Liberty Launches New Recycling Initiative

Liberty University’s Facilities Management Division has started an initiative to increase recycling on campus in order to bring the university from a 25 percent recycling rate to 40 percent rate by 2020.

Senior Vice President of Campus Facilities & Transportation Charles Spence said while the university has recycled demolition materials from construction projects, carboard and sorted materials since 2004, Facilities Management is currently researching ways to promote recycling across Liberty’s dorms, offices and dining areas.

“We’ve been working on it every chance we get for the last couple of years (and) looking at ways to increase our recycling efforts,” Spence said.

Currently, Liberty’s 25 percent recycling rate is lower than the rate of universities like Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia. According to the Virginia Tech Facilities Department’s 2016-17 Office of Sustainability Annual Report, the university had a 38 percent recycling rate in 2016. The University of Virginias Office for Sustainability’s website reported that the school recycled 54 percent of their total waste in 2014.

As Liberty continues to construct new buildings, the Facilities Management Division has added recycling bins to areas such as The Residential Commons, the Montview Student Union and office spaces across campus.

Tracey Norvelle, the director of grounds for Facilities Management, said for now the division is focused on adding recycling bins to future buildings like the School of Business. Currently, the division has no plans to add bins to established areas on campus like Green Hall and East Campus.

“Right now, we’re more focused on the new buildings that are coming on board asking for two dumpsters — one for recycling and one for trash — because it hasn’t been the way we’ve been doing things,” Norvelle said.

Facilities Management is employing single-stream recycling in order to simplify the process and increase the likelihood of recycling among students and staff. Single-stream recycling does not require the sorting of paper, plastics, glass and more into separate bins — instead, these materials are separated at recycling plants.

“The idea for single-stream or comingled (recycling) is to take the confusions out … of recycling by being able to mix all of your items together,” Spence said. “The student, the office worker or the employee does not have to separate those recycled items — it can all go in one trashcan.”

Spence said the university is just now starting a deliberate recycling initiative targeting students and staff, because it is a new technology process that is now available to Facilities Management.

The construction of the student union also presented an opportunity for increased recycling due to the paper and plastic waste generated by the new dining locations, according to Spence. As a result, the trash cans in the student union are customized for recycling.

“All of our existing cafeteria services (used) dishes that were washed, so we didn’t have a lot of throw-away there anyhow,” Spence said. “But when Montview came along, we looked and said, ‘We’ve got all this paper that’s going to go to a landfill.’”

The gradual implementation of recycling bins across campus has increased the university’s recycling rate over the past several years. In 2016, Liberty recycled 838 tons of principle recyclable materials — including cardboard, paper, metal and plastic — according to Facilities Management. The university recycled 396 tons of principle recyclable materials in 2008.

In the future, this recycling initiative will include the addition of recycling bins in each office across campus, according to Spence. Facilities Management has already started a recycling effort at the Liberty University Online Call Center.

“Most office suites in the future should have nothing but recycling cans inside each individual office … with one or two small collections for actual trash,” Spence said. “It’s a big venture right now, with literally thousands of people ahead to train. That’s why it’s kind of a slower-moving process.”

Spence said Facilities Management Division plans to add more recycling to new athletic venues like the Indoor Track Complex and the Williams Stadium expansion and cited Virginia Tech as a university that handles recycling at athletic venues well.

“Virginia Tech does a great job at athletic venues for setting out recycling,” Spence said. “It’s an area where you have a whole bunch of cups that are recyclable that usually would be collected with the trash and taken to a landfill.”

Norvelle said this initiative includes an educational component that encourages current students and incoming students to recycle. Facilities Management has started this educational process by adding slides to the Splash Page and TVs around campus. The division also hopes to hire another employee completely dedicated to recycling efforts at the university.

“We want to be at the front of it, and we’re not,” Norvelle said. “We just want to get better at it.”

Ultimately, Spence and Norvelle hope that this new recycling initiative will encourage better stewardship of the Earth’s resources while saving the university the money of landfill costs.

“For the environment, it’s the right thing to do,” Spence said. “We’ve all learned the value of recycling. I do believe it brings a lot of value to the university.”

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