Mixed recycling initiative launch coincides with Earth Day

By Ali V. Adams 

April 2010

April 22 marked the 40th anniversary of Earth Day as well as the final phase of
UT Southwestern’s mixed recycling kickoff efforts.

Paper recycling has been in place on campus for about 10 years. Mixed recycling became a reality with the advancement of single-stream recycling technology.

“The issue before was always where to store the recycling until it could be picked up,” said Suzan Younger, director of the business affairs office. “With advances in recycling technology, it is now as effective as throwing out trash. And it’s the right thing to do.”

Many hospitals and businesses require separation of recyclables, but UT Southwestern leaders wanted a mixed recycling program to cut down on the confusion over which items to place in which bins. In October 2009 the medical center selected Houston-based Waste Management Inc. to help implement the recycling program.

Recyclable items include paper, boxboard, envelopes, newspapers, magazines, file folders, all plastic containers, tin cans and all beverage containers, including plastic bottles and aluminum cans.

“The biggest challenge of the implementation process has been the physical size of the UT Southwestern program — 8 million square feet,” said Kelly Coleman, health care solutions program manager at Waste Management. “We’ve had to run a tight schedule and keep the recycling bins, signage and education fairly homogenous throughout the campus.”

The first phase of mixed recycling began in January with a pilot program in the Paul M. Bass Administrative and Clinical Center, Clinical Buildings 1 and 2, and the Data Center.

“The pilot allowed us to tease out any problems and identify solutions that might work for other parts of campus,” said Robert Watts, physical plant supervisor and recycling coordinator.

During that time, University Hospitals also began recycling efforts in the St. Paul and Zale Lipshy cafeterias, as the facilities changed to-go containers from plastic foam products to recycled paper and switched to reusable bags for to-go orders. In-house patrons now dine on china plates.

After a smooth pilot program, mixed recycling was implemented on the North Campus, at the UT Southwestern School of Health Professions, the Auxiliary Building, and the Environmental Health and Safety and Information Resources offices.

On Earth Day, the rest of the campus, including the entire University Hospitals function, began mixed recycling efforts. The hospitals had tables set up in both cafeterias on April 22 to share information and offer promotions about the program.

The goal for UT Southwestern’s mixed recycling effort is to double the amount of material the campus recycles and to reduce by 10 percent the amount of trash produced by the medical center.

After the UT System issued a sustainability requirement in July 2009, UT Southwestern formed a steering committee made up of administrators, faculty, staff and students who developed a policy aimed at incorporating sustainability procedures into new construction, remodeling, energy management, utilities procurement, facilities operations and purchasing.

Spurred by the new sustainability policy, mixed recycling at UT Southwestern is the first of many efforts planned to reduce the medical center’s energy and water consumption, its carbon footprint, and its waste.

“The expanded recycling initiative is only the first of many new ideas the Sustainability Committee is pursuing to help make our campus more environmentally friendly,” said John Roan, executive vice president for business affairs and chair of the Sustainability Committee. “Significant new investments by our physical plant in environmental air quality and power generation equipment are placing UT Southwestern at the forefront of Texas colleges and universities giving serious attention to our environmental responsibilities.