Recycling, 'Office Space'-style

office space recycle

Sitting in your gray cubicle, writing a note on a Post-it using a bright red pen so you really remember to email Stan tomorrow and what happens? The ink in that plastic pen runs out just when you finish the “t” in “Stan.” Now what will you do with the pen? A trash can is right below your desk, but what if your red pen could give life to a new blue pen?

Enter ASU’s Materials Management team

In 2009, a group of employees from ASU Stores and Mail Services saw unwanted office supplies piling up in the trash and decided to do something about it. Back then, Mail Services was already collecting CDs, VHS tapes, and cell phones while ASU Stores was gathering toner cartridges for recycling. When the two departments merged in 2011 to create ASU Materials Management, their recycling and reuse efforts multiplied. Since then, the team has saved 400 pounds of CDs, DVDs, plastic jewel cases, more than 150 cell phones, and over 17,000 toner cartridges from the landfill—not to mention countless pens, markers, and rubber bands.

“The recycling service started organically,” says Maureen King, manager of Materials Management. “We saw a need in our area and we decided to help.”

Photo by Andy DeLisle

The ten or so employees who deliver university mail pick up the used office supplies in each department’s mail box and then take them to Materials Management for sorting and delivery to recycling companies. Toner cartridges are sent to companies that refill or recycle them and ASU Surplus takes in cell phones. For every pen recycled, two cents go to the ASU Foundation. Mail Services reuses unwanted rubber bands.

“Since our team is already dropping off mail, we might as well make use of existing resources like vehicles and employee time,” King says.

Alana Levine, ASU’s Recycling program manager, estimates that Materials Management saves her team $16,000 each year on staff time, vehicle wear, and gas by not having to collect the items Materials Management picks up.

Recycling small objects like pens, markers, rubber bands, and CDs may seem like a small endeavor, but Materials Management’s initiative helps ASU get closer to becoming a zero waste university by 2015.

For their efforts, the Materials Management recycling team received a 2013 President’s Award for Sustainability from ASU President Michael Crow.

“We are very aware of the direction the university wants to take, and our recycling service just seemed to be an opportunity for us to be involved and do our part,” says Diana Gallese, director of Materials Management.

Um, yeah, if you could recycle, that’d be great

So don’t throw your office supplies in the trash. Drop them in your outgoing campus mail and Materials Management will pick them up for recycling. You don’t have to collect a whole bunch of items; you can drop off just one when it is convenient.

Recyclable items:

  • pens
  • highlighters
  • mechanical pencils
  • markers
  • rubber bands
  • cell phones
  • CDs
  • VHS tapes
  • computer mice
  • plastic tape dispensers
  • toner cartridges

Learn how the rest of ASU recycles.

By Natalie Muilenberg
Editor Assistant, Global Institute of Sustainability
[email protected]