It’s Not Easy Being Green
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It took a $30,000 grant from the California State Department of Conservation
to enable the campus to start collecting the thousands of plastic, glass and
aluminum beverage containers discarded on campus every day. The program started
three years ago with 12 three-section recycling “clusters” and has
since expanded to 60 across the campus.
Also adding to campus waste are old desks, chairs, file cabinets and other
office and classroom furnishings, some 170 tons of which are hauled over the
course of a year to a campus waste yard, where they are disassembled into their
metal and wood parts for pickup by recyclers. Another 60 tons of miscellaneous
wood — pallets and other items — are collected from campus loading
A growing portion of campus waste is electronic waste, from
old computers to fluorescent light tubes. These present a challenge because
they require special treatment due to their classification as hazardous materials.
Computer monitors, which contain lead, must be disassembled. Fluorescent tubes,
of which the campus has about a half-million, contain mercury. When the tubes
burn out, maintenance workers collect them and they’re sent to a recycler
who takes the tubes apart, removes the mercury and recycles it and other components.
Also recycled is waste produced by campus construction projects: Some 1.5 million
pounds of broken-up roadways, brick and concrete are pulverized and sent out
for reuse as roadbase in California’s state highways.
Meanwhile, campus landscaping generates 1.7 million pounds of green waste.
Most of this, however, never leaves campus. Trimmed tree branches are turned
into wood chips that are reused as ground cover or mulch. And the campus’
grass mowers are specially designed to cut the grass and then chew it into minute
fragments that are automatically scattered on the lawns to be absorbed as nutrients
while also serving as a natural insulator, reducing water evaporation and, ultimately,
campus water usage.