Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tour of Physical Plant

On the morning of Thursday, February 28, the Student Environmental Center hosted a tour to UC Santa Cruz's Physical Plant, which provides services for the school in facilities & infrastructure operations, building maintenance, custodial services, grounds & road services, and refuse & recycling services. It was an opportunity for students to see what happens to campus waste and recycling behind-the-scenes.

Students and staff who attended the tour were first given a presentation about what streams of waste are sorted. The locations where waste is collected include the main campus, the marine campus at Younger Lagoon, as well as campus construction and demolition sites. The waste collected by Physical Plant includes cardboard, mixed paper, office paper, containers, compostable materials, metal scrap, construction and demolition diversions and organics (wood chips, grass, trimmings).

Student Environmental Center Waste Prevention Campaign Coordinator Darya Soofi and Intern Alexandra Corvello present about campus waste to students and staff who attended the tour of Physical Plant.

One thing that we learned during the tour was that 34% of residential waste from campus is from soiled paper, or used paper towels, alone. Stevenson College is the first college at UCSC to remove paper towels from the residential dorms in an effort to reduce this huge contributor to waste. Read more about the project at Stevenson here, and find out about how Cowell College is also making the switch here.

Food scraps and compostable items from the Dining Halls are trucked to a Marina composting site, but sometimes students take compostable containers from cafes on campus and dispose them in trash and recycling bins, where they are unable to be composted. If you take a container with you that says it's compostable, find a compost bin (cafes like Global Village Cafe and the Owl's Nest have them) to dispose it in.

Physical Plant also sorts recycling. UCSC receives money for recycling items by sorting out CRV (California Refund Value) containers from other recyclables and waste. This income helps fund operations and improvements to their recycling program.

Waste that cannot be diverted to recycling or compost is trucked to a landfill in the City of Santa Cruz called Dimeo Lane, where it costs $75 per ton to dump waste. A typical load of waste is 7-10 tons.

After the presentation, we were able to walk around the grounds and see all of the different types of trucks. The most exciting part was being able to see the conveyor belt that is used for sorting out all of the containers from the recycling.

How can you get involved with waste prevention?  Contact Elida Erickson about getting involved with the Zero Waste Team in the Sustainability Office or find out about the Waste Prevention Campaign at the Student Environmental Center by emailing Darya.

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