UC Merced Connect: Staff invention helps college increase recycling

September 4, 2012 

UC Merced's library used to be one of the trashiest places on campus -- patrons generated a lot more garbage than recycled materials.

But all that garbage led to an invention by two campus staff members that could help UC Merced reach the zero landfill waste portion of its Triple Zero commitment. The goal includes having zero net energy and climate neutrality by 2020.

Eric Scott, associate university librarian for library operations, and Matt Hirota, the campus waste reduction and recycling coordinator, came up with a three-section bin for recyclables, compostable material and landfill items.

Three stand in The Lantern Cafe, where students, faculty and staff use them every day.

And if Scott and Hirota have their way, not only will the invention be patented, it will be found in many other locations beyond UC Merced.

The idea came about because the library staff were concerned about the amount of recyclable waste being disposed of in the library. The numbers dismayed Scott, a dedicated recycler.

The library got new recycling bins and Scott worked with campus custodial services to place them strategically so they'd be easy to see and use.

But the new bins also got Scott and Hirota thinking about something more efficient for different areas.

"We had a mish-mash of containers here in The Lantern," Scott said.

Hirota started looking at the different styles of recycling bins and thinking about what would work best in The Lantern Cafe's space. "We wanted it to be free standing, accessible on all sides, lightweight, ergonomic, easy to clean," he said.

He and Scott decided to design their own -- one that would fit with its surroundings. There are round columns and round tables in The Lantern, so they designed a round, three-section bin and took their design to local manufacturer Great Spaces for construction.

Great Spaces helped refine the design, Hirota said, and even added hospital gurney-style wheels that seal on the bottom so they cannot get clogged and stopped by trapped dirt.

The bins can be made from a variety of materials and could be good for any large open space where many people gather, from cafeterias, hospitals and hotels to convention centers, airports and sporting events.

UC Merced recently applied for a U.S. design patent on the bins.

Nonprofits, businesses highlighted

Local nonprofit organizations and businesses will have the opportunity to set up displays and materials to advertise their products, services, volunteer positions, local events and activities to UC Merced students, faculty and staff.

A Community Involvement Fair, showcasing nonprofit community organizations and services, will be held today. A Community Business Fair will be will be held Thursday.

Both fairs will be will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Scholars Lane in front of the Leo and Dottie Kolligian Library.

UC Merced Connect is a collection of news items written by the University Communications staff. To contact them, email communications@ucmerced. edu.

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