The University Record, September 17, 1996

U observes Pollution Prevention Week

By Andrew Berki
Occupational Safety and Environmental Health


Protecting the environment is the focus of National Pollution Prevention Week, which is being observed in communities across the nation Sept. 16-22. It is a time to focus attention on strategies that prevent pollution, minimize waste and conserve energy to sustain a safe, healthy and clean environmental future.

Pollution prevention is an important goal at the University, which is firmly committed to waste minimization efforts, energy conservation and the efficient and responsible use of resources. Many departments across campus are involved in these efforts. By working together, we can enhance the environment in which we live and work.


Green Lights Program
University Housing and the Medical Center entered into a partnership in 1993 with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Green Lights Program. The goal of this program is to implement energy efficient lighting technology that uses less energy yet provides the same level of lighting quality. Fluorescent light tubes collected during EPA Green Lights renovations are being recycled to avoid the potential release of mercury-containing powder inside the bulbs into the environment. Mercury has been an environmental concern for the last several decades because it accumulates in biological systems. Both the Housing Division and Medical Center are national leaders in this program, culminating with the Medical Center receiving the EPA's 1995 Large Hospital Partner of the Year Award for their accomplishments.


Recycling and waste collection service
Recycling and waste collection service on campus is provided internally by Grounds and Waste Management Services. The University operates one vehicle designated specifically for collecting recyclable materials five days per week. There are more than 2,400 paper recycling bins in University buildings and 800 recycling bins are distributed throughout U-M residential halls. In fiscal year 1995-96, three million pounds of office paper, cardboard and newspapers were collected and recycled. Other special recovery programs include the collection of scrap metals and wood waste products. In a joint initiative introduced this year, Waste Management Services and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics began recycling cardboard, boxboard, plastic and aluminum collected at home football games. At the first game on Aug. 31, 1,500 pounds of recyclable materials were collected.


Mercury reduction program
The U-M Medical Center initiated a mercury reduction program to systematically remove mercury-containing equipment from its facilities. This has mitigated the potential for mercury to enter the environment from accidental equipment breakage and traditional disposal methods. As of May 1996, 440 pounds of mercury were removed from blood pressure cuffs, thermometers and other equipment. Some of this effort is being coordinated through cooperative efforts between the Safety Building and Environmental Management Department and the Department of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health. The Medical Center's success story will be highlighted at the Oct. 4 Healthcare Providers Protecting People and the Great Lakes Conference, which is sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation and hosted by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.


Chemical tracking system
The Department of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health joined the Department of Chemistry in a pilot program for a chemical tracking system. Chemical tracking systems offer significant advantages to waste minimization through sharing of chemicals, inventory control and potential chemical recycling. The overall goal of the system is to significantly reduce the quantity of unused, or partially used, chemicals that currently are disposed of as hazardous waste by making existing chemical stocks available to other laboratories. The University hopes to expand this project in other chemical use laboratories.

The pollution prevention and waste minimization programs that emerge as a result of these activities will be integrated into Department of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health (OSEH) efforts to provide service to the U-M community. These programs are representative of the type of effort and commitment the University shares not only during National Pollution Prevention Week, but throughout the entire year. Some of these projects are being performed in settlement of a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality enforcement action. There are many more programs in existence, and all are important contributors to the University's overall goal of protecting our environment and ensuring a safe and healthy future.

More information about U-M environmental and safety programs is available by contacting Tim Cullen or Andrew Berki at the Department of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health at 763-4568.