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Waste Reduction and Recycling

UNC has active recycling programs for more than 40 different materials. These include traditional materials such as office paper, bottles, and cans; construction waste such as concrete, carpet, and ceiling tiles; and hazardous materials such as batteries, computer equipment, and mercury.

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Traditional Recycling

Two recycling bins on campus

A more accurate weight-based reporting program, introduced in FY 2009, provides a better gauge of recycling and waste reduction across campus. While this more accurate measurement revealed a decrease in the overall recycling rate it also revealed that the amount landfilled in FY 2009—5,473 tons—is the lowest since measurements began in 1991. In 2011, UNC achieved a record-high 41% diversion rate (41 percent of times destined for the waste heap were either recycled or reused). As UNC’s recycling efforts have increased, so have the carbon savings. In 2004, recycling programs saved just over 7,000 tons of CO2 equivalent based on an EPA model. In 2008, carbon savings from recycling climbed to 10,500 tons CO2 equivalent.

Resources:
Annual Recycling Statistics

Links:
Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling - http://owrr.facilities.unc.edu/

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Campus Programs

When students move out of the residence halls, a program called Tar Heel Treasure ensures that old items in good shape are reused rather than trashed. Materials are saved and resold at low prices in a community-wide sale. From electronics to shoes, food, and textbooks, the Tar Heel Treasure sale saved 111 cubic yards of landfill space and raised $7,000 for the Eve Marie Carson Scholarship and $1,000 worth of items were donated to the N.C. Children’s Hospital in 2009.

Nike Reuse-A-Shoe chose UNC as a pilot campus for their program, which collects old shoes and turns the soles into athletic surfaces like basketball courts, playgrounds, and tracks.

To further involve students in the effort to reduce and reuse, the Office of Waste Reduction & Recycling launched their Residential Green Games, which pits on-campus student residential communities against each other to see who can reduce, reuse, and recycle the most.  Over 9,000 on-campus students participate each year.

In response to a November 2003 Student Congress resolution, OWRR and the Athletics Department launched a pilot project to recycle plastic bottles and beverage and popcorn cups at football games in Kenan Stadium. Initially run by OWRR staff and volunteers, recycling stations have been established and are now run by the Athletics Department. Encouraged by the success at Kenan, the Athletics Department has expanded the recycling program to its other outdoor venues. A trial Tailgating Recycling Program was implemented in 2008 and collected 0.68 tons of materials. The program will be expanded in the future.

Rather than landfilling the mattresses removed during residence hall renovation, UNC Housing found Nine Lives Mattress Recycling in Pamplico, South Carolina, that recycles 100 percent of old mattress materials. The plastic wrapping on the new mattresses is taken by a local grocery store that has a recycling partnership with Trex Products. The wrappings are recycled alongside plastic shopping bags to make decking materials.

To help reduce overall paper waste, University Mail Services works with the Intra-Mail Network (IMN). In the past, undeliverable bulk mail, such as an improperly addressed catalogue, was deposited in a recycling bin in the mail center. Now, IMN works with participating commercial mailers to ensure that mail is deliverable.

A program called One Less Cup encourages students to carry reusable mugs. Several coffee shops on campus provide stickers and discounts to students who do.

Links:
Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling - http://owrr.facilities.unc.edu/
Tar Heel Treasure - http://tarheeltreasure.unc.edu/
Nike Reuse-A-Shoe - http://www.nikereuseashoe.com/
Nine Lives Mattress Recycling - http://www.ninelivesmattressrecycling.com/
University Mail Services - http://www.fac.unc.edu/
Intra-Mail Network - https://www.intra-mail.com/

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Composting

A Carolina Dining Services worker cleans a food trayIn 2009, UNC won the Carolina Recycling Association’s award for the Outstanding Composting or Organics Recycling Program. Efforts cited include food waste collection by Carolina Dining Services (14 percent of the total campus waste diversion by weight); animal bedding collection by the Department of Laboratory and Animal Medicine (16 percent); yard waste processing by the grounds department (7 percent); and the partnership between UNC, Orange County, and Brooks Contractor, a composting and processing company. The 18 tons of used cooking oil collected from Carolina Dining Services was made into biodiesel fuel.  Organics are the largest share of waste diverted at 44%.

Beyond composting, Carolina Dining Services is working hard to reduce waste. Smaller plates, the discontinuation of trays, and signage about food waste and healthy eating contributed to a 52 percent reduction in food waste across all campus food services in FY 2008. Since 2007, the Daily Grind and Global Cup Café have composted coffee grounds and corn-based cups with a local farmer.

Resources:
Annual Composting Statistics

Links:
Carolina Dining Services - http://www.dining.unc.edu/
Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling - http://owrr.facilities.unc.edu/
Daily Grind and Global Cup Café - http://dailygrindespressocafe.com/

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Hazardous Waste Recycling

Hazardous waste disposal is an important part of the University’s waste minimization plan. Hazardous materials management and recycling is the responsibility of Environment, Health and Safety. In 2008, 28,600 pounds of spent fluorescent tubes, 22,000 pounds of lead and non-PCB ballasts, and hundreds of mercury thermometers were recycled by the Environment, Health and Safety Department.

Coal ash, a by-product of power and steam production at UNC’s cogeneration facility, constitutes the largest waste stream on campus. It is not included in overall recycling and municipal solid waste totals due to its extreme size. Full Circle Solutions diverts 100 percent of UNC’s coal ash from the landfill by using it as structural fill in construction projects and as an agricultural and horticultural soil amendment.

Links:
Environment, Health and Safety - http://ehs.unc.edu
UNC Cogeneration Facility - http://www.energy.unc.edu/cogeneration-systems-documents/cogeneration-systems

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Construction and Demolition Waste

Construction and demolition waste recycling increased from 5 percent in FY 2005 to 43 percent in FY 2009. Items such as clean wood waste and pallets, scrap metal, carpet, ceiling tiles, and concrete/block are sourceseparated and recycled.

At UNC, any contractor working on either a renovation project or a new building must submit a Solid Waste Management Plan, as well as monthly reports that track recycled, salvaged, and landfilled items. Cardboard, clean wood, crates, scrap metal, and pallets are banned from Orange County landfills.

In 2008, Venable Hall, a chemistry building constructed in 1925, was demolished. Many items from the hall were reused around campus. The concrete tiles from the roof, for example, were reused to improve muddy sections of the running trail in the Carolina North Forest. Maintenance shops salvaged pumps and electrical panels. The granite steps and door surrounds will be incorporated in the new building that will rise in its place. Overall, contractors were able to recycle or salvage 1,100 tons of material, which was 61 percent of the total waste. A goal of 95 percent waste diversion was established for the new Education Center at the Botanical Garden.

Resources:
Annual Recycling Statistics
Construction and Demolition Waste Management Guidelines

Links:Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling - http://owrr.facilities.unc.edu/

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