By Julia Konow
The Office of Sustainability at Worcester State University hosted the E-Waste and Shredding Event for the fifth consecutive year on November 2, 2018, to promote sustainability initiatives and responsible recycling on campus, as well as to contribute to the ongoing conversation of environmentalism.
Staff, faculty, and students brought their old electronics from 7:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to the first floor of the parking garage. Members of the Worcester State community dropped off their electronic waste items throughout the day so that the appliances could be safely recycled.
“Our mission for the E-Waste and Shredding Event is to promote responsible recycling as much as we can and make the campus more sustainable,” said Steven Bandarra, the Sustainability Coordinator at Worcester State University. Bandarra has been the Sustainability Coordinator for nearly seven years.
The e-waste, or electronic waste, products brought to the event included anything with a plug except dehumidifiers, microwaves, air conditioners, and white goods like refrigerators, stoves, washers, and dryers. Items like old style televisions and computer monitors with cathode ray tubes, or CRTs, could be brought for a 25 cent price per pound due to the complexity involved in recycling their components.
The electronics brought to the event were taken away by Metech Recycling to Clinton, Massachusetts. There these electronics will be taken apart so that every reusable part of the item can be safely recycled. The materials that make up the products, like chips and metal, can be melted down or reused instead of being thrown away or put into a landfill.
“This event is important because we don’t want e-waste to go into landfills,” said Bandarra. “We want to recycle responsibly. This was something that we decided to do to help faculty, staff, and students get rid of e-waste responsibly.”
The atmosphere of this environmentally conscious event was positive and lively. Cars drove up to donate items, while music played in the background. Signs directed vehicles towards the area of the parking garage with five pallets that each held large boxes. The Office of Sustainability staff members carried the old appliances from the cars to the boxes for everyone who came.
There were a variety of appliances brought to the event, including old televisions, remotes, batteries, cell phones, shredders, and much more. No matter how many objects were brought, whether it was a bag full or trunk full, everyone that came contributed items to be recycled in an environmentally conscious way.
This is the fifth year that the E-Waste and Shredding Event has been on campus. The November 2, 2018 event is the second e-waste event that has taken place in autumn. Since the introduction of the E-Waste and Shredding Event on campus five years ago, this event has taken place every spring as well. Throughout the years, many members of the Worcester State community have attended the event.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” said Elaine Knott, an employee in the Worcester State University Financial Aid Office who is from West Boylston, Massachusetts. “It’s important to have these things disposed properly instead of ending up on the side of the road.”
Knott has attended the majority of E-Waste and Shredding Events over the past five years to dispose of appliances responsibly. Along with regular attendees, there were also some people who decided to come for the first time and were glad that they did.
“This is my first time attending the event,” said Dan Guarracino, a data analyst at Worcester State University. “I have had bags of stuff and I kept meaning to do something with them. I saw this event and decided to go.”
This is not the only event hosted at Worcester State University that supports green initiatives. This fall, a new program called Green Your Room Challenge began in an effort to educate incoming freshmen on how to be more environmentally conscious when deciding what items to bring to college. Another popular event is the Neighborhood Clean-Up to pick up trash or recycle around campus, which takes place twice a year. The Sustainability and Food Day Fair is another very well-attended event that occurs each October. This two-day fair works to educate staff, students, and faculty on important environmental topics.
“When you’re in college you’re not just getting a degree for a future career,” said Sarah Firmani, a 25-year-old Worcester State University alumna and project coordinator in the Office of Sustainability. “You’re building habits that you’ll keep for the rest of your life. If you start now at becoming a more efficient person on this planet, then it’s all for the better.”
Looking towards the rest of the school year, April is “Earth Month,” which is when numerous sustainability events occur each year. This spring students, staff, and faculty can expect to see another Neighborhood Clean-Up, an additional E-Waste and Shredding Event, and many other activities to promote green initiatives.
The annual Ditch the Dumpster event is in May, where students can donate items instead of just throwing them away. This helps reduce the number of materials ending up in landfills while simultaneously helping others who can put the items to good use. After the donation drive in the spring, the items from students moving out of the residence halls are then sorted, cleaned, and sold during the Move-In Day in the fall. All of the proceeds go towards purchasing sustainable items for Worcester State University, while unsold items are donated. Last year about two tons of material was diverted from landfills due to this event, and 19 percent of residence hall waste was diverted from landfills.
On campus, students have recognized the college’s sustainability efforts.
“Worcester State University may be a small college but it’s still a large community,” said Kathryn Johnston, a 19-year-old sophomore studying nursing at Worcester State University. “Teaching about environmental concerns and ways to decrease our impact on the environment can reach a large number of people and encourage many to get involved. Finding safe ways to dispose of materials is definitely important.”
In regards to the E-Waste and Shredding Event, Johnston explained how she originally had not heard of electronic waste before, but believes it is a very important topic to understand. She described how plastic and metal in the ground can have severely detrimental impacts on the environment.
The Environmental Protection Agency released information that donating or recycling electronics has numerous environmental benefits, including the conservation of natural resources, avoiding air pollution, and limiting greenhouse gas emissions caused by companies who manufacture electronic materials. The agency also reported that every million cell phones recycled recovers 35 thousand pounds of copper, 75 pounds of gold, 33 pounds of palladium, and 772 pounds of silver. Over 112,000 computers are discarded in the U.S. each day, as well as millions of televisions and cell phones, with only 13 percent of electronic waste being properly disposed or recycled. Many companies, like Dell, Best Buy, Sony Corporation, Staples, Samsung Group, and more offer opportunities for electronic waste recycling. Communities across the country have begun to host annual events to recycle electronic waste as well.
“I think that sustainability events are important because a lot of people are unaware of what sustainability really is,” said Lily Brochu, a 20-year-old junior studying psychology at Worcester State University. “It’s good for awareness.”
Environmentalism has been a prominent topic of conversation in politics, especially with the recent November midterm elections. With increasing concerns about climate change, toxification, fracking, deforestation, fresh water scarcity, land and ocean degradation, threats on ecological integrities, and other environmental issues throughout the world, Worcester State University has continued to promote a green campus.
On campus, there are electric vehicle charging stations, bike share programs, and carpool parking spots. Locally grown food is served in the dining hall and the food waste is composted. Roughly 25 tons of food waste from the dining hall are composted each year. There are also solar panels on some of the campus buildings and hydration stations in every building that are responsible for over 90,000 refills per semester. Roughly 90 percent of the exterior lighting on campus is LED, or light emitting diode, and 20,000 gallons of rainwater is caught in the rainwater catchment system in order to water campus grounds. About 16 tons of waste is recycled each month. These are just a few of the many ways that sustainability is promoted on campus.
A goal of the Office of Sustainability at Worcester State University is to get as many students involved as possible in sustainability events. The majority of attendees at the E-Waste and Shredding Event are faculty and staff, but the Office of Sustainability hopes to increase the number of students who get rid of their appliances in a responsible way, as opposed to just throwing them out in the trash.
“Social media helps to reach out to and target students to get involved with sustainability events,” said Justin Labrie, a 22-year-old business student in the graduate program at Worcester State University, who is also the media relations coordinator in the Office of Sustainability. Labrie has worked to reach out to students through social media platforms to promote and spread awareness about numerous environmental events at Worcester State University.
Individually, many members of the Worcester State community have maintained sustainability beyond just attending campus events.
“I try my best to reduce my impact on the environment by taking quick showers, keeping lights off when they’re not necessary, and separating my trash and recycling,” said Johnston. “I also try to use a reusable water bottle whenever possible.”
These substantial efforts at environmentally conscious decisions on campus and by members of the community have been acknowledged. Worcester State University has made The Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges list for five consecutive years in a row. This accomplishment is reflective of the monumental initiatives that the campus has undergone within the past few years to promote environmentalism and sustainability.
“We are a predominantly green campus,” said Bandarra. “Everybody can do better, and it’s more important to keep trying and adding than just worrying about it. Stressing out about what’s not being done leads to inaction. Pick what to do for sustainability and turn it into action.”