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Sustainability
October 2013 Feature 7

Bag it! Go Green To Save Green

Reduce your environmental impact and costs with sustainable cleaning products and materials.

December 10, 2013
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Today’s universities and other large institutions are expected to be increasingly conscious of their environmental and sustainability practices and to set an example for students, faculty and their community.

It’s a challenge, and success is often measured by the reduction in the institution’s carbon footprint without raising costs.

But is it possible to “go green” and “save green” at the same time?

You can reduce your carbon footprint in many ways, both large and small.

This article will demonstrate how to reduce your environmental impact and cost by using sustainable cleaning products and materials.

Auditing Common Products

By conducting a can liner audit to determine that the right can liner is being used in each receptacle, many schools and businesses can save thousands of dollars and collectively remove tons of plastic from the municipal solid waste stream.

This, in conjunction with the proper use of post-consumer recycled (PCR) content bags, can reduce the carbon footprint even further.

Many organizations are now requesting third party certifications from their suppliers to validate their claims and ensure the claims are current.

Switching to a PCR bag can reduce your carbon footprint, but matching that bag to the right size container also maximizes your efficiency.

A bag that’s too large for a container means more cost, more work for the maintenance staff and more plastic to dispose of.

The following case studies show how two universities used PCR bags to help meet their sustainability and environmental goals.

Both universities were committed to environmental responsibility.

Their big question was: Can we “go green” at a cost that is the same as or less than traditional methods?

John Brown University

John Brown University (JBU) is a 2,400-student, Christian-based private university in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, just a few hundred feet from the Arkansas-Oklahoma border.

Steve Brankle, JBU’s director of facilities and sustainability, was looking for ways to reduce costs while supporting the university’s sustainability commitment.

He found that switching from traditional trash liners to PCR bags accomplished both.

The university estimates it saved 20 percent in the cost of trash bags during the first year by switching to PCR bags from traditional virgin polyethylene liners.

“These PCR liners are strong, high-quality and EPA-compliant, and our employees like them,” Brankle says. “We try to buy products that aren’t made from virgin material. We also try to save money. The PCR bags meet both of those goals."

It has been reported that JBU became the first zero-landfill university campus in Arkansas or Oklahoma in July 2012, through a sustainability effort that yielded recognition for the university and saved them money at the same time.

The zero-landfill commitment means that no waste from the campus goes into a landfill.

JBU formed a partnership with the City of Siloam Springs and nearby companies to accept their waste products for recycling.

Salvaged metal is sold to a local metal recycling company.

Plastics, cardboard, paper and glass goes to the city for recycling, and plastic bags are taken to a local retail store that provides consumer recycling.

Cafeteria waste is sent to a hog farm.

Items not recycled are sent to an emission-free incinerator.

Brankle says sustainability is a win-win situation for the university and the community.

“We set the example for environmental stewardship for our students and save money at the same time," he says. "Our total sustainability savings in 2012 were estimated at $100,000, and we’re pushing for a $200,000 savings this year.”

Brankle encourages universities considering sustainability programs to consider two factors: Start with a big project and concentrate on saving money.

“You have to promote sustainability and change the culture to make it worthwhile. Sustainability works for us at JBU.”

North Carolina State

Located in Raleigh, NC State is the largest public university in the Carolinas and has a campus community of more than 40,000 students, faculty and staff.

The university is the highest-ranked school in the southeastern United States when it comes to LEED certification and being “green.”

Brian Kazura, who has been warehouse manager for NC State for more than three years, says his campus administration pushes hard for the university to be sustainable and environmentally conscious.

“I’m constantly looking for products and practices that are friendly to the environment.”

Kazura says the university started with fairly simple sustainability projects such as recycling wooden pallets into tree mulch, switching to water-based paints and converting to a PCR bag from traditional trash can liners.

One of the university’s suppliers of facility maintenance and supplies recommended the school put the PCR can liners through a test.

Kazura agreed to a six-month trial.

The university uses six different sizes of bag liners; three for housekeeping, two for buildings and grounds staff and one for maintenance.

The D.H. Hill Library was chosen as the primary test site for the PCR liners, according to Kazura.

Library waste is often heavy due to the variety of things going into the waste receptacles, such as books, papers and magazines.

The housekeeping staff was also given bags to use for the trial, as was the grounds staff.

“During the trial we compared the thickness of the PCR bags to our existing virgin polyethylene trash can liners,” Kazura explains. “We quickly determined that on a thickness-of-material basis the PCR bags were stronger."

“We had no issues with the PCR bags,” Kazura adds. “The staff was happy with the product, it was stronger than virgin polyethylene and it costs less. Since the PCR bags are stronger, we switched to a lower-mil thickness, sometimes by half. Less thickness also means less weight for our workers to handle.”

Following the test, the school extended the use of PCR bags to include athletic and stadium events.

“We use about 10,000 cases of bags a year and save roughly $6-$7 a case. That’s a significant savings,” Kuzura says.

These PCR content bags are also certified by SCS Global Services as eco-friendly, an important independent and neutral third-party confirmation.

Prior to the test, a campus environmental sustainability team developed a sustainability strategic plan with a mission “to engage the students, faculty members, staff and university partners in preparing for a more sustainable future.”

The plan also articulated a vision “to advance sustainability into the culture, mission and activities of the university and to become nationally recognized for its success.”

Kazura says that “going green” saves the university money and reduces his warehouse expenses by thousands of dollars a year.

Conclusion

Both John Brown University and North Carolina State University found they could meet the challenge of “going green” while also “saving green.”

The successful use of PCR content trash can liners is one example of how warehouse managers and maintenance professionals can work together to meet sustainability goals.

The green movement provides numerous opportunities for institutions to evaluate ways to save money while practicing sustainability and being environmentally conscious.

 

David Rives is president of Revolution Bag, a manufacturer of EPA compliant can liners that offer sustainability conscious schools, hospitals and cleaning services a method of cost neutral or cost saving liner conversions for their facilities. Revolution Bag is a subsidiary of Delta Plastics, a major producer and recycler of flexible plastics based in Little Rock, Arkansas.

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