Greener Behrend: Goal 3, Waste

GOALS:

Minimize solid and liquid waste.

Behrend produces relatively little liquid or hazardous waste. Consequently, efforts related to waste reduction will focus on reducing the use of and recycling paper and cardboard, plastic and glass bottles, and aluminum cans.

In natural systems, there is no concept of waste. One organism’s waste is another organism’s food. Unfortunately, most human-made systems have not reached the level of sophistication that natural systems have achieved. Since the industrial revolution, more products have been consumed than in all the years previous to the evolution. Much of this consumption is because our culture has become overrun with disposable products. Products are not designed to be re-used, and upon disposal do not decompose. Our disposal methods also do not promote decomposition. Our earth is also being contaminated by hazardous waste. In Pennsylvania alone there are some 3,950 metric tons of nuclear waste. As our consumption rates increase, the problem of what to do with our waste will become more serious and pressing. Already, some communities have to ship their waste to other locations. The answer is not dumping waste in the ocean or shooting it into space, but a fundamental change in the way that we manufacture and use products.

There is a new industrial revolution underway, one whose first tenant is “waste equals food”. This is a change in the way products are manufactured. It involves an integration of systems so that materials can be reused in processes and products. Behrend can become a leader in the new revolution by evaluating its systems to see how waste from one system can be used as “food” for another system.

  • One way this can be done is by implementing a composting program. Waste from food services becomes “food” for landscaping.
  • Recycling gray water would reduce the amount of water sent to the wastewater treatment plant, and would reduce water bills.
  • The possibility of creating a wetland for wastewater treatment could be explored.
  • A switch from disposable items to durable items can significantly decrease the amount of waste produced.
  • While there is a recycling program in place at Behrend, often recyclable materials end up in the trash. It could also be possible to expand Behrend’s recycling program by beginning to recycle more materials. Currently, glass, plastic, cans, paper, batteries, and cardboard are all being recycled here, but with a little initiative, other materials could also be recycled.

The vision for this group is Behrend as a zero-waste campus that is partnered with green companies for supplies and sells its recyclables instead of paying for removal.

Indicators of our progress towards a zero waste campus are:

  1. How much waste is created;
  2. How much waste is recycled; and
  3. Closed loop initiatives.