Recycling enthusiasts get tips from campus coordinators
Is it OK to put white paper with colored ink into the white paper recycling bins? What kinds of plastics can be recycled on campus? Can anyone get a battery-recycling bin in the office? The audience at a Dec. 3 Staff Assembly Learn-at-Lunch session on the university's recycling program peppered campus experts with such queries. (For the record, the answers are yes, 1-9, and of course in that order.)
By Alison Hewitt
Originally published in UCLA Today
Is it OK to put white paper with colored ink into the white paper recycling bins? What kinds of plastics can be recycled on campus? Can anyone get a battery-recycling bin in the office?
The audience at a Dec. 3 Staff Assembly Learn-at-Lunch session on the university's recycling program peppered campus experts with such queries. (For the record, the answers are yes, 1-9, and of course in that order.)
It's clear that supporters of the go-green movement already know enough of the basics to make a difference. UCLA is likely to surpass its goal to divert 50 percent of its waste away from landfills by the end of this year. In fact, recycling coordinator Chris Gallego from Facilities Management expects the campus to reach at least 60 percent diversion. The recent demolition of the old police station helped contribute to this when the debris was given to contractors who recycled the steel and crushed the concrete for reuse in paving roads.
In other programs, sterile plastics from the medical center are regularly recycled, and a new food composting program in student cafeterias has kept 17 tons of food out of the garbage in the past few months, Gallego said. A burgeoning mixed-paper recycling program has also taken off.
But here are some answers to questions brought up by staffers at the session that might help you:
Q: Why can't we recycle mixed paper in the office?
A: More than a dozen buildings already have desk-side mixed-paper recycling bins, but staff isn't available to empty the bins for all buildings yet, Gallego said. If you are willing to empty your desk-side bin into a larger recycling receptacle down the hall or in a supply room, contact Gallego at (310) 825-3971 or email@example.com and he'll deliver the bins and schedule pick-ups.
Q. Why is white paper separated from colored paper, newspaper, catalogs and books?
A. "White paper is a better commodity," Gallego explained. "We sell it. But if the white paper is contaminated just a little bit by the wrong colored paper, then I have to throw it into the mixed paper."
Q. Where should white paper printed with color ink go?
A. The white paper bin.
Q. If UCLA recyclables like white paper are being sold, where does the money go?
A. "That pays for me and my staff," Gallego said. "It's basically a self-funding program."
Q. Can I start an office compost heap?
A. Not yet, Gallego said. Although food waste and other items from student dining halls is composted (composting is also available for events – contact firstname.lastname@example.org), it hasn't yet been expanded to campus eateries or offices because there's no campuswide system to collect the compost, Gallego explained. However, Gallego and Sustainability Coordinator Nurit Katz are both looking into expanding the food composting on campus, and Katz planned to meet this month with ASUCLA to discuss offering compost options in eateries at Ackerman and LuValle.
Q. Is it still recyclable if there's food on it?
A. Recyclables with food or drink still on them can taint an entire bag, Gallego said.
Q. So is it better to use water to rinse a recyclable plate or bottle clean, or is it better to save water but trash the item?
A. "It's going to be different for every commodity," said Robert Gilbert, the sustainability coordinator for Housing and Hospitality Services, but said many studies have shown that making a new item from virgin material generally takes more water than rinsing is likely to take. But, Gallego noted, it's important to rinse items well to prevent tainting the entire bag.
Q. Why doesn't my office have all those recycling bins?
A. If your office is missing bins, you can request some. Call Gallego or ask your building coordinator to call him at (310) 825-3971, or e-mail email@example.com. Choices include: a battery bin, mixed and white paper bins, a container for clean glass, aluminum, and plastics labeled 1-9 (check the number inside the triangular recycling symbol, often embossed on the bottom of the container).
Q. Are the leaf blowers on campus environmentally safe?
A. Leaf blowers are notorious polluters, but UCLA limits their use and uses some that are electric, said Katz.
Q. What is UCLA doing about water conservation?
A. The university is also looking at ways to reuse water or capture runoff, ultra low-flow urinals are being installed, and high-powered hand dryers that eliminate paper towel waste are being considered, Katz said. "We're looking into that," she said. "There are a lot of new technologies that may cost more, but would pay for themselves in energy savings."
Q. Can someone come to my office and explain all these details to my co-workers?
A. Katz hopes to create a team of volunteer recycling ambassadors who can do just that. Meanwhile, Gallego said to give him a call and he'll be happy to help.
Published: Thursday, December 18, 2008