Recycling, composting and e-waste

The green "swish"

The “Green Swish” indicates stories or ideas emphasizing our Division’s efforts to be sustainable.

True confession…I’m a trash diver…and have been ever since I was signed up to be a charter member of the Sustainability Building Rep Committee (okay, probably before that). I promised to be a loyal supporter of all things recycled and composted both here, at home and at events I organize, support or attend. Yes, I’m willing to dig into the plastic bin to get the errant glass bottle out and into the right receptacle, and truth be told this has not been so awful. But on June 12, I found myself sorting a collection of compost.

The Office of Sustainability Initiatives and Emory Dining wanted a reality check on how successful the new recycling/composting campaign has been since it began this past January. The goal: to find out to what extent we were actually getting it right, or wrong. We collected the compost bags in front of Cox Hall, weighed them, sorted them to remove what wasn’t compostable and then them weighed again. The initial 30 pounds became an actual 28 pounds and this is excellent news. Yes, we wore gloves and yes, the food was breaking down rapidly given the June temps, but overall, it was very encouraging. The takeaways were all positive – not least of which is Emory Dining’s ongoing effort to provide compostable containers for everything, including lids – which has proven to be quite the challenge. Read more about this initiative at Cox Hall Waste Audit.

e-Waste is another hot topic so I poked around and wanted to pass on some data…and remember that Earth 911 will help you recycle just about anything.

  • What is e-Waste?  Anything with battery power, circuitry or electronic elements.
  • Where does it go when it’s gone?  70 to 80% is shipped to landfills in developing countries to be sold for scrap metal or burned to extract materials.
    • Not so fun fact: in 2005 the US had about 2 million tons of e-Waste…2012 weighed in at over 9 million tons. US News Article
  • What’s the real problem with e-Waste? There are about 60 elements from the periodic table in e-Waste, including lead, mercury, beryllium, polyvinyl chloride and cadmium. These individually make for toxic refuse, but combined can be all the more lethal.
  • What’s the flip side? We can find ways to reuse electronics and some folks already are…and they are making art, jewelry and new electronics as well as finding safe ways to extract some of the better elements such as gold and platinum. It’s called eCycling.

So…there’s good news about food and there’s food for thought. Happy Summer Everyone!

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