Do Green Fences Make Good Neighbors?

You’re a good person. You make an effort to keep MSU as green as possible. You don’t litter. You recycle paper, soda cans and batteries. Heck, you even “recycle” text books from year to year.

So what’s the big deal if you don’t rinse your plastic utensils off before dropping them in the recycling bin? It never mattered before, so why is there a big push now?

The answer to that is called Operation Green Fence, which lies somewhere between your departmental kitchen sink and China. And it’s having an enormous impact on how environmentally friendly we can be at MSU.

The Big Green Fence

greenfenceTo understand what’s happening, you first have to know that for years, one of America’s biggest exports to China has been scrap and waste. Yes, that’s right:
Scrap and waste have been at or near the top of the Chinese export list for many years, even surpassing soybeans and aircraft parts at times. It’s a profitable export for the US — totaling $11.3 billion in 2011 alone. (It’s important to remember that scrap and waste aren’t necessarily garbage; they can be used as the raw material for new products. In essence, China and other countries help process these materials into their next best and highest use.)
There are many other markets and purchasers for scrap and waste—including domestic processors— and Michigan State works very hard to “recycle local” whenever possible. But China is by far the largest destination for a lot of scrap, and when the biggest player on the block makes a dramatic policy shift, the effects ripple through all markets worldwide.Continue reading

New Paper Recycling

MSU Recycling Office Paper InstructionsMSU Recycling is working to make paper recycling easier on campus. From February through April, staff will be converting hallway recycling stations in academic and administrative buildings to reduce the number of paper containers from three to two. All paper products that are currently accepted will continue to be recycled, so this does not mean that less paper will be accepted for recycling. Rather, recycling paper will be simplified with less sorting.

The new containers will collect Office Paper and Mixed Paper, featuring the new color-coded signage you see above. Office Paper includes paper typically used in an office or classroom, such as white and colored copy paper, letterheads, notebook paper, tablet paper, index cards and computer paper. Mixed Paper includes a wide variety of lower-grade paper and paper products, such as newspaper, boxboard, beverage boxes, catalogs, magazines, directories, junk mail, envelopes, Post-it notes, ream wrappers and greeting cards.

MSU Recycling Mixed Paper InstructionsOther recycling collection (Plastic/Metal and others) will receive updated signage as well, but those collection processes are not changing at this time. Please remember that any items that contain food or other residue must be wiped and/or rinsed clean.

Recycling stations within residential facilities will convert to the new signage and collection over the summer.

MSU Faculty and staff which have at Desk Recycling or Intermediate Recycling Boxes in their office area with the “White Paper” and “Mixed Paper” label are encouraged to order replacement labels or boxes at no cost.

Labels can be ordered from the Surplus Store and will be delivered to you.

2014 RecycleMania

From February 2 to March 29, Michigan State University will compete in, an annual eight-week recycling competition between more than 400 colleges and universities across North America. Schools com2014 RecycleMania Logopete in several categories to see who can collect the most recyclable materials and reduce their landfilled waste. The goal of the event is to increase awareness of recycling and waste management programs at participating schools by involving students, faculty and staff in a fun and friendly competition.

MSU is competing in three categories again this year:

Gorilla Prize: “The Gorilla Prize category recognizes schools that recycle the highest gross tonnage of combined paper, cardboard and bottle and cans regardless of campus population.” MSU reports the total weight of office paper, mixed paper, cardboard, #1-7 plastic, and metal collected from campus (including a portion of material from the Drop-off Center) each week for the full eight weeks.

E-cycleMania: “Electronics is a special category that tracks the amount of computers, printers, consumer electronics and other e-waste materials collected.” MSU reports the total weight of e-waste reused, resold (through MSU Surplus Store), or recycled during a one-month window within the eight weeks. Items from campus and the public are included.

Grand Champion: “The Grand Champion category combines trash and each of the core recyclable materials to determine a school’s recycling rate as a percentage of its overall waste generation.” MSU reports the total weight of office paper, mixed paper, cardboard, #1-7 plastic, and metal collected from campus (including a portion of material from the Drop-off Center) as Total Recycled, and MSU also reports the total weight of refuse sent to the landfill as Trash. Total Recycled and Trash are added together to equal Total Waste, and then Recycling Rate is calculated as a percentage by dividing Total Recycled by Total Waste and multiplying by 100.

Find out More about 2014 Recyclemania Competition

2013 Tournament results.