|The reusable items in Yale Recycling's warehouse are donated free of charge to the city's non-profit organizations.|
For further information on recycling, or to schedule a visit by May and company,
visit the Yale Recycling website at www.yale.edu/recycling.
Recycling ensures University’s
trash is not going to waste
There is simply no getting around the fact that a community as large as Yale’s
discards a veritable mountain of materials every year — from paper and
cardboard boxes, to computers and other electronic equipment, cans and bottles,
used furniture, food products, clothing, cell phones and PDAs, batteries, ink
cartridges, lightbulbs, laboratory supplies, leaves, and more.
Reducing the environmental impact of that waste from mountain to mere molehill, and educating Yale community members about how they can help in that effort, are the goals of Yale’s Recycling Department, headed by coordinator C.J. May.
In 2007 alone, Yale recycled, reused or donated over 1,440 tons of items and materials. This included over 500 tons of paper, 500 tons of cardboard boxes, 106 tons of cans and bottles, 100 tons of computer equipment, 65 tons of leaves and 54 tons of donated clothing and furniture.
“We’re moving fast in the right direction,” says May. “But we’re still looking for ways we can do it better.”
Yale formally established its Recycling Department in 1991. Prior to that, the effort was spearheaded by a group of environmentally conscious students that included May, then a student at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
In the intervening years, the department has launched an ever-expanding number of initiatives designed to make recycling a part of the daily lives of Yale community members.
One of the newest is the Deskside Recycling program, which was launched this fall. Now, in addition to putting bulk recycling containers for mixed paper and for bottles and cans in Yale buildings and residential halls, Yale Recycling has equipped every desk in every campus office with two containers, a large one for mixed papers and a small one for other non-recyclable trash, which are emptied twice weekly by custodians.
Some Yale community members have been concerned that the containers supplied for non-recyclable trash are much smaller than those for mixed paper — and that, says May, is exactly the point. “The biggest thing that gets thrown in the trash is paper,” he notes. “We want to show people in a very concrete way that most of what they’re throwing away is recyclable.”
While the Deskside Recycling program is still in the early stages, Yale Recycling already recorded an 11% increase in the amount of recycled paper in the month of December from the amount collected at the same time in the previous year.
SWAP (Still Worth A Penny)
As part of its SWAP program, Yale Recycling will send staff to campus departments that are moving or remodeling to evaluate which furniture, equipment and office supplies can be targeted for reuse. Some of these items are collected by Yale Traffic, Receiving and Stores for resale and redistribution at the University; others are transported to the Recycling Department’s warehouse in Fair Haven, where several times a year, they are made available for free to representatives from area non-profits. If there are still surplus items, the department opens the warehouse to individuals from the Yale and New Haven communities. May has even been known to list surplus items on Freecycle, a website where individuals list items that are free for the taking.
C.J. May, manager of Yale Recycling, has been a part of Yale's recycling initiatives since his days as a student at the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
The Recycling Department’s warehouse becomes particularly packed at the end of the academic year, thanks to the Spring Salvage program, which is designed to encourage Yale College students to place items they might otherwise discard in blue donation drums when moving out of their dorms. In spring of 2007 alone, students donated 54 tons of belongings, including storage units, chairs and tables. May and the Yale Recycling staff also monitor dumpsters during the spring move-out to rescue any reusable items that might not make it to the bins.
Items collected through the SWAP and Spring Salvage programs have also made their way to needy communities and individuals overseas through Yale’s Reach Out alternative international spring break programs and through the Institution Recycling Network, a cooperative organization that works with more than 125 institutions in the Northeast.
Organics pilot program
Yale Recycling is also developing a new program designed to put to good use another large category of recyclable materials on campus — the organics from the University’s dining halls.
The department has conducted “waste stream analyses” that revealed dining hall dumpsters are more than 50% food waste by weight. “Based upon the findings, it seems Yale’s undergraduate residence hall dining rooms produce approximately two tons of food waste each day when plate, pantry, serving line and preparation food waste are combined,” says May. “This amounts to 350 to 400 tons as a total for both semesters.”
Yale Recycling has arranged to send the discarded organic materials from the University’s dining halls for composting at Garick Paygro Division/New Milford Farm, the only operation in Connecticut equipped to handle such an institutional-sized amount of food waste. May and company are currently determining the best way to handle those materials for shipment in a sanitary way. They recently held a successful test with John’s Refuse and Recycling, the waste management company the University uses, of a system for vacuuming up these organics straight from storage containers. Yale Recycling plans to launch a pilot organics program at the campus dining halls that are open this summer, and will undertake a full-scale program in the fall. May says he hopes Yale’s program will become a model for other institutions in the area.
Ambassadors for recycling
Education is another key component of the Yale Recycling mission, says May. The department employs a staff of students who, among other things, serve as ambassadors to spread the message about the importance of recycling. There are student recycling coordinators in every residential college, and May and his staff visit individual departments and laboratories — often with a box of donuts in hand — to discuss the how-tos of proper waste management. In the warmer weather, May and his student staffers hold events on Yale’s Cross Campus, where they give away free food or recycled products to anyone who listens to their recycling message.
Yale also participates in the annual “Recyclemania,” a national competition among universities across the country to see which has the best recycling record, based on weekly totals. During the 10-week contest, student coordinators at Yale work to improve their peers’ recycling habits by whipping up their inter-campus rivalry. “It’s really just another way to get out the recycling message,” says May.
The Recycling Department also played a role in the recent Yale Sustainability Summit, an educational event for the campus community hosted by the University’s Office of Sustainability. (See related story.)
A new view of the trash can
Over two decades after beginning his ecological mission at Yale, May says he is encouraged that Yale’s “greening” efforts have expanded from “just me and a few student volunteers” to a campus-wide sustainability initiative “with so many different pieces, I can’t even keep track of them all any more.”
He also takes heart that more and more individuals are taking the recycling message more seriously. “Our society is beginning to realize that thinking of old food, paper, cans and other items as trash has resulted in some serious errors in management. When we considered them as trash, we simply worked to make them ‘go away.’ We have now figured out that these are resources. Sending them back to industry is far better than dumping them or burning them. The stuff we used to put into the trash can ... it’s not garbage any more.”
For further information on recycling, or to schedule a visit by May and company, visit the Yale Recycling website at www.yale.edu/recycling.