Chapter 29


Waste reduction is the key to a successful college recycling effort because it involves preventing materials from even entering the waste stream. There are many ways that this can be accomplished and in some areas, actual monetary savings can be demonstrated. It is important to look at ways to reduce campus waste as a mechanism to save money, extend the lifespan of resources, and lower the costs and impacts of overall waste management.

On-line Bulletin Boards
One way of getting the word out about what is available in surplus is to create an online bulletin board to be used by faculty and staff members. Departments can post items that they no longer need and other departments can browse these items to see if they will be able to reutilize any of the unwanted items. Surplus property is generally administered through the Business Affairs Office. Creating mechanisms for reuse within the campus system helps to reduce waste and save money. Such programs can also be expanded to the state level if the college or university is part of a larger collective of schools (e.g. all public universities within a state). Property managers on each participating campus can network with one another using listservs and other paperless communication to set up exchanges of both information and surplus property.

Reuse Exchanges
Creating reuse exchanges can be extremely successful ventures. Some colleges have reusable office supply exchanges and surplus furniture exchanges. Other colleges, with available space, have turned trash into gold while keeping valuable items out of the landfill. These schools have created reuse stores, held auctions, or even sold items on eBay. Reuse exchanges are sometimes operated through a college recycling program, but often involve property management as well. These reuse stores can generate a healthy income for the college, while the exchanges can save colleges money.

Reusable Office Supply Exchanges (R.O.S.E.)
A Reusable Office Supply Exchange (R.O.S.E.) can be set up on a small scale in department offices. This can be a small area such as a closet or set of shelves where unwanted items can be left and needed items can be taken.  

This can also be done as a campus wide exchange through finding a suitable closet or room that can accommodate a large amount of material. These exchanges work well unattended and are available to faulty, staff, administration, graduate students, and student groups. In state funded institutions, the materials are considered state property and therefore are not available to the general student population.

Find a place to have a reusable office supply exchange on campus. Let folks know about it.  Gather materials from departments or have departments drop off materials in the designated space. Organize the room and shelved materials for easy access. When a sufficient amount of materials has been collected, have an open house. This can be done in conjunction with Earth Day, America Recycles Day, Recycling Awareness week, or another planned event. This is also a great opportunity for media attention.

An R.O.S.E can be efficiently operated with minimal labor. Some schools set up programs such that it is each department’s responsibility to bring unwanted materials to the exchange area. Designate a place where a key to the supply room will be located and can be checked out, or staff the room once or twice a week. With a key check out, the room can be accessed anytime during the week. Let the campus moving crew know about this; when they are doing move-outs, the department can gather up office supplies to put in the room and it will be paid for as part of the move. This works well and people still drop items off even if Campus Recycling does not offer a pick-up service.    
Operate the R.O.S.E. using student help. It is best to have an area for new items coming into the room. Hire a student worker to shelve the items. Keep a notebook with an inventory check-out sheet where people can record which items they take. The student worker can look in the college office supplies catalog and record the prices for purchasing new items, which in effect is the savings from reuse. Keep this documented in order to demonstrate savings to the college. Just from file folders, staplers, notebooks, and other common office supplies, savings can amount to over $10,000 annually.

All colleges have property management policies. If the R.O.S.E. needs “reducing,” check with the Property Management Department to find out where extra materials need to be taken. Some schools can donate items and others have to go through state surplus. Overstock items may be able to be donated to students on campus. Some colleges also take an extra step and post available materials from the exchange online. However, it will take significant time and effort to keep this list current and a program can still function without online updates.

Office supplies are expensive and there are plenty to go around. Setting up an R.O.S.E. is a good strategy for waste reduction on a college campus, which will save departments money and reduce the quantity of usable materials entering the waste stream.   

Reusable Furniture Exchanges   
Office furnishings are big ticket items that are continually being purged from college settings. Offices are remodeled, moved, or even eliminated. All of these places have valuable office furnishings that can be reutilized by others on campus.

On a smaller scale, some colleges create an area (typically a warehouse setting) where usable, good-quality furniture is collected. Broken or non-usable items can be recycled or may have to be landfilled. Remember that these items can be costly to dispose of. Schools without the capacity for creating an exchange find themselves shipping items to a state property management facility, which is typically located far enough away that there are costs involved. Gleaning usable items on campus is a smart practice that will reduce waste management costs.

As with the R.O.S.E, a furniture exchange area can be operated at a minimal cost. Staff the area three times a week with at least one time during a lunch hour, another time in the morning, and the third time in the afternoon. This will provide a good variety of times to meet everyone’s needs. The staff person can make sure that usable items are available, items are organized and recorded, and furniture is delivered. Additionally, the staff person can track replacement costs by researching local costs of middle-of-the-road quality items so as to provide a reasonable cost avoidance figure. Also, it is possible to estimate the weight of each item and demonstrate weight and dump savings along with other tracking systems.

Tags can be available to put on the claimed items which indicate: item, department, contact, and method of pick-up. It is best to work this out such that only the official Facilities Services moving crew can pick up and deliver the items to the departments as there are liability concerns with individuals handling items.

A furniture exchange program can provide a college with significant savings and especially benefits departments with less funding. Items in a reusable furniture exchange can include: chairs, desks, bookcases, dividers, bulletin boards, and conference tables. There are a lot of great finds for furnishing offices from a college furniture reuse exchange.

Some schools are lucky to have large amounts of space, preferably warehouse space, available to property management. Setting up a public reuse store or auction is a full-time job but can also provide a healthy source of income for the college, while reducing the impact on the waste stream. Some schools are also selling items on E-bay, which has proven to be lucrative as well.

Whether the school is a state or private institution will also influence how surplus property is managed. Funds may be required to go back to departments or go into a larger state pool in the case of state colleges and universities. Make sure to be in compliance with all state and local laws when setting up a surplus exchange and/or resale program.

Other Campus Waste Reduction Opportunities
There are endless ways in which colleges can reduce waste and, in turn, save resources, money, and landfill space. Here is a list of just some of the possibilities:

*Use vendor contracts to encourage waste reduction on items and services provided to the college. (See Chapter 10: Buy Recycled and Environmentally Preferable Products for more information about vendor contracts.)
*Establish reusable materials exchanges.
*Establish and maintain department contacts to network information and also for on-line exchanges.
*Hold an annual yard sale for on-campus residents. Donate the leftovers or save them to sell back to students in the fall. (See “Dump and Run” link in the Resources section below.)
*Give all new students and staff refillable mugs, recycling collection containers, and a recycling program brochure when they arrive for orientation.
*Encourage all campus food service areas to provide a discounted refill price for beverages and eliminate disposable cups in residence hall cafeterias. If a student wants to take a beverage out of the cafeteria, they need to bring their mug. By eliminating disposable cups in a residence hall cafeteria at a school with 17,000 students, over $30,000 can be saved by eliminating disposable cups. 

Reduce Paper Use
*Inspire double sided copying. If possible, keep one-sided paper for draft copies in one tray of copy machines.
*Make an instructional sticker for all copy machines explaining how to make double-sided copies.
*Encourage paperless communication: use campus newsletter, e-mail lists, minimal hard copy departmental memos, and route slips on memos that are not time specific.
*All printed memos should be 1/2 sheet and double-sided as default.
*Purchase and use at least 50% recycled content paper. This will stimulate the recycling markets, thereby closing the loop and providing a market for the paper recycled on campus.
*Put recycling containers in all offices, and copy and mail rooms.
*Make recycling a part of the everyday life in these areas: place well signed, convenient and aesthetically pleasing recycling containers everywhere possible.
*Print "stop the junk mail" cards that folks can send to companies when they receive unwanted, unsolicited mail from off campus, as this is a huge waste generator.
*If possible, get cloth towels on a roll or air dryers for all bathrooms. If it is not possible to create an alternative to paper towels, put stickers on the paper towel dispensers to encourage people to think about reducing paper towel use (Use Wisely, Paper=Trees). Of note: paper towels can be composted.
*Work to establish on-line electronic forms for everything possible from customer service requests to print shop orders.     
*Set up a reuse area for envelopes, pens, paper clips and other office supplies.
 *Charge students for printing from campus computers. Printing costs a lot of money in paper, electricity, computer, and recycling costs. Charging for printing will encourage people to print what they need as opposed to pages of unnecessary materials.
*Do a contest for reuse and waste reduction ideas and give an award of a gift certificate for recycled content products at the bookstore or other prizes. It is easy to get donations from local businesses for prizes.

Food Service Areas
*Establish “pay-per-serving” instead of “all you can eat” charge systems to minimize food waste.
*Buy in bulk and set up large serving containers rather than purchasing individually packaged items.
*Utilize reusable dinnerware, travel mugs, and tupperware meal containers. Create a deposit system for these items in food service areas or sell reusables.
*Donate unsold meals to a local food bank.
*Reintegrate unsold food into next days’ meal (if possible).
*Use compostable (all paper) dinnerware where reusable dinnerware is not possible.
*Purchase in bulk for meal preparation.
*Use recycled content napkins.

* Set-up blow dryers or cloth towels instead of paper towels.
*Use refillable soap dispensers instead of disposable bladder pouches.
*Utilize low density plastic bags that reduce both cost and resource use.
*Purchase cleaning liquids in concentrate.
*Set-up toilet paper rolls such that there is never any toilet paper left, this can be done with new systems that put two large rolls in the dispenser so that there is always toilet paper available and the small amount left on a roll does not have to be disposed of. Partially used toilet paper roles can be recycled or given away.

Campus and Grounds
*Use grasscycling to add nutrients to lawns without the use of petrochemical fertilizers.
*Use xeriscaping techniques to minimize water usage.
*Install grey water systems so that water is recycled as many times as possible. 
*Compost all grounds waste on-site and use the end product as an alternative to bagged soil amendments. Rent a chipper twice per year if needed.
* Purchase bulk manure instead of bagged fertilizers.                            
*Implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to deal with pests with minimal adverse affects on other nearby species.
*Mill wood from trees that need to be culled on campus and utilize lumber for campus construction projects.

*Save scrap materials for use on smaller projects.
*Recycle all industrial waste.

Motor pools
*Recap tires.
*Integrate hybrid and electric vehicles into fleet.
*Use bicycles for short trips.
*Recycle motor oil, batteries, and anti-freeze.

*Purchase carpet tiles that can be replaced in worn sections without replacing entire carpet.
*Buy carpets with a manufacturer take-back clause in the purchase contract.
*Theater productions can reuse set frames, canvas, and props for next production.
*Collect reusable items at all residence hall move-outs.
*Buy items that can be fixed, such as hand trucks that have replaceable parts.
*Encourage people to purchase what they will use. Far too often, valuable campus space is taken up with things that are outdated and unneeded.
*Give all new students and employees refillable coffee mugs, water bottles, and shopping bags. Institute a charge for disposables if durable containers are not utilized. In addition to rewarding conservation, charge for wasting. At the very least, work with the on-campus food services to provide a discount for using a refillable container. Establish refill spouts on all campus water fountains to promote refilling water bottles and reducing the amount of bottled water sold and consumed on campus.

There are endless opportunities for waste reduction and reuse on college campuses. Waste reduction practices can save money, staff time, and valuable natural resources. An added bonus is that such practices will enhance campus recycling efforts and allow for demonstration of waste stream reduction.


Dump & Run

Inform, Inc

King County Washington Solid Waste Division

Massachusetts Materials Exchange


Medical University of South Carolina R.O.S.E.

Michigan State University Surplus Store


Oregon Commercial Waste Reduction Information Clearinghouse

Oregon State University Surplus Property

ReDO (Reuse Development Organization)

The Recycler's Exchange
R.O.S.E. (Reusable Office Supply Exchange)

SCRAP (Scroungers Center for Reusable Art Parts)

The Stuff Exchange (NYC)

The Surplus Exchange (Kansas City)
University of North Carolina Resources for Reusing Products

University of Vermont Office Supply Collection and Reuse (OSCAR)

University of Wisconsin-Madison's Surplus With A Purpose program (SWAP)