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New special waste program comes to campus

U. distributes new e-waste bins to dispose of batteries, printer cartridges, electronics

The Office of Sustainability, Custodial Services and the Office of Environmental Health and Safety have teamed up to implement a new special waste program for the safe disposal of printer cartridges, batteries and small electronics. The program started Sept. 4, when specially marked bins were installed at 10 locations across campus.

Officials at the three departments came up with the idea for the initiative when they recognized a need for a convenient method to dispose of the waste they received the most questions about: electronic waste, or e-waste. Facilities Management funded the program using their $25,000 budget for special waste.

“The students reach out to the custodians all the time to ask what to do with a lightbulb or something like that, and this gives them the opportunity to say ‘bring it to Stephen Robert (Campus Center) or J. Walter Wilson or Watson’” and dispose of it there, said Custodial Services Director Donna Butler.

When custodians see the bins getting full, they call in truckers who collect the waste and bring it to a storage unit where it is packaged for recycling. The waste is not incinerated or sent to a landfill unless it cannot be recycled.

Before the program started, there were some locations for battery collection around campus, but other e-waste had to be handled on a case-by-case basis through custodial work orders. The arrangement “was cumbersome to custodial staff and not convenient for disposers,” wrote Office of Sustainability Director Jessica Berry in an email to The Herald. “We wanted to make it a comprehensible, efficient and assessable program to maximize proper disposal.” 

There are no statistics yet available on how much e-waste has been disposed of using the new system, but Berry says that besides a few incidences of outside trash ending up in the bins, the new system has not experienced any glitches.

“One thing I have learned in my time at Brown is that Brown community members want to do the right thing, and I view it as my job to work (to) get them the right tools and resources to do so,” she said.

Jasmine White ’19, who heard of the program this summer, said she was glad that there was now a place for her to retire her old batteries.

“I didn’t want to harm the environment, but I also didn’t want to keep batteries lying around my room for ages, so I think it’s nice that Brown thought of a way for us to actually dispose of these safely,” she said.

Amelia Spalter ’22 had not heard of the program, but said if the signage was clear enough, she would use it in the future.  “I want my children to be able to breathe without a mask on, so I’m all for it,” she said.


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