Winners and sinners in recycling: They're all in the bin
Carri Kawahara finds the oddest stuff in the mixed-office-paper recycling bins at the Foothills Lab: A coffee mug. A fork. Promotional CD-ROMs, still encased in plastic. Let's not even think about the mangled corn cob.
The top three villains in deskside recycling
Interoffice (goldenrod) envelopes. These culprits pose as manila (which is acceptable as mixed office paper), but they're slightly darker and bolder and not recyclable. "This is a big issue. People are confused," says Jean Hancock. If an envelope resembles our interoffice envelopes, it's probably not recyclable from your deskside. If you're unsure, throw it out.
Overhead transparencies. Despite the PowerPoint revolution, these slippery characters turn up often in deskside bins. To recycle transparencies, send them to Gaylynn Potemkin (ML) or drop them in the boxes marked "Transparency Recycling" in common areas or at the ML, FL, and FL4 reception desks.
Paperboard. The packaging for a FedEx letter may look and feel recyclable as mixed office paper, but it isn't. Ditto for any other type of light cardboard. However, you can take these to the Eco-Cycle drop-off center on Pearl Parkway. BH
What can you put in the deskside bins?
Accounting ledger paper
Adding machine tapes
Catalogs with glue bindings less than 1/4" thick (large catalogs may be ripped into smaller sections)
Carbonless multiple-copy paper
Envelopes (windows, stamps, and labels are all OK)
Manila or pastel folders
Opened junk mail
Pastel sticky notes
Slick or glossy ads
Typing and scratch paper
Note: Staples and paper clips are acceptable.
Each of these items came from a deskside recycling bin. With Earth Day at hand, Carri and her colleagues in Traffic Services want to remind staff of what can and can't be recycled.
Going through our bins these days is "like an archaeological dig," according to Traffic Services supervisor Jean Hancock. She says that the deskside bins are the main area that needs more attention from staff. These bins take mixed office paper, the higher of the two classes of paper accepted by Eco-Cycle, our local recycler. (The lower grade of paper, OfficePak2, was collected at UCAR until last summer and is still accepted at Eco-Cycle collection points.)
Deskside bins are emptied daily by janitors, along with the larger bins for each suite that collect newspaper and "commingled" items (glass, aluminum, and plastic containers). The janitors take these items to bins outside each major building (ML, FL, FL4). Staff from Traffic Services and the Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP) check the bins before Eco-Cycle arrives, culling items that aren't recyclable. It's an uphill battle.
"My feeling is that Eco-Cycle used to be a lot more lenient with our contamination problems," says Jean. Out of the ten or so bins of mixed office paper collected each week, about one or two are rejected by Eco-Cycle because of disallowed materials evident in the mix. The normally mild-mannered Carri says, "The most irritating stuff I have to sort out from mixed office paper is neon sticky notes, used tissues, and used paper towels. Finding plastic cups and paper napkins in the commingled bins is also annoying."
Contamination costs UCAR both income and good will from our partner in the increasingly pressured world of recycling, Jean points out. "We're providing them with a product that has value. It isn't just a step up from trash. But they're rejecting our totes more often--they won't tolerate [contamination] any more."
A coffee mug or a corn cob isn't mixed office paper by any stretch, but some distinctions are finer. UCAR's pay stubs arrive encased in an envelope. One side is made of carbon, which can't be recycled. "It's really bad news," says Jean. The other side is acceptable as mixed office paper. If you want to recycle these envelopes, you need to peel apart the two halves, toss the carboned side, and put the other side in your deskside bin. If you don't dismantle the envelope, it's best to throw away the entire thing.
Similarly, Jean and her staff know it's a pain to disassemble one's junk mail, but it's better to simply throw it away than to recycle verboten stuff, especially plastic wrappers. "One of the frustrating things is that much of this stuff is recyclable, but you have to take the time to open it up."
Even old computers can have a new life if they're recycled with care. UCAR has joined a national effort to recycle old hardware. Currently, about 95% of old computers are dumped in landfills (putting some 13 million pounds of lead into the ground each year), or they're shipped overseas, where the outdated machines can prove as useless and difficult to upgrade as they are here. A two-year-old, Denver-based company, Technology Recycling Consultants, employs physically and developmentally disabled adults in 70 cities to disassemble and recycle computers.
Since January UCAR has sent about 200 pieces of equipment (CPUs, monitors, and keyboards) to Technology Recycling. This represents four to five tons of metal, plastic, and glass removed from our warehouses and saved from the landfill. "Surplus computer equipment is a significant part of UCAR's [waste stream], so it's important that we do what we can to keep it out of the landfill and help prevent soil and water contamination from heavy metals," says Jean.
For full guidelines to recycling at UCAR, including hints on hard-to-recycle items such as batteries, see the ESP
Web page. If you'd like to join ESP, contact Jean, ext. 8504, email@example.com.
Results of the TAP survey
About a third of UCAR staff--more than 300 people--responded to the Transportation Alternatives Program survey offered on line in late February and early March. TAP and Traffic Services are still analyzing the results, but thus far it appears most people are satisfied with the current shuttle system.
"You're never going to be able to please everyone," notes Jean Hancock. One of the biggest areas of concern is connections to Regional Transportation District buses. One respondent wrote, "A 2-3-minute delay [in the shuttle] affects my entire bus schedule." Several people wanted earlier and later shuttle times beyond the current 7:05 a.m. to 6:35 p.m. window. "We tried a 6:35 [a.m.] run once and it wasn't very popular," says Jean, but she'll consider expanding the system as resources permit. (The shuttle budget has been relatively fixed for several years, and fuel costs are now rising.)
Interestingly, people at the mesa tend to work later in the evening, whereas many FL staff keep more traditional hours. Factoring this into the mix, Jean says that more round-robins from ML to the Table Mesa Shopping Center are a possibility. "I think we have to address the demand side at ML separately from FL. This [ML-Table Mesa] connection is so critical. It's primarily people using the SKIP or riding their bikes."
When the new Pearl Street offices open this spring, the northbound ML-FL shuttle will drop off black bags and offer limited passenger service. The main group occupying the new space, Finance and Administration, represents more than 40% of all black bags but less than 2% of shuttle ridership, according to Jean.
One thing that's unlikely to change soon is the current shuttle departure times of 0:05 and 0:35 past the hour. "People don't have to carry a pocket schedule with them or run to the Web--they always know when the shuttle leaves." BH
Complete results of the TAP survey are
on the Web.
Edited by Bob Henson,
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall