|Special Materials, Chemical and Hazardous Waste|
See Chapter 12: Construction and Demolition Recycling for detailed recycling information.
A wide variety of scrap metals will be generated on a college campus, but the most prevalent will be steel. According to the Steel Recycling Institute, steel has the highest recycling rate of any material in
Steel is a major component in a wide variety of products including appliances, automobiles, food containers, rebar and other structural supports for buildings. All steel has recycled content, but the proportions of recycled content depend on the type of steel-making furnace used in the manufacturing process. There are two kinds of steel making furnaces: basic oxygen furnaces (BOF) and electric arc furnaces (EAF.) The basic oxygen furnace uses 25-35% recycled steel to manufacture new steel. The electric arc furnace uses more than 80% recycled steel. 
Recycling steel saves valuable energy and landfill space as well as natural resources. Recycling one ton of steel conserves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal, and 120 pounds of limestone. 
More specialized metals such as silver, gold, copper, and brass are also generated on college campuses and can be sold for recycling. Price yields will vary depending on the type and grade of the metal. These metals generally need to be separated from one another for marketing. Silver is usually generated in movie and photo studios through film processing practices as well as in radiology labs for x-ray film processing. Devices can be attached to the sinks in these areas which will separate silver from waste liquids so that is may be recovered for recycling. Dental departments regularly recycle gold fillings and some fillings may contain lead amalgam as well. See the Chemical and Hazardous Waste section of this chapter for more information about handling and recycling lead. Gold can be found in art studios as well. Both pure copper and brass (which is an alloy typically made from copper and zinc) are prominent materials in electrical wiring and can be recovered during construction, demolition, and remodeling of campus buildings. These materials are also present in machine and auto shops as well as art studios.
Campus transportation shops may perform in-house maintenance on campus vehicles, manage service contracts so that local automotive shops are responsible for campus vehicle maintenance, or a combination of both. Fortunately, there are specific regulations for disposing of special waste generated in auto shop operations, thus reducing the need to monitor this at off-campus sites.
Auto parts in general provide many reuse and recycling opportunities, but tires in particular have been recycled a variety of ways in recent years. They are recycled to manufacture alternate fuels, speed bumps, mats, cushioning, flooring, tiles, irrigation tubes, decking, office supplies, planters, sound barriers, swings, and truck bed liners. One of the most promising uses is asphalt rubber which is made from ground or “crumb” rubber mixed with asphalt concrete. This technology prevents tires from being disposed of in landfills and also reduces the need for mining new materials for concrete.
Most tires are recycled through local tire dealers. For community collection opportunities, contact the local waste management division to find a drop off location. Though each state has different procedures, collections areas are frequently available in tire stores and automotive service stations. In some states, there is an advanced recovery fee charged when purchasing new tires. Unfortunately, many consumers are unaware of this and thus illegal dumping often includes tires.
College campuses generate large quantities of pallets and other wood waste. As with any material, try to reuse wood products as much as possible before recycling them as this is a resource and energy intensive process. Paper recyclers often take pallets for reuse and in the instances when recycling becomes necessary, fortunately, wood waste recyclers are plentiful and should be easy to locate nearby campus. Collecting wood waste separately often can be less expensive (and is definitely a better environmental alternative) than landfilling. Local garbage companies will often provide commercial drop boxes specifically for wood. The campus recycling program could also work directly with a wood waste processor or forest products company. Determine the most efficient and cost effective method for collection. Be aware of the rules regarding what is acceptable as wood waste. Typically cedar, laminate, particle board, pressure treated lumber, and pallets containing plastic are not accepted. Post a sign on the wood waste dumpsters and alert staff members and contractors to proper wood waste handling.
Campus communities receive phone books once or twice a year: one campus directory and one local telephone company directory. Encourage the campus telephone services department to print the campus directory on white paper so that it can be recycled through regular recycling collection. Determine which category of paper the phone directories can be recycled with and alert the campus regarding proper recycling procedures.
College campuses, including housing areas, receive unsolicited bulk mailings from off-campus entities. This mail costs a substantial amount of money to receive, deliver and dispose of or recycle. By reducing unsolicited bulk mail, recycling programs are assisting campuses in reducing costs and increasing efficiency.
For mail received by campus personnel and departments, work with the campus Printing Department to create a printed postcard that requests removal from mailing lists. Leave enough space on the postcard to paste the mailing label from the unsolicited mail or address the postcard to the appropriate company and send it through department mail. Departments can supply these postcards to staff.
College campuses generate large amounts of paper materials that include confidential information. Handling confidential materials is a serious matter and should not be overlooked in handling recyclables (especially paper). One option is to have an in-house operation. This is a labor intensive process that requires keeping the material separate, a high-speed shredder and plenty of room to store loose shredded paper or bales for market. Collecting pre-shredded materials from departments is a cumbersome and expensive method of managing these materials. Shredding is labor intensive for departments, a drain on campus electricity, expensive for recyclers to handle high volume/low density material, requires special equipment, and is an inefficient method for collecting this valuable paper resource.
Another option is to pay a contractor to come to campus and shred the material either on-campus in a special shredding truck or off-campus in a secure facility. This is the best method for cost-effectiveness, security and efficiency. Some contractors will even pulp the material after it is collected. It is each department's responsibility to follow all state and federal rules pertaining to document retention. When establishing a program for handling confidential documents, it is best to defer to the Records/Archives Department to determine the best management method. Be sure to request monthly totals to be included in waste tracking of recovered paper.
The issue of electronic waste or e-waste, especially from computers, is growing. College campuses upgrade computer equipment regularly, thus generating an impressive waste stream. Due to the numerous toxic metals contained in computer equipment, more colleges are looking at responsible strategies for managing this waste stream.
Computers are no friend of the environment. Though the PC industry is sometimes thought of as “green,” in reality, the very nature of this industry involves pollution. Computers contain hundreds of environmentally degrading metals, acids, and plastics. Proper disposal of computers is a crucial step to take toward reducing environmental impact from the toxic materials contained in these items.
One strategy is to work with the campus Procurement Department to encourage computer manufacturers who sell their products to the college to adopt “take-back” or “buy-back” programs. If possible, add language in computer equipment vending contracts to address this issue. Include take-back and responsible disposal by the company in the purchasing agreement. Grassroots campaigns encouraging take-back programs are also a strategy that will get students on board with supporting such programs on campus.
Computers can also be donated and reused. Old computers are often thought of as “junk” but schools and community based organizations can get good use out of an old computer, thereby extending its life span and preventing it from becoming landfilled. Used working computers are valuable, so avoid disposal whenever possible. If disposal is the only option, it may be necessary to remove the toxic elements prior to disposal. Do this with great caution. In addition to hazardous materials, computers carry an electrical charge in the power supply long after being unplugged. Tampering with such devices may cause serious injury due to electric shock.
Some Campus Recycling Programs have full-scale computer and electronics recovery/recycling programs where machines are dismantled into various components for reuse and recycling. To institute this type of program, make sure to work with the campus Environmental Health and Safety Department. Demanufacturing projects can be incorporated into technology-based education programs. Of course, re-building computers by swapping parts is the best strategy to reduce the actual final waste going into the landfill. As this issue grows, more opportunities are evolving to capture e-waste from plastic casing to the more valuable metals.
As states are developing electronics take-back programs, local non-profits are emerging that take electronics and either refurbish or recycle the equipment. Check for such resources within the local area.
In recent years, a number of organizations have begun to collect cell phones for reuse by victims of domestic violence. Emergency numbers are preprogrammed into the phones so that help can be called easily. Phones are also collected for reuse by soldiers stationed overseas and disaster relief workers. Some cellular telephone companies have programs to collect old phones, some of which are salvaged and donated, while others are recycled. The Resources section of this chapter offers contact information for specific charities and companies that reuse or recycle used cell phones.
Cassette Tapes (Audio and Video), CDs and Diskettes
Cassette tapes (audio and video) CDs and diskettes are also frequently included in college campus waste streams. Research options for recycling these items locally. Recycling companies that are already handling materials diverted from the campus waste stream may be able to recycle tapes, CDs, and diskettes as well, or may be able to offer suggestions as to another company that may be able to handle the waste. There are organizations that accept these types of materials for reuse in craft projects. CDs have the best recovery through plastic recyclers, while cassette type tapes and smaller computer disks can be recycled through the companies listed in the Resources section of this chapter.
Film (Transparencies, Radiology, Print Shop, Art Studios, etc.)
Transparency film can be recycled. Check with local sources to locate any recycling opportunities in the area. If nothing is available locally, encourage campus departments to ship material directly for recycling. See the Resources section of this chapter for contact information for the 3M Transparency Recycling Program. Small amounts can be collected through the recycling program, but be cautious about accepting this material in large amounts as it is heavy and shipping is expensive. Radiology departments, print shops, and art/movie studios produce film that can be recycled using highly specialized processes. To locate a recycling company for this material, contact the company that produces the film. Be sure to determine if different types of film can be recycled together or if they need to be separated to increase marketability.
Surplus reusable office supplies can be donated to an on-campus Reusable Office Supply Exchange (R.O.S.E.) or Office Supply Collection and Reuse (OSCAR) program. Establish a self-serve area that employs students for shelving materials and general maintenance tasks. See Chapter 28: Reuse Exchanges and Waste Reductions for more information on establishing and maintaining an R.O.S.E. program.
Furniture, Office Equipment, Miscellaneous
Check with the surplus department to find out how campus property is discarded and managed. Many college recycling programs end up working with, or fully managing, certain surplus items. Reuse these items whenever possible. Below is a list of ideas for redistributing surplus items so that they can be reused on campus.
College campuses generate large quantities of envelopes. Encourage reuse of padded and other envelopes for both on and off campus mailings. Campus mail services may also be willing to accept envelopes for reuse. Surplus letter envelopes can be reused as scratch paper.
Padded envelopes can be lined with low grade recyclable fiber or plastic bubble wrap. The latter is not recyclable, so continue to find ways to reuse such envelopes as many times as possible. Save any bubble-wrap lined envelopes that may be put into recycling bins by mistake. As these build up, make sure the campus community is informed of the surplus as it is likely that padded envelopes will be in demand somewhere on campus. They can also be placed in the campus Reusable Office Supply Exchange (R.O.S.E.) See Chapter 28: Reuse Exchanges and Waste Reduction for more information about establishing an R.O.S.E. program. There are also recycling programs for Tyvek envelopes through DuPont™ Tyvek®. Shipping is paid by the campus, but the material is recycled at no additional charge. See the Resources section at the end of this chapter for more information about DuPont™ Tyvek® recycling programs. If envelopes are generated in a large quantity in one area on campus, work with that area to collect and send envelopes recycling. If there are smaller quantities, send the envelopes through campus mail, collect them in recycling, and send off as needed.
Laser printer, inkjet, copier, and fax machine imaging supplies can be remanufactured. Programs range from donating to exchanging empties for credit towards a purchase of a new or remanufactured item, to being paid outright for returning the item for remanufacturing. Departments can often work directly with a contractor to recycle or refill cartridges. For items that are not exchanged or credited, the recycling program can receive payment for cartridges collected from campus. This is an excellent opportunity for the program to receive revenue with little effort.
Ideally, departments will close the loop by purchasing remanufactured cartridges (which saves money) and returning empty cartridges to be remanufactured. When initiating a program, educate the campus community about the cartridge recycling process and encourage the purchase of remanufactured cartridges. Make sure the remanufacturing company is reputable and that the remanufactured cartridges perform well. Solicit feedback from faculty and staff members who use the remanufactured cartridges to ensure product quality. Inkjet cartridges can be collected through campus mail, or contractors may provide small collection containers for departments. Other options include providing departments with pre-paid shipping mailers or labels so that cartridges may be sent in for recycling.
Styrofoam Peanuts, Block Styrofoam, Bubble Wrap, and Six Pack Rings
Styrofoam (polystyrene) peanuts are plentiful on college campuses, but unfortunately are rarely able to be recycled. The good news is that this type of material is easily reused. Collect styrofoam peanuts and offer them to campus departments, mail services, and the college bookstore. Local mailing companies and product distributors may also be able to reuse packing peanuts. Purchasing styrofoam peanuts is expensive and there are many options for local reuse.
While styrofoam (also called expanded polystyrene or EPS) is not a highly recyclable item, there is an emerging recycling market. Recycled expanded polystyrene is now being used as an aggregate material to manufacture light weight concrete. If there is no local processor for block styrofoam, the material is trash unless it can be reused in campus art projects or to ship fragile materials. It is extremely problematic because it does not break down in the landfill and is unwieldy to place in campus dumpsters.
In hospitals and labs, specimens are shipped in styrofoam boxes that usually have a pre-paid mailing label attached. Educate researchers and staff about the label and encourage its use. There may be some options for secondary use within departments as certain departments sometimes have to buy these boxes. Keep campus departments informed about the availability of items like styrofoam blocks as there may be an occasional request for such items.
Another waste management method is to encourage departments to return styrofoam items back to the original vendor with a note requesting that the material is reused or recycled. Unfortunately, often computers and other items are purchased without bids or vendor agreements. Work with the campus Procurement Department to include a contract clause encouraging waste reduction of packaging in vendor contracts and services. Include language that requires vendors to provide reduced waste packaging/products, with a preference for products/ packaging that will be taken back and reused by the vendor or at a minimum, can be recycled compatibly with the campus recycling program. If purchasing is de-centralized, keep departments informed on opportunities to reduce campus waste through purchasing.
Bubble wrap is another packing material that is in demand for reuse. Contact mailing services and campus departments before disposing of bubble wrap as it is expensive to purchase new and is often wanted somewhere on campus. Network with departments to identify those that frequently generate bubble wrap and those that are currently purchasing bubble wrap.
Six pack rings can also be collected and recycled. These are generated through the campus vending contract in campus kitchens and small campus convenience stores. Work with managers in these areas to encourage vendor take-back as part of the purchasing agreement. Hi-Cone is a packaging company that manufactures six pack rings and will send pre-paid mailing slips to schools wishing to participate in the Ring Leader Program so that rings can be sent directly back to the company. See Resources list for website information.
If the recycling program ends up handling six pack rings, work with the vending company to collect and centralize these. Contact the processor that handles campus plastics in order to determine if there is a market locally. As always, research possible reuse options as well. Local schools, on campus child care centers and other organizations may be able to use the six pack rings to make pot holders, snowflake decorations, and even volleyball nets or other craft projects.
Clothing and Canned Food
(See Chapter 24: Housing for more detailed information.)
Clothing and canned foods can be collected throughout the year at central drop-off locations. During the spring when students move out of on-campus housing, special collection points may be necessary to accommodate larger volumes of material and to provide easy access to students wishing to donate materials for reuse and recycling. Contact local charities to create collection sites and to determine types of items that are most needed by community members.
Cooking grease is a common item that is recycled on a local level. Ask campus kitchen managers if cooking grease is currently being recycled. If not, look in the phone book or online for the nearest dealer or contact local restaurants to determine where and how local cooking grease is being recycled. Be sure to collect cooking grease at athletic events and other campus events that serve food.
Appliances often require special handling because, in addition to scrap metals, hazardous chemicals (including ozone depleting substances) may be present and require special handling in the recycling or disposal process. Appliances may contain refrigerant, foam, plastic, glass, PCBs, mercury, and oil. Many state and local waste management specialists have developed programs for disposing of appliances such as refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners, and dehumidifiers. The EPA Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) Program partners with local organizations such as utility companies, manufacturers, universities, and other interested groups.  Some waste management companies will offer rebates for certain appliances which can offset some of the collection costs necessary for recovering appliances.
Chemical and Hazardous Waste
Campuses generate chemical and hazardous waste through campus operations such as construction and demolition and through academic classes that perform research and laboratory experiments. Campuses also generate chemical and hazardous waste in art studios, photo labs, engineering departments, campus hospitals, and through agricultural practices.
Universal Wastes are items that are federally designated by the EPA as being hazardous, and therefore requiring special handling for recycling or disposal. These wastes include batteries, pesticides, mercury containing equipment, and bulbs/lamps. Federal regulation (administered by the EPA) governs the collection and management of such wastes. Management and treatment of universal waste may vary state by state.  See “Universal Waste” in the Resources section at the end of this chapter for both federal and state regulatory information.
When managing many of the special materials described above, a main part of the job will be tracking the amount of materials generated in which locations and determining disposal methods. Establish a variety of tracking systems that include comprehensive documentation of the campus waste stream while separating specific areas (e.g. housing, dining, and facilities) and materials (hazardous wastes, organics, reusable supplies.) Record both recycling/disposal costs and revenue paid. Tracking is the most important documentation for a recycling program as it provides endless information that will support the continued existence of the program by proving cost effectiveness. See Chapter 7: Tracking Materials and Cost Benefits for more information.
It is sometimes difficult to get the word out about all the recovery opportunities available through the campus recycling program, but this is especially important when dealing with less easily recyclable materials. Encourage awareness and inspire campus participants to ask the question: Can it be recycled or reused?
How Can I Recycle This?
Recycling More Obscure Materials
Asphalt, Brick, and Concrete
See Chapter 12: Construction and Demolition Recycling Resources section
Brass Recycling- Action Recycling Center
Copper Recycling- Action Recycling Center
Precious Metal Recycling- Action Recycling Center
Silver Recovery (Kodak)
Steel Recycling Institute
Automotive (tires, batteries, oil, antifreeze, oil filters, etc.)
Automotive Service Equipment- Antifreeze Recycling
Filter Manufacturers Council
Used Oil Management Association
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The Mailing Preference Service (MPS)
Electronic Waste/ Computers
Computer Recycling Centers by Location
EPA “Where You Live” eCycling Resources
Grassroots Recycling Network Computer TakeBack Campaign
The Green Guide to Recycling Appliances and Electronics
Orion Blue Book Online
Don't Trash Your Cell Phone- Recycle It!
Cassette Tapes (Audio and Video), Diskettes, CDs and DVDs
Polymer Recovery Systems
Recycle for Breast Cancer
Phone: (530) 865-8708 or 510-5309
Call (800) 328-1371 for a free recycling kit and brochure.
Earth911- Recycling Mystery: Expanded Polystyrene
ITW Hi-Cone- Six Pack Ring Recycling
Clothing and Canned Food
Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (Full Text)
Goodwill Industries International, Inc.
Society of St. Andrew Gleaning Network
USDA Citizen's Guide to Food Recovery
Chemical and Hazardous Waste
EPA Hazardous Waste Recycling