How many recycled boxes does it take to be sustainable?

Each August, nearly 10,000 students on the Tempe campus alone move in to their new homes with all of their boxes and bags of things. It is the first chance we have to educate residents, mostly new-to-ASU Freshmen, about the recycling practices at the university, and it is also the first major waste-generating event of the year. This year, led by Rebecca Reining of University Housing, a team was assembled with representatives also from Grounds Services, Facilities Management, University Sustainability Practices, and the Center for Student Sustainability Initiatives (CSSI) & their Green Team volunteers to coordinate and run the program, which started in early May before Move-out was even finished. Even with so much coordination, Move-in recycling doesn’t happen magically all by itself: it happens through the efforts of a few hundred volunteers out by the dumpsters and compactors from dawn until well past sunset educating the new residents about the university’s recycling program while working to keep things running smoothly. These volunteers - almost exclusively ASU students - were wonderful, and we would like to thank them for doing so much to get this year off to a great start. Building off of last-year’s program, we knew that most of the waste generated would consist of 3 things: cardboard boxes, Styrofoam™, and plastic bags. Cardboard has always been a valuable recyclable material, and as long as the boxes were broken down so as to not fill up our dumpsters with empty space, we knew they wouldn’t be an issue. Fortunately for our efforts, the ASU Tempe Campus recycling program this year can now take empty plastic bags with the other co-mingled items thanks to some new machines at the recycling facility. Unfortunately Styrofoam is still considered trash in the university’s program. However, by working with a local company that mixes Styrofoam with concrete for some of its construction work, we were able to divert nearly 100 cubic yards of Styrofoam from the landfill, and without us paying a penny! It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to haul our trash to the landfill, so it is good to be saving money as well as the environment – it helps in getting extra support from the university higher-ups J. All in all, it was quite a successful move-in, and what few issues we noted will be optimized for Move-in 2011!  Volunteers can sign up to help with future programs by emailing [email protected] By Eric Tank