Recycling efforts at UMass Lowell have taken off, with the University recycling more than half of the solid waste generated on campus last year.
The University recycled 54.5 percent of its solid waste in fiscal year 2011, up 16.7 percent over the previous year. The increase comes as the University works on numerous fronts to build a more sustainable, energy-efficient campus.
“We achieve direct savings when we reduce our solid waste costs,” says Richard Lemoine, director of environmental and emergency management for the University. “We are also setting an example by creating a greener, cleaner environment.”
The University launched its first recycling program in the early 1990s when 25 blue bins were placed around campus to collect white paper. Over time, more items, including cardboard, bottles and cans, electronics, white goods and scrap metal were added to the list and the amount of waste recycled gradually climbed to 13 percent of the total by 2007.
Recycling efforts took off in 2008, with the introduction of the Zero-Sort Program, an initiative that made all employees and students responsible for disposing of their own waste. Under the program, individuals separate trash from recyclables and then empty the waste into the appropriate receptacles, placed at central locations throughout campus. The recyclables – bottles, cans, paper, plastic, paper and cardboard − all go into the same bin, eliminating the need to sort the different materials into separate bins.
“In 2008 there was a culture change. Every person became responsible for his or her own environmental footprint,” says Lemoine. “The Zero-Sort Program made it easy.”
Last year, the University generated a total of 2,354 tons of waste and recycled 1,282 tons, which included everything from paper and cardboard to computers, electronics, batteries, metals, light bulbs and plastic.
A campus-wide campaign to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions has been yielding positive results. Campus sustainability initiatives have included everything from installing energy-efficient lighting, introducing building automation software, installing solar panels on the rooftops of four buildings, expanding mass transit and ride share options and converting from oil to natural gas for heating.
“The University recognizes the importance of engaging all members of the community in being responsible for reducing our carbon footprint,” says Lemoine. “It’s incumbent on us to use sustainable practices that will improve our environment and the overall quality of life for future generations.”