In a year of important dates—BGSU’s centennial, the 40th anniversary of Earth Day—the University is also celebrating another milestone: It has saved more than $1 million over the past 15 years of its recycling program.
The savings are the sum of “cost avoidance,” or the money not spent on dumping material into the landfill, and the money earned by selling recycled commodities. “Over 15 years, we’ve earned more than $532,000,” said Duane Hamilton, director of campus services in facilities services..
Without recycling, BGSU would have had to pay to dump 13,500 tons of otherwise reusable materials. Plastic alone accounts for a large part of the overall volume—735 tons of it that have been kept out of area landfills. “When you think of how light plastic bottles are, that’s a lot,” Hamilton said.
“I just want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to those who recycle,” he said appreciatively. “Every time you do, you are actually helping the University.”
Campus Sustainability Coordinator Nicholas Hennessy agreed. Good campus sustainability practices also help make BGSU more appealing, he said. “A 2009 Princeton report showed that 66-70 percent of incoming students say green efforts are important in recruitment.”
Pointing out that the recycling program was begun by students and was one of the first university recycling projects in Ohio, Hennessy said, “Fifteen years is a pretty good stretch. Students saw a need and had the desire and the passion to make it happen.”
Today, the recycling program has become “operationalized,” Hamilton said, and though students still participate in the collection, “facilities staff do a huge amount of work.” Some have taken it to heart, and will remove recyclable paper from wastebaskets and deposit it in the recycling bins instead, he noted.
Over the last 15 years, the recycling picture has changed quite a bit. “The streams have gotten a lot wider,” Hamilton said. BGSU is now able to recycle aluminum, cardboard, office paper and other types of paper, posters, phone books, insulation, fiberboard, ceiling tiles, pasteboard such as cereal boxes and more. He encourages everyone to read the labels on campus recycling bins for guidance.
This spring, some of the University’s mowers will be running on used cooking oil from the dining halls. Putting materials to new uses is a hallmark of the “Reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra and fits in perfectly with BGSU’s sustainability goals, Hennessy said.
BGSU was one of the first campuses to participate in RecycleMania, a national competition among students for the highest poundage of recycling from residence halls. From about nine original competitors, it has grown to dozens across the country, and Bowling Green continues to do well. In the seventh week of this year’s competition, BGSU was second in the state to Ohio University in the bottles and cans in residence halls category, and in the top 10 nationally, Hennessy said.
Nevertheless, Hamilton and Hennessy see great room for improvement. They estimate that about 20 to 30 percent more could be recycled on campus. “Participation is everything,” Hamilton said. “Every can counts.”