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Cougars & Mustangs 

Christmas has, throughout the years, become synonymous with giving, goodwill, and peace on Earth. But what about the day after Christmas? What happens to the millions of miles of wrapping paper? The refuse created from the holiday abandon in which we all love to glory?

Cal Poly faculty and students involved in the Global Waste Research Institute  are ruminating on the repercussions of our frivolity and how that so-called waste could be transformed into useful material.

The institute was initially created in 2006 by Cal Poly alums Bob Davis and Conrad Young. With Davis president of Rubber Recovery, Inc. and Young president of Century Tubes, there was a mutually shared interest in developing sustainable technologies for waste treatment. With a rising population, cheaper means of production, and easier access to goods, there was no doubt that a new approach to waste disposal was necessary.

The institute’s webpage explains that sustainability has “influenced waste management to incorporate extensive re-sourcing, promoting recycling of end of service life materials and ultimate reduction of final disposal (absolute end of resource value).” This cradle-to-grave way of thinking informs the institute as its members pursue efficient means with which to deal with trash.

Headed by Dr. Nazil Yesiller, the institute currently directs faculty and students alike in the investigation of various aspects of waste and byproducts from a material’s creation to its final disposal. Projects currently involve such topics as “Zero-Waste Strategies for Oily Sludge,” “Regulatory Oversight of Recycling Operation,” and “Integrated Dairy Waste Management.” With the Cal Poly motto of “learn by doing,” these projects allow students the opportunity to gain valuable insight into cutting-edge technologies that could challenge our nation’s perception of waste and its value.

Ever seen the giant plastic bag island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? Students at the institute are performing research that hopefully will result in transforming such waste into reusable resources. A few topics under review: “the Sustainable Reuse of Corrugated Board;” “Use of Scrap Tire Rubber in Low Strength Materials;” and “Use of Shredded Waste Tires in Rockfall Protection Structures.”

While you don’t have to start digging through the trash in order to fashion cardboard robot toys for your nephew or niece—the simple awareness of the long lifetime of all the ingredients that go into that new iPad might make you care more for your belongings and think more about the ethical implications that inherent in being a consumer. ∆

 

Intern Jason Keedy compiled this week’s Cougars and Mustangs. Send your collegiate news to cougarsandmustangs@newtimesslo.com.

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