Waste management discussed at Passport to Earth Summit

Maggie Hessel-Mial

Each person in the United States, on average, produces 4.3 pounds of waste per day, said Ashok Singh, an associate professor in the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab.

In Minnesota, the number is even higher.

Landfills across the country are filling at rapid rates, forcing many University experts to consider ways to reduce the amount of solid waste released each year.

Much of what is thrown away, however, can include recyclable resources such as glass, paper and metal.

“The consequences are, if we don’t reuse products and demand keeps growing, we will have to go back to the environment to get more products and to produce more energy,” Singh said.

Solutions on how to deal with solid waste were discussed Monday at a forum, part of a series dedicated to sustainable development.

The Passport to Earth Summit 2002 series was created to explore issues that will be considered at the U.N. Earth Summit.

“We wanted to develop a series to educate the University and broader community on what’s going on in the field of sustainable development,” said Lark Weller, project specialist for the Institute for Social, Economic and Ecological Sustainability.

The series is planned to continue throughout the academic year and will include topics such as climate change as well as health and sustainable development.

To deal with the amounts of waste produced annually, the University has implemented
programs .

Recycling programs for both thrown-away waste and debris from the destruction and construction of buildings have been developed, said Dana Donatucci, waste and recycling planner. Thirty-one percent of garbage bin waste is recycled on campus, he said.

Along with recycling, the University has also implemented two compost programs – one for yard waste and one for animal waste.

Used animal bedding, which includes straw and manure, is collected and sent through a flush
system of pools that prepare the waste. It eventually ends up as compost fertilizer.

Both animal bedding and land waste composts are available free of charge to those who wish to use them, said Reagan Hulbert of the animal science department.

Donatucci said he thinks the University is doing well in its waste management.

“It’s one of the biggest programs in the country,” he said. “It’s a big institution.”

Singh said further education and development of new technology is important for waste management to remain practical and sustainable.

“We’re still using old technology to get rid of waste, like dumping and recycling,” Singh said.

Donatucci recommended finding ways to capture more organic material from the mountains of waste produced each day.

“The 31 percent rate is above average, but it’s not the best,” Donatucci said.

Ann Ollila, a junior in the department of natural resources, said she thinks the University can be a real leader in sustainability.

“The University should support companies that use recycled products,” Ollila said. “We need to change our consumerism to be more earth friendly.”

Maggie Hessel-Mial covers the environment and transportation and welcomes
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