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Recycling gathers momentum at VUMC

Posted in NEWS on Friday, October 26th, 2007

[Originally published in The VUMC Employee Quarterly]

Over the years, any number of offices and work groups at VUMC have launched independent recycling efforts. Now a more coordinated program is taking shape.

In August 2006, a medical student group called VUMC C.A.R.E.S. (Campaign for Awareness, Recycling, and Environmental Sustainability) started a pilot recycling program, waging an awareness campaign and placing bins for collection of recyclables at both ends of every floor of Light Hall. Originally serviced by VUMC C.A.R.E.S., the bins are now serviced by the School of Medicine Environmental Services Department. The pilot was a success, prompting the student group to recommend expansion of the program this year to the Preston Research Building, Eskind Biomedical Library, Medical Center North, MRB III and the Robinson Research Building. VUMC C.A.R.E.S. will be responsible for familiarizing departments in the new locations with the recycling program and customizing local collection points within departments as needed.

“The pilot was very well received by everyone at the Medical School,” said Raimy Amasha, a fourth-year SOM student who helped form VUMC C.A.R.E.S. “With the school being as forward leaning and progressive as it is, we thought that recycling fit well with the overall mission. A lot of people are pleased that recycling has become part of our daily activity. Now it’s an integral part of the school.”

“Efficiency and control of labor costs have been the key to the success of the program. It’s working because staff, faculty and students care enough to bring their recyclables to centrally located collection points. If this keen participation continues, success will be assured,” said Freddie Easley, assistant director for finance and administration with the School of Medicine.

SOM’s Environmental Services staff transport recyclables from the collection points to loading docks at MRB III and MCN for pick-up by Clean Earth, a Franklin, Tenn. company that recently began hauling away recyclables for VUMC. Clean Earth won the new contract because it offered VUMC a larger share of any profits from recycling, and because the company appears ready to handle potential future expansion of the Medical Center’s program for recycling, Easley said.

Plastic and aluminum have previously been mixed together at the SOM collection points, but under the new contract with Clean Earth these materials will need to be separated, Easley said.

“Our first goal is to become better stewards of the environment and reduce the amount of trash that the Medical Center sends to landfills. Beyond that, our goal is to optimize the long-term economic feasibility of recycling at VUMC. This will likely one day become an extra source of Medical Center revenue,” Easley said.

Easley added that the growing program eventually could attract the participation of the hospital and Vanderbilt Medical Group, which have separately funded and operated environmental services departments.

To learn the location of the SOM recycling station closest to you, call the School of Medicine Environmental Services Department, 322-6107.

VUMC’s various environmental services departments have for many years coordinated efforts for a successful cardboard recycling program; in 2006, over 408 tons of cardboard were recycled, generating over $14,500 in revenue. Another $13,000 was saved by not paying $32 per ton to dispose of the cardboard.

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