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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: July 28, 2003
Volume 38, Number 24

Campus Pollution Prevention earns praise

By Dan Ware

As conservation and pollution prevention continue to be hot button issues across the nation, UNM is winning praise for its efforts to reduce waste and protect the environment.

The Pollution Prevention section from the City of Albuquerque’s Public Works Department recently completed inspections of several departments at UNM, and offered praise for going above and beyond typical recycling and waste disposal efforts.

Thanks to some innovative ideas and procedures, the university has been able to partner with the city to find new ways to reduce water use and cut down on waste.

Through the Albuquerque Pollution Prevention Program, each year, the UNM Safety Health and Environmental Affairs office (SHEA) must identify five areas or departments that can do more to recycle, use environmentally friendly products and cut down on waste and then implement programs to do so. SHEA’s efforts have been so successful that the city has presented the university with several pollution prevention awards over the years.

“The university is doing some really wonderful things. We’re amazed at how they’re constantly pushing the envelope regarding pollution prevention.”

City of Albuquerque Pollution Prevention Specialist
Brynda Gutierrez

One of the departments honored this year is UNM’s Automotive and Fleet Services, which found ways to cut down waste and save money as well.

This year, Linda McCormick, pollution prevention specialist at SHEA, helped Automotive and Fleet Services Supervisor Dan Apodaca identify more than 25 ways the department could use to cut down on waste and recycle.

According to McCormick, everything from oil and refrigerants to batteries, tires and even lead tire weights are now recycled. Dirty solvents are now shipped back to the manufacturer to be reused in their own operations. Oil and water washed off vehicles are separated and automotive products are chosen for their low environmental toxicity.

Another measure being taken to reduce pollution from the university fleet is the gradual implementation of low emission/alternative fuel into the light-duty fleet.

Currently, 60 percent of all light-duty campus vehicles can use alternative fuels such as E-85 (85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline) or compressed natural gas (CNG). The fleet service goal is to have 75 percent of all light-duty vehicles running on alternative fuel by year's end.

Alternative fuels are also being introduced into the university heavy duty fleet.

“The university is doing some really wonderful things,” City of Albuquerque Pollution Prevention Specialist Brynda Gutierrez said during the recent inspection of the fleet services department. “We’re amazed at how they’re constantly pushing the envelope regarding pollution prevention.”

The disposal of waste water is another critical issue faced by McCormick and SHEA. McCormick says departments like chemistry, mechanical engineering and fine arts are now recycling more using pollution prevention to save money and help the environment.

SHEA picks up and processes about 1000 gallons of photographic fixer each year from fine arts and other departments. The fixer is then processed, removing harmful toxins like silver, which then allows for waste water to be safely disposed of. The collected silver can also be processed for reuse.

The Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering departments replaced hundreds of mercury thermometers in favor of safer alternatives provided by SHEA. SHEA then turns the mercury over to be recycled or disposed of properly.

McCormick says SHEA even acts as a kind of chemical supply for departments and researchers. “Old chemicals that can still be used are made available on a first-come, first-served basis to university departments,” McCormick said. “By using recycled chemicals, departments all across campus can keep chemicals out of the ecosystem and more money in their budget.”

All across campus, significant steps have been taken to reduce the UNM’s effects on the environment. Fluorescent lighting tubes are collected and recycled. Groundskeepers are now using less-toxic pesticides and planting more drought tolerant vegetation. Grass and leaves from campus and golf course maintenance are being composted.

Even worn-out towels from the Johnson Recreation Center are recycled and reused as animal bedding by local animal rescue groups.

Every department, no matter how big or small has the potential to help UNM be more environmentally friendly. “[The efforts] don’t have to be earth shaking, but they have to be real,” McCormick said. “As a university, we’re generating less hazardous waste, so it’s a win-win situation.”