Higher education's contribution to sustainability, Higher education's role in addressing major global challenges
Sustanaible Management of Wastes
Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos
Latin America and Caribbean
The Autonomous Morelos State University (UAEM for its acronym in Spanish), aware of the environmental and socioeconomic impact its activities may cause, has assumed its responsibility on the environmental subject. 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 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, where there is the seek of the fulfillment of the legislation for the management, treatment and disposition of all 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 external 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 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.
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.
Therefore, it is not only about a pro-environment education, but and education to transform society to contribute to the improvement of people’s life quality and their environment, and that focuses on the subject of education. The SEI may be the responsible of favoring society’s sustainable development, for it has a great importance in professional formation, in scientific research, in extension and in cultural diffusion. 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
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. For wastes management, the UAEM has carried out actions that tend to encourage the reduction, reutilization, recycling, valorization and final disposition. This is concordant with the General Law for Prevention and Integral Management of Wastes (LGPGIR) which is the juridical tool that, at present, rules 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.
At present at the UAEM, there is the accomplishment of establishing a wastes management strategy through a campaign to encourage sensitivity in the university community. This campaign is structured as follows:
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
For solid organic wastes:
Aa gathering and treatment system has been implemented. This kind of wastes includes those generated in the gardens and cafeterias. The UAEM has established within its installations the University Composting Plant that allows transforming its own organic wastes into a nutrient rich substrate (humus) used for green areas maintenance.
Plastic is gathered in special containers, stored in exclusive spaces and after wise it is transferred to recycling companies. Metal is also generated from furniture, vehicles, and cans among others, which are commercialized by recycling companies.
Special management wastes
The wastes in this category include empty print cartridges (toner and ink); used batteries; electronic articles such a computer equipment, photocopiers and scientific equipment which are generated in the university campus, among others. There are also special containers for the waste gathering and transfer to recycling companies or to final confinement, depending on their nature.
The teaching and researching laboratories generate chemical and biological-infectious wastes which are classified as dangerous. 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 mentioned legislation and it has been carried out as follows: the responsible of the dangerous wastes management are permanently qualified 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.
To spread the strategy for the integral management of solid urban wastes and dangerous wastes generated in the UAEM, in Mexico
For wastes management, the UAEM has carried out actions that tend to encourage the reduction, reutilization, recycling, valorization and final disposition. This is concordant with the General Law for Prevention and Integral Management of Wastes (LGPGIR) which is the juridical tool that, at present, rules 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.
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. The paper recycling generates approximately 600 sheets per day for the UAEM and several handicrafts elaborated by students. Approximately 1.5 ton/week of plastic have been transferred to recycling companies. 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.
Within the special management wastes, approximately 10 tons of obsolete computer equipment and 800 kg of used batteries are generated yearly, besides the non quantified print cartridges, and several metals in different quantities. All of this has been sent to recycling.
Regarding the dangerous wastes, the UAEM generates an annual average of 9 ton/year. The elaboration of Integral Management Plan of the dangerous wastes has allowed the insurance of the integral management according to the legislation for México. The environmental sensitization campaign has generated different courses, workshops, conferences and concourses related with wastes, where students, professors, and university workers participate.
The PROGAU was institutionalized with the unanimous approval of the maximum organ of the UAEM authority. The PROGAU coordinates an internal organization structure which regulates the functioning of the different academic and administrative dependences in environmental aspects. A consultative committee has been constituted integrating the university authorities and specialists in some of the areas which integrate the PROGAU. At the committee, decisions related to the environmental management in the UAEM and the links to other sectors of the population are taken. The UAEM requested a voluntary environmental audit before the competent federal authority, which has allowed having an external reference of the environmental conditions of the university.