4,000: Recycling program measures progress in tons of trash
Dennis Clark came to the University 2 1/2 years ago to oversee
recycling program, he issued a challenge: if the University could
divert half of its waste stream to recycling or reuse, he would
quit his job.
told my staff that when we get to 50 percent, they aren't going
to need me," Clark said.
by Stephanie Gross
part of the University's recycling program, Facilities Management
workers Roland Taylor (left) and Milton Vaughan (center) pick
up paper and bottles -- both plastic and glass -- from offices
on Grounds and take them to the U.Va. recycling center on
there's still a way to go, Clark might want to start looking at
the help-wanted ads. The latest figures show that the University
diverted 37.2 percent of its waste stream in 1999, well above
the state-mandated 25 percent level and light years ahead of the
5.4 percent diverted in 1991.
insists that despite keeping more than 4,000 tons of materials
out of landfills in 1999 alone, he's not yet concerned for his
job. His staff, though, is "getting anxious."
going out there trying to bring stuff in twice," he joked.
him a recycling evangelist. Clark travels from department to department
around Grounds, preaching the virtues of stuff that others believe
has outlived its usefulness. His energetic talks are spiced with
humor and fortified by statistics -- "85 percent of all stuff
generated by the average American is divertable in one way or
another,² "60 percent of our waste stream is paper"
-- and punctuated by handouts of pamphlets and plastic "UVA
Recycles!" mugs to attendees who correctly answer questions.
mugs feature the U.Va. Recycling motto: "There are better
places for education dollars than filling a hole in the ground."
"That slogan is very key to the whole operation," he
declared. Estimating that it costs the University $75 per ton
for trash removal, including pickup, transportation and landfill
fees, he said last year's 4,000-ton diversion saved U.Va. approximately
$300,000. "Recycling is not free, but it is a lot cheaper
than throwing it away as trash," he said.
Apart from financial arguments, the University has a moral obligation
to lead society in being good stewards of the Earth, he said,
before playing the ultimate U.Va. trump card: "Thomas Jefferson
would certainly be on this bandwagon." The Recycling Program's
efforts go far beyond merely collecting plastic, paper and aluminum.
More material -- including sinks, toilets, window glass and building
materials -- is being salvaged from buildings slated for demolition,
to be reused or sold at surplus property auctions. Space for recycling
is being planned into new construction on Grounds. More convenient
recycling areas have been established in student housing facilities.
The program this year worked with the Athletic Department to push
recycling at football and basketball games. "Comingled containers"
that accept both aluminum cans and plastic drink bottles have
replaced the messy, noisy, aluminum-only "canpactors"
all around Grounds. Even fly ash from the University's coal-burning
heating plants, which is shipped off for use as road-bed aggregate,
is now counted in the recycling calculations.
are plans to do more of the processing of recyclable materials
on Grounds, which would also save money, Clark said.
University even collects the No. 2 plastics (like detergent and
shampoo bottles) that the city and county programs currently refuse.
Clark invites University employees to bring their recyclables
from home to the University sites at the Leake Building at 575
Alderman Road; on North Grounds, across from the Slaughter Recreation
Center (soon to be spruced up); in the parking lot at the Lambeth
Field Apartments; and behind Bryant Hall (currently with difficult
access due to stadium construction).
your non-recyclable garbage at home, though, Clark warned. Dumping
it into U.Va.'s waste stream is "theft of service,"
50 percent target is attainable, Clark said, adding that it is
even mandated for state agencies in some states, including California.
Beyond developing new programs, though, he's still working on
changing people's attitudes.
think there's a lot of apathy, a lot of people who feel this is
below them," he said. "They don't understand that by
just putting their trash in different containers they can save
the institution a lot of money in [landfill] tipping fees."