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April 8, 2003

Recycling efforts ahead of schedule

The ability to turn trash into, if not quite a treasure, then a marketable commodity has put CSUS ahead of the recycling game.

Pitching in for campus recycling

Part of the CSUS recycling program’s success is due to staff and faculty doing their part. “Folks have been pretty supportive, especially as we’ve made it easier to use,” says Roger Guzowski, coordinator of recycling, solid waste and moving services. “We can set up the infrastructure for the program but it takes participation in order to be successful.”

He offers some suggestions and reminders regarding campus recycling:

  • When purchasing supplies look for recycled products. Office paper, files, envelopes, notepads, etc.—many items made from recycled materials are available. To make recycling effective, recycled products need to be purchased.
  • Planning a big clean out of files? Call the facilities management department and they’ll bring over large recycling containers for the excess material.
  • Use paper wisely: Use both sides when possible. Utilize used paper for scrap paper. Print out only what you need.
  • Recycling bins are only for office paper. No paper towels, paper cups or paper plates—even if they’re clean. Although the programs are pretty similar, not everything that’s recyclable through the city or county is recyclable through the CSUS program. For more details, check container labels or visit the recycling website at www.fm.csus.edu/recycling.
  • Bring empty recyclable beverage containers outside to collection clusters instead of throwing them away. Indoor beverage collection bins are not feasible because they attract pests.

Responding to a 1999 California state mandate requiring all state agencies to divert 25 percent of their waste by 2003, and 50 percent by 2004, the staff at CSUS put their ingenuity to work and as a result the campus is just steps away from achieving that goal nearly a year early. “We’re hovering at about 50 percent diversion,” says Roger Guzowski, CSUS coordinator of recycling, solid waste and moving services. “We’ve come a long way and we’re definitely ahead of schedule.”

Recycling began on campus more than 20 years ago as a small student-run program. However, to satisfy state mandates, a new efficiency had to be developed for the recycling program, as well as a major rethinking of past efforts. In 1999, the recycling program was moved under facilities management, resulting in one department being responsible for both recycling and trash collection.

“What we’ve done is look at the biggest components of our waste stream,” says Guzowski. “It’s primarily office paper, landscape waste and bulky behind-the-scenes material.” He defines waste stream as “everything that we throw away and everything that we would have potentially thrown away if it had not been recycled, composted or otherwise diverted.” The University receives diversion credit from the state for what it recycles or composts and for waste reduction.

The office paper recycling program was overhauled in 2002 to a more efficient, user-friendly program. “Because paper is the largest component of office waste, we started handling paper the same way we handle trash,” Guzowski explains. Blue desk-side recycling bins, purchased with a grant from the California Integrated Waste Management Board, were placed throughout offices campuswide.

“We’ve made it so that it’s just as easy to participate in the recycling as it is the trash. We’ve changed the custodial schedule in offices from five days a week trash pickup to Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesday and Thursday are now recycling pickup days. The custodians still empty only one bin per desk per night, so there’s no increased cost to the campus or increased labor for the custodians,” says Guzowski.

In 2000, CSUS diverted 106 tons of office paper to recycling. In 2002, that increased to 165 tons. And a cardboard recycling program that began on campus last year collected almost 30 tons of cardboard from academic and administrative buildings.

In the past, the University’s expansive lawns and abundant trees greatly contributed to its waste stream, but not any more, Guzowski says. Campus ground crews now gather the landscape waste and bring it to a local compost-making center. In 2000, about 300 tons of landscape materials that once would have gone to the landfill were sent to the compost center. In 2002, that amount increased to over 600 tons.

Photo/Elizabeth Merwin: Charles Amey dismantles junked furniture for scrap metalA little-known element of the recycling program is the collection of “behind the scenes” waste, primarily junk furniture and broken computers, says Guzowski. Discarded furniture is first examined to see if it could possibly be used elsewhere on campus or could find a home at the State of California’s surplus office equipment “store.” If neither option is viable, a student assistant dismantles the furniture, separating out parts to be sent to a scrap metal yard. In 2000, CSUS collected 23 tons of scrap metal. In 2002, the amount increased to 73 tons.

Broken computers from campus are shipped to a computer recycling company in Sacramento where they are taken apart for useable components and scrap metal. In the 2002-2003 fiscal year, 11 tons of computers were sent for recycling.

While the recycling program effectively diverts CSUS’ waste stream it also provides the University with cost savings. For example, the waste hauler contracted to CSUS sells the collected recyclable paper and in exchange, the University receives credit on its hauling bill. The same applies to the cardboard collection. Beverage container recyclables from the outdoor bins are collected by the Sacramento Local Conservation Corps, saving CSUS both staff and hauling expenses.

In 2000, CSUS spent almost $76,000 in trash hauling and landfill fees. By 2002, that amount was down to $72,000 even with “a pretty good jump in student population,” says Guzowski.

Guzowski says the campus waste diversion efforts are especially important during these tight budget times. “We’ve got choices on where we spend our money. We can spend it on landfill fees or spend it on academics,” says Guzowski. “It makes sense to recycle as much as possible. As we go forward, I think the savings we’re looking at are going to be even more dramatic.”

Department-initiated efforts to encourage recycling and waste reduction are making a difference too. The primary computer labs, for example, in an effort to reduce paper use switched to a fee-for-printing system. A three-ton per year reduction in paper use resulted. And by bringing reusable cups to campus food service operations, beverage buyers have spurred a 1.5 ton reduction in disposable cup use each year.

For more information, check the newly updated CSUS recycling website at www.fm.csus.edu/recycling.

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