Physical Plant launches Recycling 2.0
UofL kept more than half of its waste out of landfills last year, but grounds superintendent Greg Schetler knows there’s still room for improvement.
Schetler is working with a UofL committee tasked with reducing solid waste to “rebrand” recycling on campus this summer. Students, faculty and staff should begin noticing the difference this fall.
For starters, the Physical Plant has installed a new recycling station in Swain Student Activities Center’s multipurpose room, which has long lacked recycling bins. UofL carpenters built the station out of recycled materials and designed it with slots to accept everything from an empty Gatorade bottle to a used pizza box.
“We’re going to put actual samples of items that can go in the bins in a window at the top so people can see exactly what they are,” Schetler said.
Schetler’s group also is rethinking how to make personal recycling easier. Physical Plant is placing more side-by-side bins—one for recycling and another for trash—in common areas of campus buildings. The bins will be labeled “Plastics, Paper, Cardboard, Metal, Glass” or “Landfill Trash Only.”
He’s also considering relaunching a program created several years ago in which green plastic trash “mini-bins” were placed in faculty and staff offices to encourage them to recycle. Over time, some of the bins have disappeared, and he’s even seen them being used to hold paper clips.
“Things change over time and we want to keep pace. Recycling technology has improved. For example, you no longer have to take the cap off a plastic bottle before you recycle it.”
While large-scale food contamination still can be a problem, most recycling plants now will accept paper and plastic items containing a small amount of food waste.
“If you have a pizza box with a little bit of sauce on it, it’s OK to put it in the recycle bin.”
In 2013, UofL recycled nearly 4.5 million pounds—about 57 percent—of all its solid waste. That’s more than three times the 1.8 million pounds it recycled in 2005, which accounted for some 31 percent of its solid waste.
On another front, Physical Plant began a pilot program this summer to use biodiesel in some of its construction and landscaping equipment, Schetler said. The fuel, made up of 80 percent petroleum diesel and 20 percent used cooking oil, emits less carbon than pure diesel.
“We’re ordering less petroleum diesel this year and we’ll see how it works,” he said. “Our goal is to try everything we can to become more carbon neutral. It won’t just happen by accident.”