Bill Paulus

Organics - coming to a quad near you

This edition of Bill’s Bi-Weekly is a little longer than usual, but well worth the read!

FM is changing the way folks think about waste and recycling. Our campus community requested that we add organics recycling to our waste services program. Most of us are already recycling organics -- at home, school, events, and restaurants -- so we're adding it to the recycling offered here at the Twin Cities Campus. Our campuses at Duluth and Morris already have organics collection programs in place. In 2017, two University Senate Resolutions supporting Twin Cities campus-wide organics collection and improved waste recovery passed. These resolutions reflect the hard work and advocacy of students, staff, and faculty invested in our sustainability program.

FM has an important role in turning resolutions into action. We have already implemented organics recycling in 46 buildings as part of a plan to complete the entire campus in two years. Centralized collection and organics recycling are important steps in helping the U acheive its sustainability goals. By having each person self sort their waste we are seeing major improvements in participation and diversion rates. By 2020, we hope to increase the U’s diversion rate, or the rate at which trash is kept from being incinerated, from 38.9% to 50%. That puts us well on our way toward the U’s long-term goal of becoming a zero waste campus, or diverting 90% of its waste.

Centralized Waste Collection
Centralized waste collection puts all of the waste options in a single location. In our case, the waste station (or “quad”) has bins for mixed paper, cans/bottles, organics, and trash. This increases awareness about recycling and gives the person generating the waste the power to manage their individual program at their desk in a way that works best for them. Additional receptacles and smaller saddle bins are available for full customization. As frequently as desired each individual simply brings their waste and recycle to a quad for proper sorting into the four receptacles.

Pilot projects that have been conducted at locations across campus show that presenting people with all of the options, rather than just deskside trash cans, doubles the rate of recycling.

This new process doesn't affect staffing levels, but works to save time. A study showed that it takes the same amount of time to service individual cubicles and offices as it does to provide daily service for the new organics bin.

Organics Recycling
“Organics recycling” is simply turning organic material into compost. About 30% of what we usually throw away is actually organics. This includes items like: food scraps; uncoated paper like paper towels (many are already collected in U restrooms!), napkins, tissues, and delivery pizza boxes; flowers, coffee grounds and filters, chopsticks, and wooden stir sticks; and BPI-certified compostable products.

Custodians collect compostable material from the quads and restroom receptacles and deliver it to the building loading dock. Waste Recovery Services picks up the organic material at the dock, and it goes to a commercial compost facility in Rosemount. The commercial compost facility mixes our organics with yard waste and distributes it into long row piles. Microbes break down the material in the piles to create rich black compost in six to nine months.This compost is then used for landscaping, construction projects, gardening, and farming.

How can I help?
Jeramy Jensen, a St. Paul Team 2 Senior Building and Grounds worker, sums it up: “It is hard to train people to change routines and processes. The staff in Saint Paul Team 2 responded like professionals and understood the process immediately. With further education, communication and little tweaks, we will create a system that will be accepted by all.”

You may be asked:

  • What about contamination in the organic bin? The most common contaminants are non-compostable coffee cups from places like Caribou and Starbucks. If it doesn’t have a BPI symbol, throw it out. Food containers, packages, and bags are also common.
  • Will there be additional food smells and pests as a result of the separate organics collection bins? The organic materials we have on campus are currently collected in our trash containers. We don’t expect there will be any more or less of these materials as a result of our new method of collecting them. We are just asking that they be placed in a different bin now so they can be handled and processed separately from trash.

For additional information,

Have a great week!

Biometric Screening - 2nd and 3rd Shift St. Paul
There is an additional screening for second and third shift staff on Tuesday, April 16 from 4:30-6:30 pm at the St. Paul Student Center. Sign up through your supervisor. As a reminder, you earn 150 Wellbeing Points for completing a biometric screening.

$6 M in state funding proposed for solar at UMN
Check out this MN Daily article about a bill proposing funding for solar energy efforts at the U: The story features Shane Stennes, Director of Sustainability.   

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