August 19, 2014
Over the last ten years, Ursinus has developed and expanded its waste management strategies on campus in order to make the campus operate more efficiently and sustainably. Through a new contract with Sustainable Waste Solutions (SWS), Ursinus College is proud to further expand these efforts by being a Landfill Free campus. This means that all waste generated by the College is reused, recycled, or processed as a fuel at the Energy-from-Waste (EfW) facility in Conshohocken, PA as opposed to buried in a landfill.
To Burn or to Bury?
Most are all familiar with the importance of reducing trash, reusing items, or when the previous two options are not possible recycling what we can. However, what we do with what’s left is just as important of a question. Burn it or bury it? This question was tackled by ten students in Dr. Leah Joseph’s fall 2013 class, “Talking Trash,” and their findings had a positive impact on campus operations.
The student’s findings suggested that sending all non-recyclable and non-compostable waste from the College to an Energy-from-Waste facility (commonly known as incinerators) is the more sustainable choice for Ursinus. EfW facilities burn municipal solid waste as a fuel source to generate electricity for the local power grid, a process the EPA identifies as renewable and preferable to landfills. According to the research, through a process called “scrubbing” EfW facilities are able to capture the majority of particulate matter that results from the burning prior to releasing the by product into the air. Additionally, these facilities generate electricity from a source other than coal, and reduce the volume of waste by up to 90%, resulting in less space needed for landfills.
In addition to waste going to an EfW facility instead of a landfill, the College has significantly reduced the number of times a truck needs to pick-up trash, recycling, or compost. By reducing the number of pick-ups, it reduces truck traffic on campus and emissions caused by the travel.
The new partnership with SWS is a step forward that will help the College more effectively manage it’s waste and reduce its environmental impact (see Ursinus’ waste management strategies here). Recycling and composting stay as a vital component of Ursinus’ waste management practices. Recycling on campus will stay single stream - meaning all items can go into one container. Recyclable items are plastics (#1-7), paper, cardboard, glass, and metal cans.Additionally, the partnership with SWS will actually increase the capacity of composting, and preliminary conversations hope to expand composting to a year round operation as opposed to just operating during the academic year.