John Brown University's ‘Zero Landfill' Initiative Paying Off

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, Jul. 15, 2013 12:00 am  

Brian Greuel has been known to go months without emptying the trash can in his office at John Brown University.

Odd as it might seem to outsiders, Greuel, chairman of the Division of Natural & Health Sciences at JBU, is not unique. Faculty, staff and the 2,500 students at the Christian liberal arts college in Siloam Springs have become less dependent on their trash cans since July 2012.

A year ago the school implemented a zero landfill initiative as part of an overall sustainability program. Awareness of what can be recycled and how the program can have far-reaching impact on the school is on the rise.

Of the more than 100 tons of waste produced on campus during the last year, 42 percent of it was recycled. The remaining 58 percent was compacted and hauled to a plant in Tulsa where it was burned and converted into energy. The annual cost of hauling trash has decreased by nearly $35,000 for JBU.

“To be able to participate is exciting,” Greuel said. “We think that’s fantastic.”

Reaction to the zero-landfill proposal has been mostly positive on campus. After a year of the program, support continues to grow, especially as the environmental and economic impacts become better understood.

Recycling bins can be found all over campus. Sorting is done by the maintenance crew, which includes student workers, to make the process as easy as possible for students, faculty, staff and visitors. Not only are paper products and plastics accepted in recycle bins, but aerosol cans and batteries are collected. Computers, stereos and other items classified as “e-waste” also are collected to be recycled.

A year ago, Steve Brankle, director of facility services and sustainability at JBU, built support for the program around projections he calculated and anecdotes he could relay from other schools and businesses.

Now Brankle has data of his own to share. Success stories abound throughout the offices, classrooms and dorm rooms on campus, and JBU has strengthened its reputation as an environmentally conscious institution.

JBU’s initial investment for recycle bins, wagons for pickup and a pair of trash compactors was about $60,000. Thanks to decreased monthly costs associated with waste removal that investment will pay for itself by next July.

“It’s real money,” Brankle said. “I was confident the numbers would work and the administration was willing to give us the money. It worked. It’s a great thing for the school. It’s great to hang our hat on. It saves us money. And it saves the environment. It’s the right thing to do.”

(Also see: Brown Goes Green: Steve Brankle Turns John Brown University Into Arkansas' First Zero-Landfill Campus)



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