Chapter 6: Solid Waste

Introduction:

As the human population increases exponentially so does the amount of solid waste. With landfill space dwindling, it is vital that the United States initiate steps to reduce the amount of municipal, industrial, and construction waste deposited into landfills each year. For example, the United States’ annual production of solid waste is now roughly twice as much as it was in 1970. This represents an annual production of 200 million metric tons of municipal solid waste. Americans are the undisputed world leaders in total annual solid waste production, with an average of 1,600 pounds of solid waste produced per person per year. These numbers could be reduced if sustainable solid waste management is incorporated into Americans’ daily lives. Sustainable solid waste management can be summarized by the “three R’s”: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Incorporating these activities into the daily lives of Americans would reduce consumption and disposal of goods, minimize the waste stream and lead to a more sustainable society (Miller, 2002).

Reducing our consumption rate is the most important of the “three R’s” because the consumption rate determines the production rate. Nevertheless, recycling decreases our demand on virgin materials, and it is the most frequently used solid waste conservation tactic in America. Recycling not only saves landfill space, it also saves energy, reduces air pollution, and lowers water pollution all problems associated with making products out of virgin materials. The recycling rate in the United States in the year 2000 was around 30%. That is more than six times the rate in 1970, showing that recycling has become an accepted method of waste reduction in American society.

Arkansas is also increasing its recycling rate as landfills fill up within the state. In 1990 the state had 100 landfills, while that number has now dwindled to just 24. The loss of landfill availability has influenced many towns in the state to initiate recycling programs to prolong the natural life of the remaining landfills. It is estimated that 35-40% of all solid waste collected in the state is recycled. Conway has a successful recycling program due many years of work on the part of the city sanitation department. In 1995, a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) was purchased to run a small-scale recycling program, consisting of 6 employees and one truck. The MRF allowed the city to collect co-mingled recyclables, making it easy for the community to recycle such household materials as plastic bottles, cans, cardboard and paper. Conway also started a pilot curbside recycling program in 1995 that led to the steady growth of the program because of its convenience. In 2003, the program had grown to 28 employees and several collection trucks. The curbside program included roughly 95% of Conway. Curbside has made it especially easy for individuals to recycle and has led to a successful program. In 2003 Conway recycled 6 million pounds of material. This is up from the 2002 total of 5.1 million pounds (D. Plopper, Personal Communication, 01/10/04). Conway’s commingling program has also made it possible for the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) to initiate a comprehensive, campus-wide recycling program.

Responsible Parties:

  • Physical Plant, Grounds Department
  • Housekeeping, Housing Department

Audit

Solid Waste at UCA

Throughout the 2003 fiscal year, the University of Central Arkansas dumped 4,730 cubic yards of solid waste into the Faulkner County Landfill. This cost the university $40,770 or roughly $3,400 a month. These numbers are down from the previous year’s 5, 352 cubic yards of solid waste sent to landfills at a cost of $46,132 (J. Beatty, Personal Communication, 02/14/03).

This waste was collected from campus buildings by the university’s very accommodating waste management team, which works hard to keep the campus clean. Trash is picked up daily from all residential halls, and from Education and General (E&G) buildings on campus. The trash is picked up twice a day in locations considered “high profile.” High profile locations include the E&G buildings Old Main, McCastlain, Toreyson Library, Meadors Hall, and New, Minton, Conway, and Baridon residence halls. On average 180 white bags of trash are picked up every day campus wide, resulting in 900 per week, and 3,600 per month, for a grand total of 43,200 bags annually. This hefty quantity of waste is hauled by BFI Waste Services of Little Rock to the Faulkner County Landfill, for $8.40 per cubic yard (J.Beatty, Personal Communication, 02/14/03).

Hazardous waste, or waste that is objectionable for a sanitary landfill such as Conway’s, is picked up by a variety of specialized agencies. For example medical waste collected in Sharps containers is taken very seriously by the Physical Plant. A control form that includes the date of disposal, the disposal department on campus, and the name of the individual who collected the Sharps container monitors each Sharps container. The Sharps containers are picked up by Med Waste Disposal Service #CL of Arkadelphia, Arkansas, once they are properly sealed, labeled, and affixed with a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). A few different companies pick up other hazardous materials such as crushed fluorescent bulbs, oil-based paint, batteries, and electric ballast. The two main companies the university hires include Perma-Fix Environmental Service Inc. of Memphis, Tennessee, and Environmental Enterprises Inc. of Cincinnati, Ohio. Used oil from the motor pool, as well as the sludge from the wash-bays that may contain contaminated particulates, is picked up by Safety-kleen of Tucker, Georgia (T. Starnes, Personal Communication, 12/17/03). The physical plant usually disposes of hazardous waste only once or twice a year. Due to high market fluctuation between disposal times, the carriers’ fees vary.

Waste Composition Study

A waste composition study was conducted by the auditors and student volunteers to determine the percentage of recyclable material currently being disposed of on the university campus. With the help of Terry Starnes, the auditors selected ten buildings, five residence halls and five E&G buildings for the study, based on the average number of trash bags produced monthly by each building. These buildings included those with and without recycling programs in place. One hundred bags were collected for the analysis. The grounds crew collected two bags of trash randomly from each of the selected buildings for five consecutive days, to obtain the desired 100 bags. The bags were collected in a circular bin 20 feet in diameter composed of chicken wire and metal posts during the week preceding March 1, 2003.

The waste composition study included a set of guidelines outlined by the auditors to minimize risk to the volunteers (see Appendix G-1 for guidelines.) Safety precautions included the use of rubber gloves and surgical masks, and the avoidance of bathroom trash. The volunteers were also educated as to what was currently recyclable in Conway, and comprehensive lists were posted (see Appendix G-2 for list).

Each volunteer selected a bag of trash, weighed it, and then separated out trash from recyclables. The trash was discarded, while recyclables were re-bagged and re-weighed. The recyclables were placed in blue bags for a visual representation in comparison to white trash bags. The bags were then placed in separate piles and photographed (see Appendix G-3 for additional photos).

The results of the waste composition study can be seen in Table 6.1 and Figure 6.1 on the following page. The residential buildings demonstrated a lower percentage of discarded recyclables in comparison to the E&G buildings. There are certain margins of error to be considered; it is very possible that the residential percentages are just as high, if not higher, than those of the E&G buildings, but due to weighted error. The results did not show this. Many of the glass and plastic bottles were filled with liquid, which increased the trash weights. However, these bottles had to be drained before they could be recycled, and glass, which is not recycled in Conway, was not included into the commingled recyclable bag weights. After draining, the plastic bottles and discarding the glass bottles the recyclable weights were much lower then the original trash weights. This led to vary conservative percent recyclables present in the University trash that was analyzed (See Table 6.1). An alternative method for quantification is suggested for future dissections, to avoid such discrepancies.

Table 6.1: Buildings Audited in Waste Composition Study

Building

Percent Recyclables in Trash

Carmichael Hall

24.7

Conway Hall

27.2

Arkansas

36.7

Baridon

30.6

Hughes

29.9

Arkansas Hall

36.7

Lewis Science

35.5

Farris Center

36.8

McAlister

34.8

Irby

28.8

Old Main

52.7

Residential Total Percentage

29.82

E&G Total Percentage

37.96

Figure 6.1

Figure 6.1: The UCA campus recycling bin.


The waste composition study’s main purposes were to create a basis by which changes in the recycling habits of campus could be measured from year to year and to create a visually startling demonstration to produced an increased awareness for faculty, staff, and students to the percentage of recyclables they discard as waste. There seems to be apathy on campus toward recycling, most likely due to a lack of advertising, education, and convenient locations to recycle (as can be seen in the Student Awareness Section for Solid Waste).

 

Campus Recycling

The university currently has a recycling program that meets the state requirements of the Arkansas code Title 8 (See Appendix E-5). This program includes the recycling of white office paper and corrugated cardboard collected from E&G buildings on campus. The Physical Plant collects white paper in designated blue bags, which is then shredded and consolidated by baling. Corrugated cardboard is collected in wire carts behind the Cafeteria and the Student Center, due to the surplus of cardboard Dining Services and the University Book Store discards. After collection, the cardboard is baled and stored onsite until about 15 bales have accumulated. Balcones Recycling Service of Little Rock then collects the bales to be recycled. Due to the fluctuating recycling market, the revenue generated by recyclables varies from one pickup to the next. The revenue, unfortunately, does not go back into the recycling program but into the Physical Plant’s general operating fund. However, the most important aspect of this program is that these efforts saved in 2003, 2,831cubic feet of landfill space and numerous resources including 541 trees, 222,670 gallons of water, and 12,088 gallons of oil (Arkansas Office of State Purchasing).

Recycling Pilot Program

In 2001 a green “City of Conway” recycling bin was placed on campus near the Physical Plant. The bin was established for use by faculty, staff and students at their leisure. The Conway City Sanitation department empties this bin free of charge.

However, much more can be done on campus. The University Physical Plant is presently working with the Environmental Alliance, the student environmental group on campus, and the University department of housing to install an extensive recycling program. Prior to the pilot program, no recycling was taking place in the residential halls, even though the halls collectively produce the bulk of campus trash.

In the summer of 2001, Environmental Alliance volunteers placed three blue recycling bins in each of the 12 residential halls. The student organization gathered student volunteers to transport recyclables from residential halls and deliver them to the commingled green bin near the Physical Plant for a few months. In the fall of 2002, the UCA Physical Plant agreed to support this more extensive program by picking up the recycling from the residence halls. In the spring of 2003, the Physical Plant, Housing, and Environmental Alliance began looking at recycling on campus from a more cohesive point of view, working collectively to meet goals for expanding the university’s recycling program beyond the residence halls. In order to extend the program to all of the E&G buildings, an intermediate step was taken and referred to as the “pilot” program. The pilot program was directed and monitored by the Physical Plant. An agreement was reached that the green bags used in the residence halls would be designated for commingled recyclables campus wide. Recycling bins and green bags were installed in four buildings to investigate the need for a campus-wide program. The program was supported in each of the four buildings, showing a need for a campus wide initiative. A campus-wide recycling program was established in September of 2003. Table 6.2 gives a more concise outline of campus bag designated composition.

Table 6.2: Campus Bag Color Designation.

Table 6.2

The campus-wide program has many different departments involved in varying roles. The Physical Plant’s housekeeping department is currently in charge of the disposal of recyclables in the E&G buildings. Then the Physical Plant waste management crew collects and deposits the recyclables in the green campus bin. The Physical Plant has also made steps toward educating campus constituencies, by making informative signs and stickers to inform the campus of the new program.

The Housing department is currently responsible for recycling in the residence halls. The janitorial staff for each residence hall empties the recycling bins. The housing department also took the initiative to make educational posters and pamphlets over the summer of 2003.

The Environmental Alliance is working with housing to install recycling coordinators to monitor contamination and promote education in each residence hall. The role of the coordinators would be to inform students of what is recyclable on campus, answer questions, and monitor the success of the program in their halls. If Environmental Alliance is successful at convincing each hall council to amend its constitution, then the recycling coordinator will be an annually elected position in each hall. The position will be a vital piece in the sustainability of the new campus program. Collectively, those involved to date have made the campus-wide initiative a growing success, as can be seen in Table 6.3.

Table 6.3: Total Number of Recycling Bags Collected from February 2002-February 2003.

Building

Green
Bags

Blue
Bags

 

Building

Green
Bags

Blue
Bags

Laney

12

17

Child Study

0

6

Meadors

36

127

Mashburn

12

33

Old Main

42

423

UCAPD/State

1

10

McAlister

98

138

Minton

57

5

Irby

107

257

Snow Fine Arts

14

5

Library

14

153

Arkansas Hall

1

0

Burdick (BBA)

0

3

Conway

1

0

Speech Path

8

20

Short & Denney

52

5

TRI-PLEX

0

18

Bernard

59

37

Farris

7

5

McCastlain

7

326

Lewis Science

23

47

Wingo

15

4

Estes Stadium

0

5

Carmichael

1

27

Hughes

8

0

PT Building

12

31

New Hall

3

0

Baridon

79

14

Reynolds

3

2

President’s House

0

0

Thompson

2

0

 

Math Tech

0

0

Other Forms of Waste Reduction

The university grounds department has taken steps toward the reuse of items by inviting the Salvation Army to bring a truck to campus to collect unwanted items during the times students move out of campus residence halls. The Salvation Army truck is usually stationed in the courtyard in front of Snow Fine Arts and collects rugs, chairs, microwaves and other large items that are usually discarded. The Student Government Association has currently taken charge of organizing the invitation to the Salvation Army to come on to campus.

Steps Towards Environmental Conservation

Table 6.4: Efforts UCA has made toward solid waste sustainability.

What UCA Has Done

Why It’s Environmentally Responsible

Pilot Program

Increases recycling opportunities on campus making recycling available campus wide.

White Paper/Cardboard Recycling

Promotes the recycling of UCA’s most disposed-of items, and makes it easy to due so.

Educational signs

Advocates recycling on campus.

University Case Studies

University of Arkansas at Fayetteville

www.uark.edu

The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville is an example of an in-state institution that has a very successful recycling program. Initiated in 1991 as part of the custodial department, “Razorback Recycling” is now housed in its own department with a staff of eight individuals and a recycling center. Razorback Recycling is responsible for the collection, processing, storage and marketing of all recyclable materials from the university. The program uses one large box-truck, several packer trucks, and off-road campus vehicles to provide recycling services for E&G facilities and delivery to the recycling center. A “for-hire” project has been incorporated that allows campus auxiliaries, student living groups, and recognized university organizations the ability to purchase recycling pick-up services. The program has collected over 2,800 tons of material to date. Recycling is expected to continue growing incrementally into the future.

University of Illinois

The University of Illinois has a hired recycling coordinator, Tim Hoss, who organizes and documents all recycling practices on campus. Over the last five years since his hire, the university increased its amount of recyclables from 1,039 tons to 4,593 tons a year. The program consists of orientation programs for incoming freshmen, monthly janitor meetings, and integration of recycling into student organizations such as fraternities. It is also common for professors to integrate recycling education into their curricula.

University of Colorado at Boulder

The undisputed best campus recycling program in the country is at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The program was initiated in the late 1970s and has only gotten stronger over the years. The program is a partnership among the university student union, a recycling services director, students, and community-service volunteers. An amazing 60 percent of the students and staff at the university regularly participate in the program. In addition to collection, students prepare manuals, present public presentations, write letters to the school paper, and prepare advertisements. The students are motivated to work with the program through paid work-study and community-service requirements.

In 1989, UCB collected 625 tons of recyclables, as well as yard waste, 300 gallons of motor oil, 25 boxes of used textbooks, and 40 cubic yards of clothing, books and appliances. The program also advocates double-sided copying, reusable mugs, washable dishes, and the use of Email for turning in student assignments. The university has diverted a remarkable 22-25% of its total waste stream. The program has been so successful because of an extensive public education program that includes press releases, public service announcements, newspaper articles, and freshman orientation programs.

Recommendations and Suggestions

Administration
  • Create a University committee on recycling.
  • Approve the hiring of a university waste reduction/recycling coordinator.
  • Adopt waste reduction as a goal in the University mission statement.
  • Identify an existing office or create a new one to develop, track and publicize waste reduction programs.
Staff
  • Provide labeled disposal bins for recyclables in convenient visible locations.
  • Create employment opportunities for students to participate in waste reduction and recycling efforts.
  • Make sure signs are posted above every bin on campus.
  • Make sure bag colors are cohesive in all residence halls and E&G buildings.
Faculty
  • Print course materials on double-sided paper.
  • Give and accept assignments on Email or on re-used paper.
  • Encourage others to learn about the recycling efforts on campus.
  • Reduce the amount in the waste stream by reusing items one or more times.
  • Incorporate the study of waste reduction into teaching and research.
Students
  • Educate first-year students about the campus recycling programs.
  • Conduct a waste audit once a year.
  • Promote the use of reusable drink mugs.
  • Pack a lunch instead of eating fast food in the Student Center in Styrofoam or other throw-away containers.
  • Create waste reduction competitions among dormitories, Greeks, clubs, and academic departments.
  • Organize an adopt-a-building program in which campus groups can adopt a section of campus to ensure waste is being reduced, reused, or recycled.

Grade Assigned: B +


References

  • Chiras, D. Reganold, J. Owen, O. (2002). Natural Resource Conservation Eighth Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

  • Miller, T. (2002). Living in the Environment Twelfth Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning.

  • Mount Allison University Audit - 1998