Sacramento State recognized for successfully reusing waste

State Hornet Staff

Reflecting efforts to recycle as much as possible, Sacramento State reuses 83.5 percent of its waste according to the annual State Agency Reporting Center.

Each year, Sac State reports its diversion rate, or how much campus waste goes into renewable sources instead of landfills. The campus recorded an eight point increase from the previous 76 reuse percent rate recorded in 2013.

“That’s a pretty good jump,” Recycling Coordinator Joey Martinez said. “It was surprising so I had to go back and do the math several times just to be sure.”

The SARC report originated as an assembly bill in 2001 that required all large institutions including schools, parks and prisons to report how much waste they produce and recycle. The goal is to reduce the total amount produced by 50 percent by tracking how much goes to landfills.

Martinez said the campus is seeking ways to make the most of everything disposed, such as using coffee grounds as compost. Recyclable pallets, medical bins for disposing of unwanted medication and car batteries have also provided new ways of conserving resources.

Martinez uses the report as a way to investigate what items prove to be problematic, like air filters that cannot be reused because of mold growing over time.

The Recycling Center works with the Alumni Center, Aquatic Center, the Well, Dining Commons, University Union and various construction projects to fill out a complete form of how much waste the campus produces a year.

The Sustainable Technology Outdoor Research Center helps conserve and make the most of its low budget by salvaging scrap materials to convert into renewable sources, said Assistant Vice President of Risk Management Services Mike Christensen.

Kitchen oil is heated up and converted into biodiesel, which comprises 20 percent of campus machinery’s fuel, and coffee grounds are used as compost to feed worms. The worms, filled with rich nutrients are then fed to fish stored in a tank to gather ammonia, which is then converted to liquid nitrogen to grow sustainable plants, Christensen said.

“Almost everything you see here: buckets, sheets and all the tanks are materials that we just pulled together to use to build this,” Christensen said. “We put very little money in this system because we use scrapped lumber and anything left over from other projects.”

Martinez said last year, each employee was expected to dispose about five pounds of trash a day while each student was expected to dispose half a pound of trash. Instead, each employee created 1.73 pounds while students were at .22 pounds.

“Overall, our student and employee population are throwing away far less than what the state is asking us to,” Martinez said. “Which is why our rates of material thrown to landfill are plummeting.”

Sac State is currently on a contract where it is charged $38 per ton of trash, $24 for green waste and $18 for paper weight. Martinez said by reducing the amount of trash, the campus could save money and the environment.

Senior films digital production major Karen Saephanh said the conditions on campus are better than other universities she has visited, like University of California, Berkeley.

“People are aware about recycling, but people are ignorant at the same time to not know recycle bins are there,” Saephanh said.

Saephanh puts papers such as unwanted assignments and bottles in recycling bins. She said her colleagues at the theatre department are aware of the “what” and “when” to recycle.

Martinez said Sac State is seeking to make more strides towards increasing the diversion rate by educating people more on what is recyclable.

“If you’re not sure, recycle it,” Martinez said. “Because then you ensure there’s the opportunity it gets recycled. But if you just throw it in the trash, then you wipe out that chance.”