Shaver's Creek Environmental Center aims for 'zero waste'

Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center is in the process of becoming a zero-waste facility. Trash cans are gone along with the dumpster and employees have created an elaborate system of recycling and composting bins to use instead.

“We’re shooting for zero; a true zero,” said Mark McLaughlin, director of Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center. “We don’t want things that we have at Shaver’s Creek ending up in a dumpster or landfill somewhere.”

To watch a video related to this project, visit /video/152696/2013/02/08/video-no-title online.

McLaughlin and others at Shaver’s Creek sort recyclables every day into a series of 10 recycling containers and work closely with Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant Waste Management Team to send as much as 85 percent or more of the waste produced there to recycling and composting efforts, rather than dumping it in a landfill.

“Our facility’s scale and size is not too different from a homeowner’s scale and size,” McLaughlin said. “I think we can be a really good role model of what can be done.”

McLaughlin said employees and guests of Shaver’s Creek now have to think about what they will do with items they wish to discard. He said it’s been a teaching opportunity with adults and children who visit the center on a daily basis.

“Shaver’s Creek did this because the employees there wanted to do it and they put good processes in place,” said Al Matyasovsky, supervisor of Central Support Services in the Office of Physical Plant. “They didn’t throw a lot of money at it. They saved money by diverting the materials. They made that dumpster go away – it’s quite an achievement.”

Employees had to create two recycling collection carts to place in the public areas of Shaver’s Creek. Dubbed ‘zero-waste Zambonis,’ the carts are around to encourage guests to separate their waste into the correct recycling and composting bins while enjoying the environmental center.

“We are emptying the recycling more often,” said Brian Sedgwick, building services coordinator at Shaver’s Creek. “In the past, our 12-cubic-yard recycling container would be emptied every four to five months and now, they are filling up faster. With no dumpster, we are unloading recyclables every three to four months.”

Sedgwick said some things at the center cannot be recycled and must be thrown in a trash bag. This includes diapers, duct tape, personal hygiene items, paint and chemically treated wood. He said the center generates about one garbage bag per month, which is taken to a dumpster on Penn State’s campus.

“It goes with our mission of being an environmental center,” Sedgwick said. “We need to take better care of the planet and we need to make sure everyone is pitching in and doing their share.”

About Shaver's Creek

Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center has strived to help people and communities learn to live in harmony with the natural environment for more than 35 years. Shaver’s Creek is part of Penn State Outreach, the largest unified outreach organization in American higher education. Penn State Outreach serves more than 5 million people each year, delivering more than 2,000 programs to people in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, all 50 states and 114 countries worldwide.

Last Updated January 17, 2012