Lehman College Sustainability

Recycling and Composting and Sustanability

Recycling has a long history. Reusing whole goods and recycling components to make new goods has been practiced for centuries. Earlier (prior to World War II) efforts to reuse and recycle were driven primarily by scarcity and value of components. In the postwar period, single-use, throwaway packaging became prevalent and landfills threatened to reach capacity, making environmental considerations the prime motivation for recycling. When goods and components are reused and recycled, raw materials do not need to be grown/mined/harvested/imported/processed, reducing or eliminating the attendant energy consumption and environmental impact inherent in these processes. Reusing and recycling also keeps significant volumes of non-degradable (and sometimes hazardous) materials out of landfills. Certain materials, such as glass and metals, can be infinitely recycled into new goods without any loss of strength.

Composting can be thought of as a natural recycling process. Materials of living origin (i.e., yet another definition of Organic) are naturally degraded by bacteria, fungi, and invertebrates. The resulting compost enriches the soil, provides nutrients to plants, and virtually eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Depending on the physical form of the organic material, the process can be slow (e.g. months/years for whole trees) or fairly rapid (e.g. days/weeks for ground food particles). The composting process requires periodic aeration and mixing. Like recycling, composting diverts potentially large volumes of waste materials from landfills, where organic materials are buried and cut off from exposure to oxygen, further slowing or completely halting natural degradation processes.

Lehman College has a robust, campus-wide program of recycling. Paper use (source reduction) and paper waste has been reduced by encouraging double-sided printing, electronic document submissions, e-books and publications throughout campus. All departments are required to use CUNY’s paperless electronic purchasing system. There is a greater awareness of and participation in recycling. New waste-collection containers that separate materials at their source (highly important for subsequent processing) have been put into service throughout campus and have been instrumental in increasing our paper and container recycling. The installation of a new food composter has enabled Lehman to compost its food-preparation waste (which had been disposed of as garbage in the past). Lehman continues to compost its gardening waste to produce high-quality compost. Electronic equipment that would have been categorized as hazardous waste due to the presence of hazardous components (heavy metals) are refurbished and reused intact.

Last modified: May 15, 2013

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