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History of Recycling at O.S.U
By Will Focht
SES Starts Volunteer Effort
Will Focht, then President of the Society of Environmental Scientists (SES), gained
the support of the SES in establishing a limited white paper recycling in five
buildings on campus. SES volunteers distributed recycle boxes in offices in these
buildings and, twice each week, would collect the contents and place them in a
special collection container for pickup by the Physical Plant.
SWEAP Continues Volunteer Effort and Encourages OSU Buy-in
SES and the Center for Environmental Education joined forces to establish SWEAP
(Solid Waste Environmental Action Project) to continue the volunteer recycling
effort while exploring the possibility of institutionalizing recycling on campus
through the Physical Plant. Unfortunately, SWEAP’s effort to gain Physical Plant
support was not successful.
CRC Formed to Institutionalize Recycling at OSU
John Houck arrives from Ohio State University and assumed directorship (now
Assistant Vice President) of the Physical Plant. Mr. Houck was very supportive of
SWEAP’s institutionalization of recycling at OSU and committed to sponsoring a
campus-wide recycling program. The CRC (Campus Recycling Committee) was
established to look into options for recycling and to distribute collection containers
and informational flyers to all offices on buildings within the general university.
Campus-wide recycling was now underway, with Physical Plant staff committed to
empty recycle containers and transporting recyclable paper to HEW (the owner and
operator of the municipal landfill in Stillwater) for sale.
Recycling Survey Shows Support for Recycling
Will Focht developed a survey instrument and distributed it to a random sample of
administrators, faculty, staff, and students at OSU that inquired into their willingness
and history of participation in on-campus recycling. In addition, Will and John
Houck developed a field survey, conducted by Will, John, Physical Plant staff, and
student volunteers, in which they examined the contents of randomly selected offices
in five buildings on campus to ascertain a recycling participation rate. These results
were published in a report by Will Focht and in an article in the O-Stater by Will and
Mike Barnett of the Physical Plant.
A few of the major results of this survey are as follows:
The College of Agricultural and Natural Sciences had the highest participation
rate, with the College of Arts and Sciences second. The Business College had
the lowest participation rate.
Recycling Program Demonstrates Success
An accounting of the white paper recycling efforts by the Physical Plant
demonstrated the following successes:
96 tons recycled
Revenue generated at 1.5 cents/pound = $2880
Money saved in landfill tipping fees = $875
1994-1997 OSU Demonstrates Recycling Success in Earth Day Exhibits
A “Trash Pyramid” was set up on the Library Lawn in 1994 to illustrate OSU’s waste
stream recycling success. This pyramid was identical to this year’s pyramid and
demonstrate that though OSU was having success, much more could be done. This
pyramid seemed to attract significant interest. Similar pyramids were set up north of
the Library in 1995, 1996, and 1997 as part of Earth Day celebrations in those years.
During this time, OSU earned as much as 2.5 cents per pound for white paper that
was generating revenues as high as $4000 per year and saving landfill disposal costs
as high as $2000 per year. (Note: tipping fees have nearly tripled, from $3.25 per
cubic yard to $9.00 per cubic yard, in just the last 10 years.)
CRC Becomes Dormant
Probably as a victim of its own success, attendance at CRC meetings dwindled and
interest declined. Eventually, the CRC ceased its monthly meetings. However,
recycling was continuing as before due to its successful institutionalization.
1997-2002 Recycling Continues
Recycling continued over the next five years but participation and interest among
members of the University community waned. Some people lost their recycle boxes,
others stopped using them, and some floors had no collection boxes. Moreover, the
amount of money that OSU was receiving from HEW for white paper dropped to
zero, which meant that OSU was subsidizing recycling at a loss.
CRC Revives
Renewed interest in recycling on campus by the SGA, the GPSGA, the Stillwater
Recycling Coalition, the Earth Day Planning Committee, the Faculty Council’s
Campus Facilities, Safety and Security Committee, and others stimulated questions
and concerns about recycling at OSU. Many people were unaware that OSU had
institutionalized recycling on campus and had no knowledge of its prior and
continuing successes. Nevertheless, it was time to reinvigorate OSU recycling.
Members from these groups met with John Houck and revived the CRC to examine
how recycling could be expanded and made more effective.
White Paper: 150 tons recycled (does not include Residence Halls or Student
Union); saved $2500 in tipping fees (though no revenues from sale)
Glass: 10,000 pounds recycled
Automotive Crankcase Oil: 2000 gallons recycled
Automotive Antifreeze: 100% recycled
Scrap Metal (Brass, Copper, Iron, Steel): 200 tons recycled
Tires: 1500+ recycled or used as fuel
Automotive Lead-Acid Batteries: 500+ reclaimed for lead
Heavy Metal Batteries (e.g., nickel-cadmium): 4000 pounds recycled
Spent Solvents: 100% recycled
Laboratory Chemicals: 27,000 pounds reused or recycled
CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons): 100% reused
Fluorescent Lights: 20,000+ recycled for mercury
Laboratory Equipment: 95%+ reused or sold at auction
Office Furniture: 90%+ repaired and reused or sold at auction
Wood Pallets: 1500 either burned for Bedlam football rally or sold at auction
Clean Concrete Rubble (no asphalt): 100% used as rip-rap at Lake Carl Blackwell
Aluminum: No institutionalized recycling due to individualized efforts
OSU’s Energy Management System (building monitoring and controls, primarily
temperature and lighting): Savings of $1 million
Fluorescent light retrofits with lower wattage lamps
Remote monitoring and control of temperature
One degree higher setting in warm season, one degree cooler in winter
Replace existing windows with thermal pane windows as windows need replacement,
which saves money by reducing heat exchange
Custodial and security staff turning off lights and encouraging office personnel to do
the same
Fuel Consumption
Purchased 5 electric vehicles to replace fossil fuel vehicles
Purchased 2 buses to transport faculty, staff, and students to and from OSU-Tulsa
twice daily in lieu of using passenger cars
Purchased large vans for on-campus transportation
Replace CFC coolants with environmentally friendlier coolants
Install underground irrigation systems to conserve water
Install closed-loop water systems to cool compressors used to chill water for air
conditioning to conserve water
Further Reduce OSU Landfill Disposal: Currently at 300,000 tons (mostly paper,
office trash, and food service) at a cost of $9/cubic yard or $5.1 million dollars by
increasing paper recycling
Bail White Paper to Increase Its Value: Physical Plant just purchased a bailer and place
it in the Library Anex (near High School) to bail paper before offering it for sale, which
will significantly increase its value
Find Another Buyer for Our White Paper to Increase Revenues: HEW does not
currently pay anything for white paper; other merchants will
Build Park and Ride Garage: Plans to build 3000 car garage to park private vehicles
that will be serviced by buses
Continue to upgrade building monitoring and control technologies
Continue thermal pane and fluorescent light retrofit programs
Add bus service route to OKC
Purchase additional electric vehicles once the heating problem is fixed (batteries
cannot sustain heaters in winter)
Sustainability efforts need continuing evaluation and reporting of progress
Sustainability also requires increased campus awareness through educational and
participation campaigns
Sustainability requires continuing surveillance of changing technologies and management
strategies, including programs instituted at other universities
Sustainability requires careful coordination among campus groups and organizations
involved or interested in these activities
Sustainability works best if it is institutionalized into the University culture and everyone
is involved