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UR Green News
Volume 3 Issue 2
October 13, 2013



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Achievements in Sustainability at Rochester

Solar Recycling Compactors

solar recycling compactor

Campus outdoor recycling pilot leads to increased options

Since Amy Kadrie’s arrival on campus in 2008 in the newly created role of Recycling Coordinator, the university has made great strides in waste reduction, materials reuse and recycling. Perhaps most noticeable to the university community are the increased numbers of recycling containers, standard labeling system, and educational posters now found in buildings throughout campus.  These have contributed to recycling/reuse gains that reached 32.2% this year.  In Winter 2010, Amy and the University Council on Sustainability’s Operations Working Group turned attention to outdoor recycling and waste management, analyzing the options in available systems, benchmarking outdoor programs on other college campuses and producing a set of recommendations for implementation at UR.

Facilities and Services took it from there, launching an outdoor recycling pilot program in September 2010 designed to test the effectiveness of three different approaches: solar compactor units, dual “Ironsites” systems, and retro-fits of existing exterior waste collection bins.  The test for each: ease of accessibility, ease of use and effectiveness of trash and recyclables separation.  

Solar compactors are named for the technology that powers them. Relying on solar panels on the top of the unit, these dual function systems compact trash and collect recyclables. Using about as much energy per week as it takes to power a light bulb, they compact as many times as needed, holding up to five times more trash than normal bins, and requiring less frequent emptying. A 12-volt battery built into the system charges in sunlight and stores energy to keep the unit running for several weeks, under sunny or cloudy conditions. The compactors also feature a lighting system that indicates need for servicing: green means it’s ready to accept trash; yellow means it is nearing capacity; red means it is full and needs emptied. Each unit is made from 90% post-consumer recycled content.

The Dual Ironsite systems tested in the pilot are essentially the same as the outdoor trash containers in use on the River Campus already, with recycling capability added. Expanding from one to two bins in one cage offers  an already familiar receptacle for trash and recyclables collection and preserves the existing aesthetical style. These bins are also movable, as changing traffic might require.

The pilot’s third system, the Retrofitted Split-stream Ironsite, was developed by Facilities & Services staff, and devised as a way to reuse old materials in service to new practices. Used metal trash containers were repainted and refitted with an insert to provide two bins where there had been just one. As the smallest of the three options, these were the most mobile and required the least use of space. 

Pilot monitoring found the most significant differences among the three options to be in the area of effectiveness of trash and recyclables separation. The average contamination rate for the solar compactors was 3.75%; for the dual Ironsite models, 5%; for the retrofitted Ironsite split stream models, 10%. Sampling indicated that on some days the split stream model’s contamination rate was as high as 50%.

At the study’s conclusion its recommendation to phase in additional solar compactors and Dual Ironsites for outdoor campus recycling was accepted. Two more solar compactors and three more Dual Ironsites have been ordered and will be installed by Fall, 2011.

For more information on recycling gains at the University in 2010-2011 see: http://www.rochester.edu/sustainability/recycling/.