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Solid and Hazardous Wastes


  • Recycling
  • Composting
  • Hazardous Wastes
  • Waste Reduction



  • Initiate recycling. Explore the feasibility of recycling campus wastes that currently are not currently recycled. Try to find markets for waste materials such as tires, wood pallets, computers, demolition debris, scrap metal, fluorescent bulbs, batteries and other hard-to-recycle items. Look into local markets and service providers, collection systems, and local and state laws.
  • Improve recycling. Many projects can focus on improving current campus programs for recycling. Can bins can be labeled more clearly or placed in better locations? Can contracts with recycling vendors be re-written to ensure greater material recovery and financial payback? Is there a type of outdoor recyclables-collection bin that will be effective on campus? Can greater percentages of recyclables be recovered?
  • Check compliance. Examine trash cans and dumpsters to see what materials (that should be recycled in campus programs) are being tossed out with the trash. Devise ways to increase compliance among staff, faculty and students.


Seattle Pacific University—Seattle, WA
Strengthening Recycling Efforts—The SPU community had been recycling since the 1991-92 academic year. Due to many factors, more of a formalized effort was implemented in the 1998-99 academic year to encourage recycling more on campus.

"A big challenge has been creating internal sustainability within our program. We've approached this problem by making efforts to connect students, staff, and faculty in a number of ways. Examples include the creation of the SPU Green Team, opening opportunities for student/faculty environmental/waste prevention research, and establishing ties with already established programs across campus.

Next Year's Plans: To adjust recycling facilities and services according to direct student, staff, and faculty input, and results from waste audits."

Tennessee Technological University—Cookeville, TN
Proposal for Students to Help with Collection—A Student Environmental Action Coalition group is attempting to get student work-study money earmarked to help the physical plant with recycling collection. Currently understaffed, recycling has suffered mainly from lack of people-power.

"SEAC began its campaign by conducting a "landfill on the lawn," sorting through various garbage from university dumpsters and dividing it into recyclable and non-recyclable materials. By comparing data from previous landfills conducted by SEAC, we were able to determine if the recycling program was effective. The results were less than encouraging. The only area of improvement seen from last year's landfill seemed to be in the dorms, where new recycling bins had been installed (also a SEAC project)."

Brown University—Providence, RI
Analysis of Campus Recycling with a Focus on Reducing Waste Plastic—Environmental Studies 11 (ES 11) Recycling Project Report, Nov. 1996—The primary goal of this project is to create a plan to decrease the amount of plastic that reaches the waste stream by encouraging people to reuse and recycle plastics at Brown. To achieve this goal, we focused on five important aspects of recycling at Brown: student purchasing, beverage containers, Brown off-campus recycling, administration, and toner cartridges. We compared Brown's recycling system to that of other communities and investigated the importance of educating staff and students. Each of the 5 groups analyzed Brown's present system to understand the problems facing the recycling program.

The analysis entailed communicating with integral members of the University and surrounding community, the city of Providence and the state of Rhode Island, Waste Management of Rhode Island, Brown's current carrier, and other members of the group to establish a base level of understanding. This included a campus-wide survey completed by 283 students and 20 administrative departments to help grasp the level of understanding about plastics recycling that exists at Brown. The survey had ten questions addressing various aspects of plastics recycling at Brown and its findings reflected students' awareness and attitudes toward plastics recycling.

Our section had to find out what kind of plastics are used, where they are purchased on campus and where they can be recycled. As a group, we came to the conclusion that although some changes could be implemented, the system is efficient: according to Kurt Teichert, Brown University's Environmental Coordinator, 40 percent of the total waste generated by the Brown community is capable of being recycled with the present system, but only 23 percent of our waste is actually recycled. Therefore, we believe that the problem is the attitude of the members of our community towards recycling. We realize that ignorance is one of the main barriers to effective results and satisfactory recycling at Brown. Education, therefore, should be the primary focus of continuing programs. In writing this report we hope to provide a guide and potential starting point for other groups to carry on where we left off.

Source: Brown is Green website

University of Wisconsin: Madison—Madison, WI
Trash and Recycled Material Streams at the University of Wisconsin-Madison: A Characterization and Analysis
by Karma Geiger and Rob Walther, May 1994

Executive Summary. In the fall semester of 1993, the Campus Ecology Research Program (CERP), working in conjunction with the Physical Plant, performed a waste characterization and analysis of the non-recycled waste and the recyclable mixed office paper generated on campus.

Purpose of Study. Generate material composition data to be used to: 1) Evaluate regulatory compliance, 2) Assess levels of contamination, 3) Identify opportunities for recycling program expansion, and 4) Support efforts to rewrite contracts with recyclers and waste haulers.

Structure of Study

1. Building categories: academic, administration, libraries, and residence halls.

2. Material streams sampled: non-recycled waste and mixed office paper.

3. Material types within each stream:

  • Non-Recycled Waste: currently recyclable, potentially recyclable, reusable materials, and non-recyclable.
  • Mixed Office Paper: currently recyclable, recyclable contaminants, non-recyclable contaminants.

4. Total Weight of Materials Sampled:

  • Non-Recycled Waste: 980 lbs. Mixed Office Paper: 1,190 lbs.

Strengths of Study

1. Provided a detailed look at the composition of unrecycled waste and mixed office paper.

2. Provided data regarding recycling program strengths and opportunities for improvement.

3. Sought answers to specific questions:

  • Which building type has the greatest level of contamination?
  • What recycling education programs are needed?
  • What recyclable materials can be added to the recycling program?

4. Serves as a model for future waste composition studies.

Weakness of Study. Results may not be representative of entire campus. The detail of the composition analysis allowed only a small quantity of material to be analyzed.


  • Mixed office paper comprised 15 to 20 percent, by weight, of unrecycled waste. Compliance with existing program needs improvement.
  • Magazines/glossy paper comprised 5 to 10 percent, by weight, of unrecycled waste. A magazine recycling program will help reduce the solid waste generated on campus.
  • Organic/food waste comprised approximately 10 percent, by weight, of unrecycled waste. A composting program offers an opportunity to reduce this source of solid waste.

University of Wisconsin: Madison—Madison, WI
Closing the Loop: Recycled Paper Purchasing and Office Paper Recycling at UW-Madison

As part of an environmental studies capstone course in 1992, a group of 16 students studied both the inflow (purchasing) and outflow (disposal) of paper in two buildings on campus. The "outflow" part of the study examined paper waste and recycling on several floors of an office building and part of an academic building. Detailed waste-characterizations of trash and recycled paper bins in both buildings showed many opportunities to improve recovery of recyclables. Surveys of employees in the buildings were also conducted.


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  • Landscape wastes. Identify and begin using an out-of-the-way place on campus for piling autumn leaves and other non-woody landscaping waste. Set up a maintenance and compost-harvest schedule. If there are no suitable places on campus, arrange to combine campus landscape wastes with those from a nearby town or municipality.
  • Food waste composting. Set up a pilot composting project, recovering pre-plate food waste from food service kitchens and, if possible, post-plate wastes.
  • Worm composting. Find willing offices and lunchrooms and set up vermi-composting (worm-composting) bins. Find staff members who are interested and willing in being the "keeper" of the worms to make sure that food, bedding and moisture are adequate.


Brown University—Providence, RI

Disposing of the Organic Wastes Produced by the Food Services of Brown University
By Katherine Acheson, Gregory Curtis, Jeremy Lynn, Benjamin Pister
Introduction to Environmental Issues—November 1995

Abstract. The purpose of this project was to determine the most efficient method of handling organic waste disposal within the University Food Services of Brown. The primary determinants of this efficiency were the environmental and economic impacts of the available options. The waste was broken down into two forms: compostable food wastes and grease. Our current methods of handling these were investigated and compared with alternative methods. As a result, we have decided that the grease is presently dealt with in an efficient manner, however it would be beneficial to implement a small scale composting program for the remainder of the wastes.

Evergreen State College—Olympia, WA
The Evergreen Compost Project, started in February 1998, is a student collective whose purpose is to establish and maintain a permanent composting program and onsite facility.

Strategies: 1. Quantity characterization of total campus organic waste stream. 2. Cost analysis of current landfill practices versus recycling organic wastes through various composting options.

Partners: The Facilities, Grounds and Maintenance Department provided us with waste disposal records and information to help us conduct our cost analysis. It is very important to talk to the people involved in refuse and recycling to get advice on setting up a collection system for compost. We also met with the college's liaison to food services to get them involved with the program and to help us better understand their role.

University of Michigan—Ann Arbor, MI
The University of Michigan Grounds & Waste Management Services provides vermi-composting (a.k.a. worm bins) to selected offices and departments to compost small quantities of food waste in employee lunchroom areas.

Overview of Procedure. Ten University offices were provided with a worm bin to compost employee food scraps and lunchroom waste. The plastic boxes (1' x 1' x 2') are partially filled with shredded newspaper bedding and a pound of red worms. Bins are kept aerated and moist for ideal composting conditions. Food scraps are buried under the bedding, and worms aid in the decomposition process. Every four to six months, the finished compost and worm castings are harvested. Employees are welcome to use the compost for gardens or houseplants.

A covered container is kept in the break room in which employees place their food waste. Items such as banana peels, apple cores, coffee grounds, and other vegetative leftovers are acceptable. Items such as meat, fish, dairy or oils are not acceptable because they will cause foul odors to develop in the compost. The food waste material is added to the bin each day. Compost material is stirred periodically to ensure aeration and distribution of moisture, as the moisture tends to migrate toward the bottom.

Known Limitations. The worm composting bins only work well for small-scale operations. Bins can handle between three to five pounds of food waste per week, or a lunchroom area servicing 15 to 20 employees. The bin requires some maintenance and oversight. Employees must be educated on what to keep out of the bin.

Benefits. Awareness by staff about alternative waste disposal methods is increased. This raised awareness has encouraged some staff to start composting at home.

Disadvantages. The worm bins can only handle a small quantity of food waste. This method would not work for the larger food service operations on campus, unless a much larger and more complex system were installed. Occasional complaints of insect pests (fruit flies, spring tails, etc.) have been reported, but no serious insect infestations have been linked to the bins themselves.

Source: website


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  • Chemical redistribution. Find out if your campus has a program to redistribute uncontaminated hazardous chemicals. If not, try to start a program to collect still-usable chemicals and materials and make them available to other faculty and researchers on campus. If there is such a program, explore ways it can be improved, such as putting the list of available chemicals on the web or recovering a larger amount of reusable products.
  • Tracking studies. Conduct studies of specific hazardous chemicals and materials, documenting their entry to campus and eventual use and disposal.
  • Asbestos and lead waste. Find out about procedures for dealing with asbestos- or lead-bearing wastes. Can they be improved?

B. Web sites


a. University of Washington (Surplus chemical exchange saves money, prevents waste)

University of Waterloo, Ontario (Student audit of campus hazardous waste facility)

a. University of Washington—Seattle, WA
Source: Excerpt from Green Investment, Green Return: How Practical Conservation Projects Save Millions on America's Campuses, by David J. Eagan and Julian Keniry, 1998, p. 47.

Second Time Around for Chemicals

In compliance with University of Washington regulations, when research labs have unwanted chemicals, they list them as surplus in an inventory maintained by the Environmental Health and Safety Department. Unopened or otherwise uncontaminated containers are offered free to other researchers. In 1996, more than 1,000 pounds of chemicals were exchanged under this program, avoiding an estimated $3,000 in disposal costs. Computerizing the inventory—thereby making the list more accessible—resulted in a big jump in the amount of chemicals exchanged.

UW also re-distills xylene, a widely-used laboratory solvent, and sells it back to campus laboratories. By avoiding disposal costs and undercutting the retail purchase rate, over $11,000 was saved in 1996.

University of Waterloo—Waterloo, Ontario
Source: Environmental Studies course (ERS 285) "Greening the Campus," 1997

Hazardous Materials Handling Facility
by Gerard Reuss, Jasmine Budak, Julie Ellison, Jennifer Niece

Abstract. Sustainability is an important concept in the field of environmental studies, and it can be worked towards in many different ways. In order to assess sustainability, the systems involved in day to day lifestyles must be understood. One of these systems, present on the University of Waterloo campus, is the disposal of hazardous waste.

Hazardous waste has the potential to contaminate ecosystems, thereby entering the food chain and affecting human health and ecosystem integrity. Diligence is necessary in handling these materials to prevent such contamination. The University of Waterloo's Hazardous Materials Handling Facility (HMHF) is designed to accept and deal with all hazardous materials that are generated in on-campus labs, studios and health care facilities. An audit was performed on the HMHF to ensure that hazardous materials on campus are being handled in the safest manner possible, in accordance with government protocols. The audit was based on applicable municipal by-laws, the Fire Code of Canada, and the Environmental Protection Act, the Atomic Energy Control Act, and Guidelines for the Management of Biomedical Waste in Canada.

Findings of this study were based on personal observations and interviews with the HMHF and U of W Safety Office staff. Additional information to supplement the survey was collected through three tours of the facility, and attendance on a weekly pickup around campus. The tours were guided by both Safety Office staff and HMHF staff on separate occasions, and the pickup was led by Scott Paterson of the HMHF.

Results of personal observations during the tours and pickup, as well as survey results were compiled to create an overall understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the hazardous materials handling system. The HMHF was found to be in compliance with two-thirds of the standards evaluated. Areas for improvement include the storage of waste oil, storage of flammable/combustible materials and safety precautions during transport. Recommendations have been made to assist the HMHF to improve the rate of compliance with the standards evaluated in this study.


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  • Junk mail. Organize a campaign to stop catalogs and other forms of junk mail from being sent to residence hall occupants.
  • Campus newspapers. Especially on large campuses, thousands of copies of the daily student newspaper may go unread each day. Stacks of papers clutter hallways and classrooms and become the responsibility of custodians to clean up. Seek ways to get newspapers to help solve these problems by reducing their print runs, back-hauling unwanted copies and instituting other environmentally responsible policies.
  • Buy durable. Encourage purchase of durable goods in dining services, academic buildings, athletic and other facilities to reduce the "throw-aways" on campus.
  • Packaging and shipping. Look for ways to reduce boxes, plastic-wrap, foam packing blocks and other packaging items that accompany goods delivered to campus. Reuse boxes, foam peanuts and wood pallets. Find acceptable re-usable containers for inter-building delivery, and institute interdepartmental mail .
  • Surplus goods. Develop systems to collect and redistribute or sell obsolete and surplus campus property such as furniture, office supplies, lab equipment and computers. If possible, try to find homes for lower-value items as well, via "free-stuff" tables in building hallways.


University of Michigan—Ann Arbor, Michigan
Junk Mail: Want Not, Waste Not- This project examined the paper waste caused by unwanted mail in the residence halls at the University of Michigan. The project consisted of gathering a quantitative measurement of the type of mail that students receive in two pilot halls (Bursley and Barbour/Newberry) over a two week period. After obtaining a copy of the official policy regarding distribution to student mailboxes, it became evident from a case study that residence halls were not always adhering to the guidelines mandated by the University Housing Division.

The second aspect of the project involved informing students of junk mail and its negative environmental impacts. During project presentations, students were encouraged to complete a postcard which removes their names from a national distribution list, and were also provided with an informational pamphlet. In an informal survey, students responded that major sources of junk mail include restaurant franchises, credit card companies, catalogs, and organizational fliers. Overall, students who responded seemed concerned about the amount of junk mail they receive.

Recommendations for reducing/eliminating the amount of junk mail distributed to the students include: enforcement of University Housing Division policy, providing display racks, utilizing bulletin boards and posters, implementing an electronic mailing list, and removing all trash cans from the mailroom areas.

Source: Greening the Maize and Blue website

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