Talking Trash for America Recycles Day
Happy America Recycles Day to all! In celebration of the 15th annual event today (November 15), AASHE offers two different takes on the day and opportunities it presents for higher education.
Virginia Military Institute, Northwestern U and U Massachusetts Amherst get into the spirit.
College & University Recycling Coalition Says:
The purpose of America Recycles Day is to raise awareness about the importance of recycling and waste reduction in conserving natural resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The 34 percent of waste currently recycled and composted in the U.S. helps avoid the equivalent amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by 36 million cars. As President Obama pointed out in the special proclamation he issued today, America Recycles Day is our opportunity to take “bold action to preserve our natural resources, strengthen our economy, and protect the bountiful landscapes we have been blessed with.”
This year, the College & University Recycling Coalition (CURC) is partnering with Keep America Beautiful (KAB) and RecycleMania to get the word out about America Recycles Day to over 250 schools that are planning events. Many of these schools received free toolkits with “I Recycle” shirts, banners and recycled-content plastic bags for tailgate collections at home football games. The University of Texas at Austin, University of Alabama, Michigan State, Virginia Military Institute, Stetson University and University of Nevada Las Vegas are just a few of the schools promoting America Recycles Day at home games this fall.
It isn’t all football, though! In Wisconsin, Carroll University is using America Recycles Day to promote its 3rd annual Recycle-a-Thon, and Duke University and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill are planning plastic bag and e-waste collection events. Out in the Pacific, the University of Guam got a jump on everyone with day long-activities including games, prizes and a photo booth - all promoting a recycling and “going green” theme.
“We’re excited about all the ARD events happening on campuses this year, especially those doing tailgate recycling collections. America Recycles Day is the perfect opportunity for schools to do recycling outreach in the fall and then follow up with RecycleMania during the winter term,” said Alec Cooley, who manages college recycling programs for KAB.
Join campuses across the country this America Recycles Day to recycle more and help protect the environment. While you’re at it, add your name to the list of 34,000 people who have already pledged online to recycle more at http://americarecyclesday.org/take-the-pledge.
EPA Food Recovery Challenge Says:
For America Recycles Day this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is focusing on wasted food. Americans send more food to landfills than any other material in the municipal solid waste stream - 33 million tons per year to be exact! Much of this food is fresh and safe to eat, or is suitable for feeding the soil through composting. When excess food, leftover food and food scraps are put in a landfill they decompose and become a significant source of methane with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. The environmental impacts aren’t limited to disposal - wasted food also wastes the fertilizer, water and energy used to grow food and deliver to our communities.
To address the issue of wasted food, EPA started the Food Recovery Challenge under its Sustainable Materials Management Program. Through the Challenge, organizations commit to reducing the amount of food sent to landfills through prevention, donation and composting. Over 60 colleges and universities have already taken the pledge and committed to feed people, not landfills.
Wasting food wastes money. It is estimated that wasted food costs $100 billion per year in the U.S. Businesses and households alike can save money by reducing over-purchasing and disposal fees.
Wasted food is also a social equity issue. Fourteen percent of households in the U.S. are food insecure, and fifty million Americans don’t get enough to eat while we are sending more food to landfills than ever before. We can shift that balance by feeding people, not landfills.
- Prevention/Source Reduction
UC Berkeley recently began tracking the amount of food wasted in their dining halls using a computerized waste tracking system. This system allows them to understand how much and why food is being wasted in their kitchens. While cutting an extra inch off of one bell pepper doesn’t seem like a lot, it adds up when you are preparing 100 pounds of bell peppers. Tracking their waste has allowed UC Berkeley to change operational practices and train staff, leading to significant reductions in wasted food. Staff is also awarded for improving or coming up with innovative solutions to reduce wasted food. These significant reductions are saving $1600 a week!
Starting at University of Maryland College Park and Brown University, students realized that good food was being wasted every night at their dining halls. They took action and started a program to get that bounty of wholesome food to those in the community without food. Now on seven college campuses nationwide, the Food Recovery Network’s student volunteers coordinate with their campus’ dining services to safely collect excess food and distribute it to food banks and food rescues in the area. Based on their successful model, the Food Recovery Network is working to expand this to more colleges across the nation.
University of Texas at Arlington composts its food scraps on-site and uses the resulting soil amendment at its organic community garden. In 2011, over 60,000 pounds of food and landscape materials were composted and used in the garden to grow food. The food grown at the garden is then donated to a local food bank. Since 2011, more than 800 pounds of food has been donated to those in need.
Let’s continue to make the grade! Keep this Food Recovery Challenge conversation going and talk about sustainable materials management. Not just on America Recycles Day, but every day of the year!
-Laura Moreno, environmental scientist in EPA Region 9's Office of Pollution Prevention and Solid Waste
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