August 11, 2006

Recycling project aims to curb waste

Featured Image

From left, medical students Derrick Christopher, Avi Giladi, Brian Drolet, and Megan O'Neill distribute newly purchased recycling bins throughout Light Hall.
Photo by Dana Johnson

Recycling project aims to curb waste

The VUMC Campaign for Awareness, Recycling and Environmental Sustainability (C.A.R.E.S.) is launching a four-month pilot program for recycling this summer in Light Hall with hopes of expanding throughout the Medical Center by 2010.

Plastic drink bottles, aluminum cans and mixed paper can be recycled in Light Hall. Mixed paper includes white, colored, glossy, magazines, phonebooks, newspapers, computer paper, and file purges, but not cardboard, which is recycled elsewhere throughout the Medical Center, according to VUMC C.A.R.E.S. co-director Brian Drolet, a second-year School of Medicine student.

“We presented our proposal to the administration and they purchased over $10,000 of recycling supplies for us. This was enough to equip all of the floors — every classroom, every office and every lab — in Light Hall with recycling bins,” Drolet said.

C.A.R.E.S., which replaces the student-run RecyClinic program, estimates that less than 15 percent of all VUMC waste is recycled. Previous VUSM recycling efforts focused solely on paper and aluminum, but the new program increases collection sites throughout the building and expands to include plastic.

“We hope to expand into the research buildings next and then finally into the clinical settings, but we are using Light Hall as a pilot to show that recycling will save money by considerably reducing the amount of trash that is picked up by the waste haulers,” Drolet said.

“Whereas the Medical Center pays for trash removal, sorted recyclables are collected at no charge. Therefore, a greater volume recycled means less trash and money saved. For us environmentalists, this is also great because all that waste is coming out of the landfill and going back into the consumer stream to be reused.”

Drolet said the 10-member group will try to recruit first-year students to join the recycling effort when school starts.

He said one long-range goal is to have the program instituted throughout the medical center by 2010.

“Our goal, ultimately, is to be recycling 50 percent of all waste, which, at some point, will even include food and glass,” Drolet said. “We estimate that in Light Hall we were recycling about 5 percent, which is just an estimate based on our volume collected. Regardless, it was pretty slim.”

The group is also interested in promoting energy-saving measures such as the recent power curtailment due to a local heat wave, according to VUMC C.A.R.E.S. co-director David Leiman.

“I think the first success for our group came last year when we worked with the cafeteria to begin using reusable flatware, china and silverware,” Leiman said. “Before that it was Styrofoam and plastic; everything was disposable.”

“And, in general, we've had a lot of people saying they are recycling on their own, but they didn't have a way to do it at work. Now we are giving them a chance to recycle at the workplace and this is good not only for Vanderbilt but also for Nashville as a whole.”

For more information about recycling, contact