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New recycling program hits UWGB

recycle

Photo by Laura Wire, Fourth Estate

Students can drop off their plastic bags or other plastic film materials at any of the drop-off locations on campus.

Andrew Campnell , News Editor
March 25, 2014
Filed under News, Top Stories

Being that UW-Green Bay bears the Eco-U moniker, campus groups such as the Sustainability Committee and the Environmental Management and Business Institute look to make sure the university can keep up the image.

With the new plastic film recycling initiative on campus, UWGB is inching closer to that goal.

The initiative was the brainchild of Jacob Eggert, a third-year EMBI intern. Eggert said he got the idea from working at Aurora Hospital, where he helped reduce its waste.

During his first year as an intern, the hospital was using surgical blue wrap, a plastic film used to wrap its medical equipment in.

“Aurora wanted us to find a way to deal with that,” Eggert said.

From his research, Eggert found out about the Sheboygan-based company Zeus Recycling.

Zeus recycles material by way of a baler, which was perfect for recycling material like plastic film.

Eggert later got a job for Zeus Recycling and from there, the plastic film recycling initiative was created.The initiative started a month ago as a part of Recyclemania, said Laurie Case, UWGB sustainability coordinator. So far, Case is impressed with the initiative’s progress.

“It moved so quickly from just an idea to actually being launched,” Case said. “It’s really exciting.”

Students are encouraged to dispose of their plastic film at any of the recycling container located around campus around the entrance of most of the buildings on campus.

Before students can get rid of their plastic film, they may need  to know what plastic film is.

A basic definition of plastic film would be anything many new products are shipped in, Eggert said. This includes products like paper towels and toilet paper, among others.

The problem with plastic film is many municipalities don’t recycle it, Eggert said.

The main reason for this is the recycling machinery used doesn’t have the capacity to process it.

An example of this is Green Bay, where the recyclable materials are all dumped together and get sorted out by machines, Eggert said.

“When this [plastic film] gets in their machines, it wraps up in their gears and gets stuck,” Eggert said.

Another problem stemming from plastic film recycling is the market difficulty.

Matt Malcore, an EMBI intern working with Eggert on the project, said there isn’t much of a market for plastic film recycling.

“Basically, nobody wants to buy it,” Malcore said.

In addition, those who would want to buy it demand the plastic film to be clean and dry. But since the film can and would mix with soda bottles and other various plastics, the film can’t be up to the clean and dry standard, Eggert said.

But if this plastic doesn’t get recycled, they can pose a serious environmental threat, said UWGB graduate student Felix Pohl.

One of the threats are the garbage islands in many seas across the world. These islands, some of which are as big as whole states,

don’t decompose over centuries.

This is where companies like Zeus Recycling would come in, who do buy plastic film.

Case said they provided a recycling baler to the university as a free trial.

At the end of the trial, which would be around late April or Early May, Zeus would then purchase the baled film based on the overall success of the initiative.

“Based on what we collect, we’d get four cents per pound back to the university,” Case said.

From there, Case said the university could then purchase the baler, depending on the overall quality of the bales.

Whatever the case may be for this initiative, the main focus behind it will continue to be the importance of recycling. For Malcore, it just makes sense to recycle.

“It’s been hard to recycle plastic bags, but now that we’re making it easy to recycle this stuff, there’s no reason not to do it,” Malcore said.

Also, Malcore said putting the plastic film in the recycling has many benefits besides common sense purposes.

“You’re taking that stuff out of the waste stream and reusing it,” Malcore said. “Anytime you can reuse resources, everybody wins.”

Another thing this initiative wants to accomplish is to change recycling habits.

“In a sense, this is an educational piece” Eggert said. “This stuff is recyclable, and it’s changing the habits of people.”

For Case, the initiative’s success would mean the university is taking a step in the right direction to certify its Eco-U label.

“Everything we can add that helps solidify that commitment we had to sustainability is good,” Case said.

When all of the recycling gets sorted in the summer, Case hopes this initiative will help increase the number of plastics being recycled.

Overall, Pohl feels there are two angles to this program as a whole. They are to make campus recycling more encompassing and to create a benefit.

“In bringing this initiative to campus, we really take the lead,” Pohl said.

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