Think 80|20: Recycling

It’s about recycling, but so much more.

What is Think 80|20? – It is our challenge to the school community to limit our landfilled wastes to 20% or less of our entire waste stream. Major cities have achieved this goal, and we think Deerfield Academy should be able to achieve it as well. By smarter buying, re-using, recycling, and composting we have eliminated a substantial amount of items that once were commonly sent to landfills.

Use It Again

Surplus Goods Program: We partner with IRN, the Institutional Recycling Network, to send gently used equipment to developing countries for an extended useful life. Since the inception of the program, we have shipped several semi-truckloads of office furniture that lay dormant in attics, aging but useful mattresses and other dorm furniture, classroom audio/visual equipment, toilets, sinks, faucets, and a variety of odds-n-ends from school supplies to ice packs from the health center. The biggest success story from our Surplus Goods Program links to our renovation project of the Memorial Arts Building. Prior to demolition, we removed all 600-plus seats from the auditorium and loaded them for shipment by IRN. These seats, plus a variety of office furniture/equipment were delivered to a community in Nicaragua where they will be installed in a building that serves as both a school and community center.

Recycle It

Our facilities department coordinates an extensive campus recycling effort. We currently capture for recycling a broad range of wastes and are continuously exploring options to expand our programs. Many of these items are collected directly in dormitories, which helps us to capture the most recyclable goods and educate students that recycling is an important daily habit. We currently recycle:

  • Cardboard and paper
  • Bottles, cans, glass, and food containers
  • Metal clothes hangers
  • Styrofoam packing inserts
  • Bubble wrap and other plastic film packaging
  • Plastic shopping bags
  • Batteries – alkaline, button batteries, rechargeable (NiCad, Lithium and lithium-ion, lead-acid)
  • Computer, telephone, and audio-visual electronics, plus wires/cords, CDs, cassettes, jewel cases
  • Electrical appliances (kitchen gadgets, fans, etc.)
  • Refrigerant from refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, water coolers, etc.
  • Scrap metal from large household appliances
  • Miscellaneous scrap metal
  • Light bulbs – fluorescent bulb tubes (straight, round, u-tubes), compact fluorescent bulbs, metal halide
  • Lighting system ballasts – PCB-containing and non-PCB
  • Latex paint – for re-blending by a manufacturer
  • Waste oil from our grounds garage – for fuel blending
  • Waste cooking oil from dining service – for bio-fuel production
  • Mercury – from thermometers, thermostats, switches, etc.
  • Laser jet toner and ink-jet printer cartridges
  • Photocopier/printer cartridges and used parts
  • Photo developing solution for silver recovery

Compost It

We have a well-established composting program in place in our dining hall and cafes. All food in the dining hall, Louis Café, and Greer Café, (including both food preparation and mealtime waste) is routinely captured and composted at a nearby commercial composting facility. Our cafes use only certified compostable serving ware–plates, cups, napkins, and utensils–and we are making strides to increase our rate of capturing these items to compost.

We have begun several composting initiatives to learn about opportunities and best practices and to build our capacity for managing a wider-scale compost collection program:

  • Pizza Boxes – we aim to divert all pizza boxes to composting. During the fall and spring of 2013-14, students in the DAPP program haul the gathered boxes from collection stations to the compost bin using 4-wheel delivery cycles. Early results showed diversion of about 100 boxes per week.
  • Classroom compost collection – we have placed compost collection bins in all classrooms at the Koch Center and in many places in the Boyden Library. In both buildings, we are hoping to capture containers from takeout food orders from the nearby café.
  • Napkins and hand towels – In the dining hall, we have made a very deliberate effort to capture napkins at the end of every meal. With the evident success of this, we have extended this to pilot programs for hand-drying towels in a few bathrooms.
  •  Coffee stations – over the summer of 2013, we eliminated the popular K-cup single-serve coffee machines and replaced them with a system using compostable coffee pods. This new approach diverts 90% of coffee station waste (by weight). At 32,000 cups of coffee per year, this affords us a terrific ongoing reminder of responsible decision making.
  • Faculty housing – we encourage faculty in houses and dormitory apartments to gather compost from their kitchens. We have offered small counter-top collection bins, established a series of drop-box collection points conveniently located around campus, and organized a group of volunteer faculty/spouses to shuttle the collected materials to the compost bin at Physical Plant.
  • Student involvement – we have expanded our winter-term greenhouse co-curricular activity to include a pilot-project composting effort. In addition to growing herbs and vegetables in the greenhouse, students work with a grounds department member to monitor the progress of an aerated-compost bin recently added at the greenhouse.


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