As new buildings sprout up across campus and enrollment climbs, it seems inevitable that the university would see an increase in the amount of trash it produces.
But thanks to energized efforts in recycling, composting and food donations, the opposite has proven true: Since 2008, solid waste has plummeted by 46 percent while single-stream, or unsorted, recycling has soared by more than 200 percent.
Those impressive figures were two key reasons why UMass Lowell recently received MassRecycle’s 2015 University Recycling Award at the non-profit organization’s 20th annual conference.
“This award is a testament to the work that the students, teachers and administrators are doing at UMass Lowell,” said MassRecycle President Jefferson R. Smith. “Sustainability is something that we all like to talk about, but UMass Lowell has demonstrated its commitment to do the difficult work to make reuse and recycling a reality for their community.”
This marked the first time the university applied for the award, a two-step process that included an evaluation by the MassRecycle Board of Directors followed by an online vote of sustainability professionals and the public. The university topped Holy Cross and Lesley University to win the “Institution/University” category.
“It was truly incredible to see the outpouring of support from the UMass Lowell community in the voting,” said Sustainability Program Developer Tyler Arrigo, who accepted the award on behalf of the university.
“This acknowledgment is clearly another thumbs up by peer agencies that UMass Lowell is truly a leader in sustainability program development,” added Richard Lemoine, director of environmental and emergency management and co-chair of the Committee for Sustainability.
In addition to the university’s recycling efforts, Arrigo highlighted several other major sustainability milestones in the award application:
- The food waste diversion program, started in the fall of 2013, has generated nearly 320,000 pounds of composting, a portion of which has been used on campus grounds and in the university’s community garden.
- The food donation program, kicked off in 2014, has resulted in 5,680 pounds of prepared dining hall food going to those in need.
- Through the campus collection and donation programs, which began with spring move-out in 2014, more than 3,800 pounds of clothes, shoes, bedding and other household items have been diverted to local charitable organizations.
- An expanded small electronics and battery recycling program has been implemented across campus.
- The Office of Sustainability opened in 2015 to centralize efforts and increase on-campus partnerships.
“The opening of the Office of Sustainability represents the culmination of numerous cultural changes and aggressive efforts that have occurred over recent years at the university,” Arrigo said.
Founded in 1990, MassRecycle has awarded individuals, municipalities, businesses, institutions and nonprofits from across the state for their efforts in reducing, reusing and recycling. More than 30 individuals and groups competed across six categories for this year’s awards.