growing your own produce or making food in-house, such as pasta, really cuts down on packaging—eliminating a lot of plastic bagging, wrapping and waste. UNT dining services staff recycle all cardboard and waste paper in all retail and resident dining locations, said Andrew Klipsch, chef and general manager of Bruce Cafeteria. A UNT grad in hospitality, sociology and management, Klipsch said he hopes to begin in a master's program next semester. Getting ahead of the need to recycle, Klipsch said that Dining Services uses plates, flatware and drinkware that can be washed. We use paper plates and cups only when absolutely necessary, such as when a dishwasher is down. The department also maintains an active sustainability program.
Recycle bins located near all of their dining facilities encourage guests to recycle glass, plastic and aluminum containers and all retail and resident dining halls use recycled paper napkins made from chemical-free post-consumer recycled paper.
Surplus Property Management: Tracking data-processing equipment and so much more
As a department of UNT Property Management, the Surplus Warehouse is the location for the end-stage disposition of inventoried university property. Lucas Imel, ('10, B.S.), Surplus Warehouse lead, oversees the operation that stretches a quarter of a mile from one end to the other. Working with Gary Heldman, warehouse clerk, Imel is on his feet most of the day, he said.
"I usually log about 10,000 to 13,000 steps a day here in the warehouse," Imel said. Organizing and supervising receiving and shipping activities, loading and unloading of goods and materials requires comfortable shoes, no doubt. The use of a large number of electronics at UNT involves not only proper end-of-life disposition of obsolete equipment but also tracking each of those items and working to keep it out of the landfill. We also recycle around 400,000 pounds a year of other various items, he said.
So how do you dispose of a computer? You will find the information in Title 10, Subtitle D, Chapter 2175, Sec. 2175.905. Yes, there is more to disposing of a computer than sending it to the landfill.
Further reading of the code, you will find under Section 2175.184 that the disposition of a state agency's surplus equipment or data processing equipment deemed as salvage has to be transferred to another department within 10 days, or the state agency shall transfer the equipment to:
(1) a school district or open-enrollment charter school in this state under Subchapter C, Chapter 32, Education Code;
(2) an assistance organization specified by the school district; or
(3) the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
If you are wondering about computer data safety, Imel has a 7,000-pound hard-drive shredder. View the video on this page of a generic shredder in action. All of the elements will be physically dismantled and destroyed, so if there is any data left on a computer, it will be destroyed through the shredding process. Electronics contain valuable precious metals such as gold, silver, platinum, palladium, copper, tin, and zinc that can be recovered and used to make jewelry, plating, new electronics, or automotive parts, Imel says. Plastic components can become parts of new electronic devices or even turned into another plastic product like garden furniture.
"My goal is to keep stuff out of the landfill," Imel says. Opening the warehouse for other UNT departments to participate in a swap from one department to another keeps him on his feet too. Every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to noon, items may be identified by UNT employees for campus use. Imel also manages the sales every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. that are open to the public.
Risk Management: Batteries and other hazardous waste
Other e-related waste such as batteries are under the management of UNT Risk Management Services Waste Management. Three types of batteries power the laptops you find in service today, nickel cadmium (NiCad), nickel metal hydride (NiMH), and lithium ion (Li-ion), with Li-ion being the most common in newer laptops. Each battery type has a different chemistry for generating a charge and, therefore, different characteristics, but at UNT these items go through the Risk Management office for proper disposal.
"Alkaline batteries can be thrown in the regular trash, but many departments and offices often ask for them to be picked up, so we don’t turn them down and we don’t throw them in the trash. We send them off for recycling or proper disposal," said Karla Henson, environmental program manager, UNT Risk Management Services.
The hazardous materials pick-up-request form on the Risk Management website is the best way to ensure old batteries or any waste for that matter is picked up by Risk Management. As for designating a Satellite Accumulation Area, batteries are handled differently and don’t require one. However, the following information is a general guideline for the way most batteries are handled across campus.
- Lead-acid batteries are exempt from hazardous waste regulations without managing them as a universal waste if they are sent to a recycler; however, Risk Management will pick them up and send them off with our universal waste shipments.
- Universal waste batteries include rechargeable batteries such as Ni-Cad, lithium, and mercury batteries.
- Alkaline batteries or non-rechargeable batteries can also be accumulated as Universal Waste, but can be recycled without being considered Universal Waste. As a side note, Risk Management takes them and ship them off as Universal Waste.
- Lithium batteries should be placed in separate containers and electrical tape or other non-conductive material wrapped around the electrodes to ensure they don’t come into contact with other conductive surfaces as they can easily catch fire.
- Batteries (small ones) should be placed in a plastic container and clearly labeled as Universal Waste or Used Batteries. Since batteries tend to leak corrosive substances it’s always best to containerize them in some type of plastic container.
- If you want to designate an area for Universal Waste Batteries, that is up to the department/office, but it’s not required. It is, however, good practice.
Easy things you can do
- Wash out your plastics before recycling
- Put cream in before you add your coffee, the coffee stream will mix it – no need for a stirrer
- Be prepared – bring your own shopping bag when shopping
- Get a reusable water bottle
- For more information, check the Keep America Beautiful Recycling website.