'Diving' into campus recycling effort

12/19/2007 8:00:00 AM

We all like to think that we are environmentally conscious. We all like to do our part in helping to save the planet and in bettering the environment.

Here at the University of Nevada, Reno, there are programs running to accomplish the goal of reducing overall environmental impact and in creating a campus that is more environmentally conscious. Many of these programs are run by the on-campus Facilities Services and Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) department.

The latest effort is focusing on recycling all kinds of paper.

According to John Sagebiel, the environmental affairs manager for EH&S, the initial "office paper" recycling program began more than a dozen years ago and was started by Facilities Services and Waste management. The program is now an upgraded and expanded collaborative effort between EH&S and Facility Services. The team collected 223.85 tons of total paper in fiscal year 2006.

The effort has created several interesting scenarios.

To wit: Imagine you are standing by a dumpster and suddenly, a trash bag comes flying out followed by several others.

Curious, you go in for a closer look. You find a strange man standing in overalls, goggles, a helmet and sturdy boots. If you have seen this, you probably saw Sagebiel doing a dumpster dive.

A dumpster dive constitutes asking the "dumpster guys" to save you a dumpster. You then get overalls, sturdy boots, goggles and a helmet and jump on in. You take out all the neatly wrapped bags, tear them open, separate bottles, cans, and paper into trash cans and measure them.

These dumpster dives are important in measuring out just how much the University is not recycling.

Past dumpster dives in March and June have revealed as much as 30 percent of the weight of our trash is recyclable paper. Sagebiel is planning more dumpster dives soon and sincerely hopes to see a lot less recyclable material in there.

For now, he's spending his time encouraging people to use those blue bins around campus to recycle. In his own office, the recycle bin is close by and his trash can hard to get to - all the more reason to use the blue bin.

According to Sagebiel, the University will now accept almost any paper, in addition to the material that has always been acceptable products to be recycled.

"Acceptable material includes phone books, paperback and hardback books, newspaper, junk mail, magazines, catalogs, colored paper, glossy paper, paper ream wrappers, chipboard boxes, and corrugated cardboard - that is almost any office paper," Sagebiel said.

The effort has accomplished much so far.

First, it has saved money. It has been estimated that the new paper recycling program will save the University $61,300 annually, plus the recently dropped contract with Waste Management saves an additional $46,000 per year. The actual amount of money saved will be based on how much the campus' students, staff and faculty pitch in and help.

Second, recycling provides jobs - someone has got to be the dumpster diver, after all.

Third, it helps save the environment.

And in the bigger picture, Sagebiel says, recycling is just a good thing to do.

The money generated from recycling will pay for the new program and will be used to reduce expenditures as well as for hiring new employees for the program.

With the newly expanded program, taking care of our planet is a little easier. Give back to Mother Earth, save some water, landfill space, energy and money.

Read more about the University's recycling program at the EH&S Web site or call 784-8020.


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