Solid Waste Management

"Recycling" is a word often used to encompass a wide range of activities. Recycling is one component of activities that make up "solid waste management," planning for and management of the materials and volumes that make up the solid waste stream. These various activities can be summarized as the 5 R’s: recycle, reduce, reuse, rebuy, and rethink:

RECYCLE - Recycling returns materials that would otherwise become waste into resources. Materials that are presently recycled include:

  • Aluminum cans – Staff Senate sponsors the Office/Service Dependent's Scholarship, and the Recyclers Ecology Endowed Scholarships. One fund source for these scholarships is recycling of aluminum cans. Blue barrels and special cardboard boxes are set in buildings around campus. Facilities gathers these cans on an irregular basis, and delivers them to a local recycling center.
  • Cardboard
    • Cardboard makes up the largest volume of material recycled by UNK. Containers have been set at Communications Center, BHS, and Nebraskan as these sites generate significant volumes of cardboard each week. These are emptied weekly by the City of Kearney recycling staff (2).
    • Facilities staff also captures and recycles a significant amount of cardboard during the August residence hall move-in period. This material is first corralled near the residence halls in temporary fencing, and then moved to one of the campus cardboard containers noted above.
  • Non-ferrous metal
    • Changes in piping systems often result in waste copper piping parts. These materials are kept until volumes warrant their being delivered to a local recycling center.
  • Consumables
    • Toner and ink jet cartridges for computer printers can be recycled. Facilities staff collects these empty items from each building, at designated locations (typically near building mail drops), packages them and ships them to various recycling centers.
    • Automotive batteries and used motor oil can be recycled. Facilities staff also stores these for shipment to various recycling centers.
  • Paper
    • Shredded paper accounts for the second-largest volume of UNK’s recycled material. Facilities staff removes approximately a van-load of shredded paper weekly from Warner Hall, and bi-weekly from MSAB. This material is delivered to City of Kearney recycling center.
  • Other materials -- see below concerning planning for recycling of other materials, including paper and plastic.
    • Mercury containing lamps
    • Scrap metal
    • Old computers and other electronics
    • Nicad Batteries

REDUCE - Source Reduction is any change in materials or products (including packaging) to reduce their amount or toxicity before they become municipal solid waste. Source reduction actually prevents the generation of waste in the first place, and is the most preferable method of waste management.

  • Electronic distribution of Flash Points is an example of reducing paper use. Leaving grass clippings on site is an example of reducing landscaping waste (and reducing labor!);
  • Universal Waste
    • Part of the waste stream is knows as "universal waste." This type of waste is not immediately hazardous, but if handled poorly over time will add to contamination of soil and water.
    • Some components of this waste stream include older style (silver end) fluorescent lamps, dry cell batteries, and failed rechargeable batteries. These materials are processed in a similar manner to toner cartridges, that is, Facilities staff collects these empty items from designated locations, and packages them for recycling.

REUSE – Purchasing materials at a garage sale or auction are examples of reusing materials. When possible, reusing is preferable to recycling because the item does not need to be reprocessed before it can be used again, and reduces material sent to the landfill. In addition, by eliminating material processing we conserve natural resources.

  • Internal reuse
    • Many campus materials (furniture, paper, fax machines, toner cartridges) are reused internally by informal sharing of information, such as emails, that alert other departments about surplus furniture or equipment.
    • IT is working with surplus computing equipment to provide an orderly distribution of hand-me-down computers, with the goal of upgrading departmental equipment. IT has worked with manufacturers to take back older equipment for reprocessing, to reduce electronic materials sent to landfill;
    • Facilities works with surplus chemical supplies providing for their orderly redistribution, with the goal of reducing departmental costs, and reducing disposal of materials;
  • External reuse
    • When departments designate equipment as surplus, information is shared with a wide group of agencies, including local school districts.
    • Auctions
      • Where there is no apparent internal interest in surplus equipment, it is made available for auction. The most recent example of this effort was the 3/2006 surplus auction, which included Case and Ludden materials;
      • When material is not sold at auction, it is taken to the landfill. However, no material from the 3/2006 auction was taken to the landfill;
      • Trailers have been purchased to store surplus materials, including electronics and universal waste. This helps in keeping campus spaces, especially tornado shelters, cleared for their intended use.
    • Cast-off materials -- Facilities and Residence and Greek Life are work with Goodwill and Salvation Army to gather cast-off materials during spring move-out. The largest volume of material is expected to be furniture, but could include clothing and non-perishable food. The intention of this effort is to assist local charities with collections, and reduce materials sent to the landfill.
  • Shopping at State Surplus Property is another way to practice reusing office supplies. Contact the State Surplus office for more details (1).

REBUY - Buying recycled content products and materials help to ‘Close the Loop", creating a demand for materials recovered from recycling efforts. By buying recycled you help to divert reusable materials away from landfill, reducing waste disposal costs and conserving resources.

RETHINK - Think Again! Next time you go to throw something in your garbage can take a minute and think about other possibilities. Can it be reused either by you or someone else? Can it be recycled?

  • Ludden and Case demolition resulted in 13,000 tons of debris, of which only about 150 was sent to the landfill. The remaining materials were recycled in various forms: Ferrous and non-ferrous metals were recycled; concrete was ground into materials suitable for road beds; bricks were ground into material suitable for fill in parking lots;
  • Residence and Greek Life, Nebraskan, and Facilities are working to develop processes that will increase the collected volumes of recyclable materials, especially plastic bottles and white paper. In addition to these efforts, individuals currently conduct multiple recycling projects throughout campus.

It is not Facilities intention to provide separation services for the campus. It is Facilities goal to put in place processes that make it simple for the campus to minimize the volumes, and long term hazards, of our solid waste stream.