Hiking from Pucillo to Huntingdon? You might want to take a quick break on the brand-new (sort of) outdoor furniture right behind Huntingdon House.
The new brightly colored Millersville gold-and-black furniture includes a comfortable bench and a picnic table. They are perfect for students, faculty and staff to relax during busy days. Read a book. Enjoy a meal. Have a quiet moment taking in the beauty of the Millersville campus. Have a seat. It’s all for a good cause.
Not only are these two stylish pieces of furniture great looking and comfortable, but they are both entirely made from recycled plastics that are locally sourced. Who knows, maybe that water bottle you conscientiously placed in the recycle bin is now part of the furniture.
The bench and picnic table were set up behind the Huntingdon House in July, and they are already attracting attention.
“We chose the colors for Millersville’s gold and black,” says Lori Leaman, Assistant to Associate Provost for Civic and Community Engagement, adding that they are situated near other sustainable campus features, including the Center for Sustainability’s raised bed vegetable gardens and the TerraCycle drop-off location.
Here’s a quick quiz: how much plastic does it take to make a bench and picnic table? If you guessed 2,500 gallon milk jugs, you are exactly right. (You get an A.)
According to Millersville’s Sustainability Manager Chris Steuer, the recycled plastics are melted and formed into lumber-style pieces at a facility in Lebanon, Pa. The pieces are then used to make furniture by Breezesta, a local manufacturer in New Holland, Pa. The poly-based lumber comes in bright colors that won’t fade in rain or sun.
So, not only does it come from local recycled plastics, but it’s made locally, as well.
While faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to use reusable water bottles and containers if possible, it’s important to recycle any disposable plastics that you do use so that they can be repurposed in beneficial ways.
For most people, it is second nature to recycle. Keep up the good work. For those who didn’t get the recycling “memo,” take note. According to a recent study by the World Economic Forum entitled The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastic, more than 32 percent of plastic packaging worldwide never even makes it into the waste stream. Instead, it ends up in real streams, in lakes and rivers, along roadsides or even the ocean.All that lost plastic adds up. Currently, the equivalent of one garbage truck full of plastic is lost to the ocean each minute. Once there, it accumulates and breaks down into microplastics that can be consumed by fish and other organisms. According to the study, the amount of plastic in the ocean is expected to equal the amount of fish in the ocean by weight by 2050.
All that lost plastic adds up. Currently, the equivalent of one garbage truck full of plastic is lost to the ocean each minute. Once there, it accumulates and breaks down into microplastics that can be consumed by fish and other organisms. According to the study, the amount of plastic in the ocean is expected to equal the amount of fish in the ocean by weight by 2050.
There are better ways to handle our used plastic. In fact, used plastic is increasingly regarded as a resource rather than a waste product. The World Economic Forum estimates that globally $80-120 billion is lost each year by not repurposing packaging plastics. Plastics that are captured and repurposed as furniture or other materials return value to the economy, while preventing negative environmental outcomes.
Millersville recycles plastics through collaboration with the Lancaster County Solid Waste Authority (LCSWA). Plastic bottles and jugs (anything with a neck) can be disposed of in campus recycle bins along with aluminum cans and glass bottles and jars. Other items, like plastic cups (e.g., Solo cups) and some plastic packaging can be recycled through Millersville’s partnership with TerraCycle. There are also several plastic bag drop-off locations on campus, such as in The Galley entryway at the Student Memorial Center.
For more information on the new furniture or TerraCycle, please contact Civic and Community Engagement. For information on Millersville’s recycling efforts, please contact the Office of Sustainability.
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Editor’s Note – message from MU’s Sustainability Director, Chris Steuer;
In our Climate Action Plan, released in January 2016, Millersville called for increasing use of renewable electricity—including a goal of meeting 25 percent of our electricity use through renewables by 2040. The net zero energy building (Lombardo Welcome Center) will give us a first opportunity to do this on a meaningful scale; wherein, the entire roof of the building will be solar panels. We plan to expand from there, but we also want to focus first on reducing our energy use through conservation and making the existing building more energy efficient.
In terms of sustainability, is Millersville planning on expanding on the number of solar panels on campus? I have heard of the net zero energy building but what about the pre-existing buildings?