By Ed Brennen
It was a scene that would have made organizing consultant Marie Kondo proud.
On a sunny Wednesday morning in mid-April, a steady stream of cars pulled up on Solomont Way on South Campus. Taking advantage of the university’s free Spring Into Recycling event, faculty, staff and even a few students decluttered their lives by dropping off items that no longer “spark joy,” as Kondo, the best-selling author and TV personality, would say.
During the two-day recycling event, which is offered in the fall and spring semesters by the Office of Sustainability and the Information Security department, 12,394 pounds of electronics, appliances and more were collected – material that might have otherwise ended up in landfills.
It was the biggest haul yet in the two-year history of the event, which has now collected 48,161 pounds of items (more than 24 tons).
“The feedback from the UMass Lowell community has been very positive,” says Environmental and Sustainability Waste Management Coordinator Pamela Beckvagni, who adds that many people at the university now “save the date” on their calendars for the semi-annual event.
Old TVs, computers, monitors, microwaves and batteries were the most frequently recycled items. Student volunteers also collected 92 incandescent light bulbs, 19 pounds of rechargeable batteries and 15 bags of Styrofoam. People also brought confidential documents for secure shredding, enough to fill seven 65-gallon bins.
To ensure that personal information was removed from computers before they were recycled, members of the Information Technology office were on hand to remove hard drives and securely erase their content.
Michael Doherty, a sophomore computer science major from Winchester, managed this spring’s collection through his role as a student recycling coordinator with the Office of Sustainability. He says working with the office has helped him appreciate the scope of the university’s recycling efforts.
“I figured that being a part of this event would allow me to help others become more aware and show them how to help prevent waste,” says Doherty, who recruited 14 student volunteers to help collect and sort the items – first at University Crossing and then on South Campus.
“The students did a great job unloading people’s cars and getting everything sorted,” Beckvagni says.
After the Fall Into Recycling event last semester, when 12,032 pounds of items were collected, student employees in the Office of Sustainability did a cost-savings analysis by itemizing every item collected. Based on the cost of disposal stickers from the city of Lowell, the students found that it would have cost $3,826 to properly dispose of the items.
The disposal cost to the university, meanwhile, was $186. The cost of confidential shredding was an additional $250.
“As a result, the event was nearly cost-neutral to the university, while providing significant benefits to the faculty, staff, students and the environment,” Beckvagni says.
The university’s recycling efforts also include the ubiquitous blue bins found across campus, composting of food waste and move-out donation drives – all of which have helped UMass Lowell achieve STARS Gold status from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System.