Sustanaible Management of Wastes
The Autonomous Morelos State University (UAEM for its acronym in Spanish), aware of the environmental and socioeconomic impact that its activities may cause, has assumed its responsibility on the environmental commitment. With the institutionalization of the University Environmental Management Program (PROGAU for its acronym in Spanish), the UAEM has created an environmental politic in long term with the objective of sustainability, supported by the rectory and with a well defined inner organization. The objective of PROGAU is to include the environmental dimension in substantive and adjective activities of the UAEM. This includes five strategic areas, most notably the Integral Management of Wastes, favouring the reduction of the generation, reuse, separation and recycling of wastes generated in the UAEM. The environmental management at the UAEM has a long term vision that promotes the environmental education and research as ways of development and links with extern institutions for the communication and broadcasting of scientific knowledge.
Nowadays, our planet daily confronts environmental problems that risk its physical integrity and its relative stability. Many of these problems come up through the activities that human kind performs in the search for a better quality of life. Thereby, by fulfilling their exigencies, people have now provoked an environmental crisis that is reflected in the lack of respect towards nature. The daily generation of wastes is part of this problematic (Armijo et al. 2003).
For this reason, the Superior Education Institutions (SEI) have not only the duty of incorporating strategies to integrally form the students from all disciplines, but also the responsibility of “preaching with the example” by implementing strategies that may incorporate new environmental management and new educational strategies to their organizing structures (Ortiz-Hernández 2002).
Therefore, it is not only about a pro-environment education, but an education to transform society in order to contribute to the improvement of people’s life quality and their environment, and that focuses on the subject of education (Saadatian et al. 2009). The SEI may be the responsible of favouring society’s sustainable development, for it has a great importance in professional formation, in scientific research, in extension and in cultural diffusion (Mat et al. 2009; Velázquez et al. 2006; Cortese 2003). The integral formation of the student demands the inclusion of education for sustainability in their own educational programs, independently of the discipline.
In this sense, the UAEM is an SEI that establishes the need of institutional environmentalization within its educational politics, including the integral management of its own generated wastes. These actions are coordinated through the PROGAU, which operates officially since December 2002.
The objective of this work is to spread the strategy for the integral management of solid urban wastes and dangerous wastes generated in the UAEM, in Mexico
This work is carried out at the UAEM in Mexico, which is an autonomous public institution of the state of Morelos, with full power of management and budget control, its own legal personality and patrimony, whose purposes are the provision of middle-superior and higher education public services, research, dissemination of culture and expansion of services. It is a university that has 20,000 students and approximately 3,500 university workers, coexisting on three university campuses.
In recent years, the UAEM has worked to strengthen the policy of university wastes management, to the point of becoming a management referent to other public and private institutions (Malakahmad et al. 2010). For wastes management, the UAEM has carried out actions that tend to encourage the reduction, reutilization, recycling, valorisation and final disposition (Armijo et al. 2008; Smyth et al. 2010). This is concordant with the General Law for Prevention and Integral Management of Wastes (LGPGIR) (Diario Oficial de la Federación 2003) which is the juridical tool that regulates the wastes management policy in Mexico.
All of this is done under an environmentally adequate regime and under the statements of the norms in the subject or the corresponding juridical framework.
Nowadays at the UAEM, the establishment of a wastes management strategy has been accomplished through a waste classification according to the LGPGIR, besides of a campaign to encourage sensitivity in the university community. The classification of wastes is shown in table 1.
For the integral management of wastes, the PROGAU has generated different courses, workshops, conferences and concourses, where students, professors, and university workers participate.
Solid urban wastes:
Since year 2000, a permanent program for separation and gathering of paper was introduced. The program includes the reutilization of paper, the reduction of consumption, as well as its transference and recycling. For this purpose, containers specially designed for paper gathering were purchased. Semi-industrial machinery was also purchased in order to recycle residual paper and to use it in everyday activities, as well as for its commercialization. Of the total solid urban wastes generated by the university population, an average of 45 ton/year of paper and cardboard is gathered. Yearly, a student’s concourse of paper gathering is organized; this has enabled the gathering of a greater amount of paper to be recycled.
For solid organic wastes, a gathering and treatment system has been implemented. This kind of wastes includes those generated in the gardens and coffee shops. The UAEM has established within its installations the University Composting Plant which allows transforming its own organic wastes into a nutrient rich substrate (humus) used for green areas maintenance. The composting plant generates 500 m3/year of compost, which allows covering the needs of substrate for the green areas of the campus and an excess for commercialization.
Plastic is gathered in special containers, stored in exclusive spaces and after wise it is transferred to recycling companies. Approximately 1.5 ton/week of plastic have been transferred to recycling companies. Metal is also generated from furniture, vehicles, and cans among others, which are commercialized by recycling companies.
Other non-recoverable wastes, which are approximately 30% of the total solid urban waste, are sent to landfills.
Special management wastes:
There are also special containers for this kind of wastes and they are transferred to recycling companies or to final confinement, depending on their nature. Approximately 10 tons of obsolete computer equipment and 800 kg of used batteries are generated yearly, besides the non quantified print cartridges. All of this has been sent to recycling.
In Mexico, the legislation for these wastes is very strict and it establishes their management, treatment and/or final disposition according to their characteristics. In the UAEM the management of dangerous wastes is executed according to the federal legislation and it has been carried out as follows: the responsible of the dangerous wastes management are permanently trained around the aspects of toxicity, legislation, storage, register, packing, transport and final disposition. The PROGAU coordinates a contract with a specialized company, which transports all the dangerous wastes generated by the UAEM to sites which are authorized for the treatment of these wastes. This process is carried out each month and informs yearly the competent authority about the final destination of the generated dangerous wastes. The UAEM generates an annual average of 9 ton/year.
The larger proportion of wastes from the UAEM is recyclable, which could have a different destination other than disposal in sanitary landfills. The possibility of producing compost with organic wastes allows using it in the maintenance of green areas. The UAEM fulfils its social commitment of wastes proper management; however there is still a long way to go to be at pair with its European counterparts, in addressing all the issues pertaining to sustainable higher education.
- Armijo de Vega C., Ojeda-Benítez M.E. and Ramírez-Barreto E. (2003). Mexican educational institutions and waste management programmes: a University case study. Resources, Conservation and Recycling. 39, pp. 283-296.
- Armijo de Vega C., Ojeda-Benítez M.E. and Ramírez-Barreto E. (2008). Solid waste characterization and recycling potential for a university campus. Waste Management. 28, pp. S21–S26.
- Cortese A. D. (2003). The Critical Role of Higher Education in Creating a Sustainable Future. Planning for Higher Education. 31(3), pp. 15-22.
- Diario Oficial de la Federación (2003). Ley General para la Prevención y Gestión Integral de los Residuos (LGPGIR). Gobierno Constitucional de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos.
- Malakahmad A., Za’im Zaki M. C. M. N., Kutty S.R.M. and Isa M. H. (2010). Solid Waste Characterization and Recycling Potential for University Technology PETRONAS Academic Buildings. American Journal of Environmental Sciences. 6(5), pp. 422-427.
- Mat S., Sopian K., Moktar M., Ali B., Hashim S.H., Rashid A.K.A., Zain M.F.M. and Abdullah N.G. (2009). Managing sustainable campus in Malaysia–organizational approach and measures. European Journal of Social Sciences. 8(2), pp. 201-214.
- Ortiz-Hernández M.L. (2002). Programa de Gestión Ambiental Universitario. Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, México.
- Saadatian O., Salleh E.I., Tahir O. M. and Dola K. (2009). Observations of Sustainability Practices in Malaysian Research Universities: Highlighting Particular Strengths. Pertanika J. Soc. Sci. & Hum. 17(2): 225-244.
- Smyth D. P., Fredeen A. L. and Booth A. L. (2010). Reducing solid waste in higher education: The first step towards ‘greening’ a university campus. Resources, Conservation and Recycling. 54(11). 1007-1016.
- Velázquez L., Mungia N., Platt A. and Taddei J. (2006). Sustainable University: what can be matter. Journal of Cleaner Production. 14, pp. 810-819
About the author
Enrique Sánchez-Salinas is full time professor and researcher at the Environmental Research Laboratory in Biotechnology Research Centre at the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, Mexico. He was Director of the School of Biological Sciences in the period 2007 to 2010 in the same university. His main areas of research are Environmental Management and Environmental Biotechnology.
Mº Luisa Ortiz-Hernández is general Executive Secretary of the Mexican Consortium University of Environmental Programs for Sustainable Development (COMPLEXUS). General Coordinator of the University Environmental Management Program (PROGAU) of the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos (UAEM), Mexico, from which the environmental policies of the institution such as environmental management, greening and curriculum of higher educational programs, are designed. She is full time professor and researcher at UAEM and was director of the Biotechnology Research Centre at the same university. She is also an active member of the Advisory Council for Sustainable Development of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in Mexico and within it; she is the national coordinator of the "Agenda Gris".