ASU blue bag recycling program keeps trash out of landfill

May 14, 2015

Not sure if your shiny granola bar wrapper belongs in the blue recycle bin, but you don’t want to send it to the landfill?

The perfect way to keep your wrapper from reaching the landfill is to request a blue bag from the ASU Recycling Program team. Download Full Image

“With the ASU community’s support, during 2014, ASU achieved a 26.5 percent waste diversion rate. For instance, we diverted more than 1,200 pounds of polystyrene, which could fill an average-size one-bedroom apartment,” said Alana Levine, ASU Recycling and Solid Waste manager. “Our recycling team believes blue bag use can boost our landfill waste diversion efforts.”

Blue bags are available to offices and departments on the ASU Tempe campus. The bags complement the university’s widespread blue bin commingled recycling program. The following items are blue-bag friendly: 

• batteries (dry cell, non-rechargeable)
• coffee pods (one-time use)
• cosmetics containers
• shiny plastic bags
• shiny plastic wrappers
• small eWaste (such as calculators and MP3 players)
• small toner cartridges
• spent pens & markers
• used plastic gift cards
• water filters

“On average, about 350 tons of waste per month collected at the Tempe campus goes to the landfill,” said Lucas Mariacher, ASU Recycling Program technician. “We are taking recycling to a whole new level with the blue bag program. Before program launch, the majority of items that are accepted in blue bins were being landfilled.”

Blue bag genesis

ASU’s Recycling team developed the blue bag program from employee demand and is hoping to boost use among the ASU community. The team so far has placed 275 blue bags in 52 buildings on the Tempe campus since January. Bags are provided free of charge.

The program also can accept new materials based on demand.

“For example, if university employees were generating a ton of toothbrushes, we could add the brushes to the list of acceptable blue bag items,” Mariacher said.

It’s Mariacher’s hope that the blue bag program can expand to the ASU Downtown Phoenix, Polytechnic, and West campuses – including the Thunderbird School – in the fall 2015 semester.

A wrapper’s journey

Any student worker, faculty or staff member on the Tempe campus can request as many bags as they would like to place in their work areas.

There are two blue bag sizes. A one-and-a-half-gallon size is ideal for an individual desk or in a cubicle. A larger, five-and-a-half-gallon blue bag is appropriate for larger common areas such as kitchens and break rooms.

Disposable coffee pods are considered “wet” items and should be bagged separately and then placed in the blue bags before pickup by the Recycling team.

Dry cell batteries also require separate bagging. Recycling team members suggest placing batteries in old sandwich baggies that are free from food or other debris. If baggies are not available, plastic grocery bags are acceptable for both spent coffee pods and battery disposal.

Levine noted a partnership with ASU Environmental Health and Safety that ensures batteries collected in blue bags are safely processed to reclaim recyclable metals.

Once blue bags are full, users should email the Recycling team to arrange pickup. The team usually can empty the bags within a few business days’ following a pick-up request. The team is in the process of designing new weekly pick-up routes due to the abundance of materials being collected.

When the blue bags collection is complete, the waste is sorted by hand. Some blue bag items are shipped to TerraCycle. The New Jersey-based company receives products and packaging that is problematic to recycle from 22 countries around the globe. The company repurposes recycled items into new products from everything to soap dishes to totes and even recycle bins.

Blue bags benefit zero waste

ASU community members who use the blue bag recycling program help the university’s zero waste goals. ASU defines zero solid waste as a 90 percent reduction in waste sent to the landfill from current business-as-usual status.

To achieve zero waste, ASU encourages diversion and aversion tactics. Waste is averted through reduced consumption and diverted from the landfill through recycling, composting, and reusing or repurposing.

“It is an all-hands approach to attain ASU’s zero waste goals,” Mariacher said. “We need everyone to recycle as much as possible. Including blue bags in your recycling routine is a small effort that affects larger change.”

Sun Devils are encouraged to contact the Recycling team with comments and ideas about expanding the blue bag program via email

Wendy Craft

Marketing and communications manager, Business and Finance Communications Group


Convocation celebrates graduates, reinforces Hispanic education

May 14, 2015

ASU 2015 commencement banner

Arizona State University will conclude its week of graduation ceremonies on Saturday with record-breaking success and festivities that mark more than 30 years of growth in the number of Hispanic graduates.  Download Full Image

More than 1,990 Hispanic students graduated from ASU this spring, and a record number are scheduled to participate in the 2015 Hispanic Convocation slated for 10:30 a.m. May 16 in the Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. It is a celebration that began three decades ago in a small town square five miles from campus but now requires the capacity of one of the university’s largest venues. 

The event caps off this year’s series of graduation ceremonies and underscores ASU’s success in providing a quality education to qualified students from all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.

“This year we have nearly 400 students signed up to attend the convocation, which is the highest number we’ve ever had,” said Charlene Vasquez, ASU director of cultural relations who oversees Hispanic Convocation. “People enjoy this convocation because it provides graduates the opportunity to celebrate their academic achievement in a festive, cultural and more personal environment along with family and friends.”

Salt River Project’s Kathleen Mascareñas will emcee the event along with actor and local TV personality J.R. Cardenas, host of the Cox7 “Su Vida” – a television and online program that presents success stories about people and organizations and their impact on the Phoenix community. 

Event planners expect a large crowd of families, with a guest list that runs longer than nearly all other commencement-related events.  

“We know that the average ratio of graduate to guests at other events is one to eight, but for Hispanic graduates it is one to fourteen,” said Rhonda Carrillo, assistant director in ASU’s Office of Community Relations. “So that gives you an idea of the crowd size we could get.” 

The Hispanic Convocation is a tradition established by ASU in 1984, when 49 students participated at an off-campus ceremony in the town of Guadalupe.    

There is more to the Hispanic Convocation than festivities. Over the past decade, ASU has developed programs to encourage postsecondary success and boost access for Hispanic students in Arizona and nationally, Vasquez said.

“The annual increase in graduates participating in the ASU Hispanic Convocation is a testament to those efforts,” she said. “We’re making progress, and we’ll continue to push forward.”

Since 2005 the number of Hispanic graduates at ASU more than doubled, from 630 a decade ago to 1,990 in this year’s class.

Those numbers boosted the percentage of Hispanic undergraduates from 11 percent in the class of 2005 to 19.1 percent among this spring’s graduates, and from 6.6 percent to 9.8 percent for graduate students.

More work remains. During an April 30 presentation in Phoenix organized by the Helios Education Foundation, ASU President Michael M. Crow emphasized that Hispanics hold the highest aspiration of the American dream and that education is key to achieving the dream – financial security, strong families, happiness. Yet, only about 15 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. have graduated from college.  

Crow explained that those born to families in the lowest 20 percent of family incomes – the group below the poverty line in Arizona – will most likely remain there without a college education. In Arizona, 58 percent of Hispanics live in poverty, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty.

A college education makes the difference. He highlighted data showing that, among those in the lowest one-fifth of family income who get a college degree, 84 percent move up to a higher income bracket, breaking into the middle class. And 20 percent end up in the highest income group. Crow acknowledged that education is not the only factor at play in helping people move out of poverty.  

“But it’s the most important predictive variable we can affect,” he said. “You get a completely different economic outcome just from that one variable.”

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer, Media Relations and Strategic Communications