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Waste. Recycling. Shredding. Oh my!

February 11, 2013

Q) What do these bins have in common?

Bins, bins and more bins.

Bins, bins and more bins.

A) They are located throughout our College campuses, are central collection points for materials and are main components of the College’s waste reduction and recycling program.

Until recently, the management and budgetary responsibility for these bins was overseen by three different departments. Why this might seem insignificant to many, it matters in the sustainability world because decentralized budgets limit the ability to achieve an integrated approach to managing the operations and costs of materials leaving our campus. Increasing recycling rates and costs were putting pressure on the Sustainability Office budget. While just down the hall the Facilities folks were loosening their budget belts as solid waste weights declined. This is a common sustainability challenge – escalating costs in one area and reduced costs in another (think about reconciling higher capital costs for LEED buildings with lower operating costs). That’s why taking a long-term and comprehensive approach to meeting sustainability goals is necessary.

So, in the Winter of 2012 we issued our very first integrated materials request for proposals where companies were invited to bid on the collection of solid waste, recycling and/ or shredding. More importantly than seeking a vendor(s) to reliably haul materials, we were looking for strategic partners to work proactively with the College to help us achieve our sustainability goals (including increasing our diversion rate and finding solutions for hard-to-recycle materials). At that same time, the Sustainability Office assumed budgetary responsibility for solid waste and shredding.

After reviewing and scoring all proposals, in April 2012 Waste Management became our solid waste hauler and Phoenix Recycling assumed responsibility for recycling and shredding collection.

After more than a year on the job, we’re pleased to report some exciting results from the College’s new and improved waste reduction and recycling program.

N.B. The good news in this post relates exclusively to the economic pillar of sustainability – the moolah. Updates on our material streams and diversion rates are coming soon.

Here are the deets:

  • Annual solid waste costs have decreased by 8%
  • Annual recycling costs have decreased by 21%
  • Annual shredding costs have decreased by 25% (despite tripling the number of locked consoles on campus)

Overall, the College’s new integrated waste and recycling program has cut costs by 12% in its first year in operation. A big part of this cost savings is the result of “right-sizing” our program. An operational audit reveal that many of our bins were being collected far more frequently than needed. So by reducing collection frequencies we were able to save.

The really exciting part is that we were able to use those cost savings to introduce a post-consumer compost program at our newest building.. and we still saved money! Now that’s sustainability in action – applying savings from one area to achieve an environmental benefit in another. This is news that makes the College’s budget bosses and the Sustainability Office happy!