The University of Virginia has been recognized twice this year for its recycling program, most recently on Aug. 14 when it received a Bronze Excellence Award for Recycling Systems from the Solid Waste Association of North America.
It also received the Recycler of the Year award from the Virginia Recycling Association in the spring.
"It is rewarding when others recognize how good a job we do, especially one of the premier associations in North America," said Bruce "Sonny" Beale, director of the recycling program.
While Virginia requires state agencies to recycle 25 percent of their waste, U.Va. recycled 43 percent in 2011. Since the recycling program started in 1991, the University has reduced the annual amount of non-recyclable waste it produces by about 2,000 tons. U.Va. diverts glass, metal, plastics, paper and cardboard from the waste stream, as well as recycling electronics, including batteries, and is a pioneer in composting.
"Our people have been operating a vibrant and successful recycling program for a number of years – successful from the standpoint of being environmental stewards by increasing recycling and reducing landfill, and also economically successful by reducing landfill costs and generating revenue through the sale of recycled material," said Donald Sundgren, U.Va.'s chief facilities officer and director of Facilities Management, which oversees the recycling program. "The dedication and passion of our people coupled with the support from the University have enabled the program to be successful in the long term."
Beale said the University has a variety of ways diverting materials from landfills "and putting them in the hands of those who can use them. "
This includes baling many categories of materials and turning them over to Sonoco Recycling, which finds buyers to use the material in different processes.
"Through Sonoco, the per-monthly average of 4.5 tons of collected glass, for example, eventually becomes beautiful terrazzo tile used to embellish countertops, among other home surfaces," Beale wrote in the University's application for the award.
The University's electronics recycling program ships waste to Alternative Community Training Recycling, Eco-Cell, Call 2 Recycle, Veolia Environmental Solutions and Arcane Technologies, as well as Cartridges for Kids.
Beale also cited the Reusable Office Supply Exchange, which collects office supplies and equipment for re-use within the University.
The University also gained high marks for its composting program, which Beale described as a "triple effort."
Food waste from the Central Grounds dining halls is composted at Panorama Farms in Earlysville; the Darden School of Business has a separate contract with Black Bear Composting in Crozet for its food waste; and leaves, grass clippings and other organic waste from groundskeeping is brought to the University's own compost heap, to be used later as a fertilizer and mulch by the landscape crew.
Students are heavily involved in the sustainability operations at the University, encouraging their peers to recycle, launching challenges between residence halls to reduce energy use and even advising U.Va. Dining on sustainability issues.
Beale said the students who are entering the University now are already aware of recycling and anxious to participate in U.Va.'s efforts.
"When we can receive an award for increasing our sustainability, that is another feather in the cap for the flagship of state agencies," Beale said.