Johns Hopkins Gazette: August 19, 1996

All The Refuse
Fit To Reuse

Christine A. Rowett
News and Information
When Hopkins maintenance supervisors and recycling coordinators sat down separately and thought about how to put recycling plans in place at various locations, they all came up with the same idea: make it simple.

So over the past several months (and longer at some locations), workers at the School of Medicine, the School of Hygiene and Public Health and the Homewood campus have been distributing bins and boxes for a variety of recyclables in the hopes of reducing some of the more than eight tons of trash generated daily at those locations.

It is a challenge, admits Homewood recycling coordinator Patrick Moran, who was hired in June to conduct waste surveys and make improvements where needed.

In the past, recycling involved separating glass by color, cans from plastics and paper by grade. For many, it was confusing. For some, it wasn't worth the effort.

"That made it difficult," Moran said.

Now, however, Browning Ferris Industries collects from Hopkins all grades of paper mixed together and all types of recyclable containers. Envelopes, magazines, newspapers, glossy, paper board and file stock paper may be placed in the same container. Cans, glass and plastic bottles numbered 1 through 7 may also be mixed.

"Hopefully, more people will participate now that it's easier," Moran said. "And it should be pretty easy."

Simplicity is the reason behind the added bins that are beginning to appear.

"Let's face it, if they have to get up from their desks to recycle, some people aren't going to do it," said Richard Sebour, assistant director of Support Services, Facilities Management at the School of Medicine. "So we made it user friendly. Everybody has a desk can."

The office desk cans are to be used to collect recyclable paper that can later be transferred to larger bins. There's no reason, the coordinators say, that every piece of scrap paper, post-it note and mailing envelope cannot be recycled. Food wrappers and containers and paper towels should be disposed in separate bins.

Moran recognizes that the extra receptacles add to the maintenance crews' workloads.

"It definitely makes their job a little bit more involved, but if people separate things correctly and don't cause much of a mess, it doesn't have to be too hard for the custodial staff," he said. "They're still going to have to take out the same amount of waste. It's just going to be concentrated."

BFI does not charge a fee to haul recyclables to their Elkridge plant. The university does spend about $50,000 a year collecting other trash from the Homewood campus alone, Moran said. Increasing the amount of recycling could reduce that annual cost.

"About 27 percent of our waste is being recycled, not including construction trash, oils and hazardous wastes," Moran said.

At the School of Medicine, "we estimate about $35,000 a year savings," due to recycling, Sebour said. "That's a huge financial saving, and, in turn, trash doesn't fill up our compactors."

BFI charges $58 a ton to dispose of non-recyclable trash, Sebour said.

"Any time you don't have to put it in a regular container, we're saving money," said Lee Franks, manager of Custodial Services and Operations at Public Health. The school now recycles about 33 percent of the more than one ton a day trash it generates, he said.

When he needed to enlist the help of faculty and staff to increase that percentage, Franks organized an awareness month, designed to educate employees and administrators.

"People didn't realize recycling could make a difference," he said. "I went in and talked to them; we got the message out."

The School of Medicine managers took a more hands-on approach to awareness, organizing a field trip of sorts for the custodians from their nine buildings; late last year the group took a tour of the BFI recycling plant.

"It was important," Sebour said of the eye-opening excursion. "We wanted the folks to see it, and it made them more energetic about what they're doing. It was a learning process."

Franks encourages enthusiasm by offering incentive programs to staff members for outstanding performance and attendance records.

"I'm very excited about my recycling program," Franks said.

Moran said he will work with custodians, grounds crews, students and employees to make sure people have options for disposing their waste. He will also encourage other resource-saving practices, such as using both sides of paper and checking packaging materials before overusing.

In the future, Moran hopes to create a program for recycling mercury-filled lightbulbs that are currently added to incinerated waste. He also would like to see more people buying recycled and environmentally friendly products on campus.

"It's tough because purchasing is not in one person's hands," he said. "And a lot of people have had bad experiences in the past with recycled products. But I think there have been a lot of technological improvements in manufacturing."

One technological process already in place is the toner cartridge recycling program, which has raised more than $1,500 for the United Way campaign in Hopkins' name. Last year, the university purchased more than $100,000 worth of cartridges for the Homewood campus alone, Moran said. Under the recycling program, cartridges are sent to Automated Office Products in Lanham, which reuses the cartridges and donates funds to the United Way to encourage recycling.

At Hopkins Hospital, which generates about 17 tons of trash a day including construction debris, director of Environmental Services Mike Plank said his staff currently recycles cardboard and is looking at ways to expand the program. The hospital works with outside vendors who are also involved in the decision-making process, Plank said.

Where To Call:

For more information about recycling on the Homewood campus or to receive cardboard desk bins, call (410)516-5592.

To inquire about the university's toner cartridge recycling program, call Eden Stotsky in the Office of Faculty, Staff and Retiree Programs at (410)516-6060.

To reach the School of Medicine's recycling program, call (410)955-3324.

For information on recycling procedures at the School of Hygiene and Public Health, call (410)955-3404.

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