U.Va. Shreds, Recycles 11 Tons of Old Records

June 29, 2009 — They toted boxes under a hot sun, collectively carrying tons of paper made useless by the inevitable passing of time.

Friday was record-shredding time at the University of Virginia.

The first annual Records Management Day was an opportunity for departments to properly dispose of files, administrative and business records that are no longer needed. About 22,000 pounds of paper were shredded and recycled, well surpassing the target of 13,000 pounds.

Caroline J. Walters, the University's records officer, and a crew of five from the records management office made it easier for departments by taking a shredder truck on the road and visiting three locations on Grounds. They stopped for two hours each at Bryan and New Cabell halls, Gilmer Hall and, lastly, Medical Research Building 4.

"People really came out in the first two hours," Walters said.

As an incentive, Walters awarded prizes, such as gift certificates from local merchants, to departments that contributed heavily. She also offered refreshments at each stop, including sandwiches, doughnuts and cold water.

"Three departments won prizes for the most records at each location – English, psychology and psychiatric medicine – as well as a special mention to chemistry," Walters said. "They all worked really hard and have taken care of most of their backlog of old records."

The departments worked so hard that the 7,000-pound shredder truck Walters had hired was filled to bulging before noon and University Recycling contributed trucks, taking 12,000 pounds in a compactor and 3,000 pounds in another truck. At one point there was a bucket brigade handing boxes of records from one person to the next before stacking them in a recycling truck.

"Did you call for re-enforcements?" Bruce "Sonny" Beale, director of the recycling department, asked one of his workers when it was evident that one truck would soon be filled.

All records were handled in a confidential manner and were either shredded on the truck or transported to a secure facility the recycling department maintains. Once shredded, the paper will be taken to a pulping plant, and the resulting product will be used to make paper towels, grocery bags, paper plates and other items.

"It's amazing how excited people are to get rid of stuff they don't need anymore," Walters said.

Employees of the Department of Psychology hauled boxes and boxes of records to the trucks, sweating profusely in the midday heat and conducting some last-minute purging of hanging files and binder clips.

"The sense of team building and esprit de corps in the staff is very good and this is a very worthwhile group effort," said Donna L. Hearn, the department's assistant chairwoman. "We want to be compliant and adhere to the regulations on records. This enables us to use our precious space in a better fashion."

Walters said she had already reviewed the records to be disposed and showed department heads what could be eliminated.

"Anything of historical value will be retained," Walters said. "But a purchase order for copy paper or multiple copies of something are not needed."

Hearn said it was also an added benefit to have the trucks come to them and that the shredded paper would be recycled.

"The psychology department values the principles of sustainability," Hearn said. "And it is wonderful to have an opportunity to dispose of them in an environmentally sustainable fashion."

Walters estimated they received records from about 10 of the roughly 40 departments at the University.

"We're going to do this every year," Walters said. "This is our first year and we are keeping track of the lessons learned. Next year we need a bigger shredder truck."

— By Matt Kelly