The University Record, April 9, 1996

Study shows U's recycling is 35 percent office paper

From Grounds and Waste Management Services

During the week of March 18­22, Grounds & Waste Management Services conducted a paper characterization study to determine what composes a typical week's worth of paper put out for recycling.

Since September, all types of paper are collected together or "commingled" for recycling. This has reduced the collection time and costs of the program, while expanding the recycling opportunity to more buildings on campus. The commingled paper is delivered to the Material Recovery Facility (MRF), where it is processed along with residential and commercial paper from other sources in Ann Arbor.

A total of 62,580 pounds of paper products were delivered by the University for recycling during the week of the study. That amount is slightly less than the University's weekly average, which is around 68,000 pounds.

The paper was sorted into four categories. The resultant composition for the week was: 29.2 percent corrugated card board; 20.8 percent old newspapers, magazines and telephone books; 35.3 percent filestock, or all office paper grades; and 14.8 percent other recoverables and residue. The latter category included boxboard, cans, and bottles which were recovered for recycling, in addition to waste materials and non-recyclable items that end up in the trash.

To help facilitate sorting at the MRF, Waste Management staff ask that boxboard (i.e., cereal boxes) be bundled or bagged separately in a clear plastic bag. The waste materials found in the recycling loads included: food waste, plastic overhead transparencies, Styrofoam packaging, scrap wood including furniture legs, and even household garbage and dirty diapers.

"The Waste Management crew sees a lot of illegal dumping of household waste on campus," according to Erica Spiegel, recycling coordinator.

Spiegel was disappointed to see many re-usable items and office supplies like 3-ring binders, manila file folders, binder clips and even floppy disks mixed in with office paper. Other notable items that passed through were many boxes of leftover basketball programs, and unused envelopes from a department that recently moved. According to Spiegel, the department might have easily placed a new return address on the envelope rather than wasting the envelopes. There also were several unopened bundles of the Michigan Daily in each day's load. Spiegel points out that while recycling is good, waste prevention and using paper more wisely is by far a better option for the environment.

Waste Management staff plan to conduct a Paper Characterization Study annually to profile the composition and weight of paper recycled at the University. Tonnage and composition vary by season. For example, more cardboard is found in the fall with student move-in and recycling at the football stadium. In the spring, there is more office paper with end-of-semester office clean-outs.

For more information on recycling, call 763-5539 or send e-mail to