Waste management is an exercise in environmental ethics and fresh job opportunities at Rutgers
Nestled within the Business and Auxiliary Services (BAS) Department are the men and women of the Material and Logistical Services, responsible for the ethical and environmental disposal of materials that Rutgers University deems too old for continued use.
These people are tasked with disposing of anything and everything from computers and furniture to the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences' old maritime equipment.
BAS covers a large swath of different departments, ranging from the mail services to material surplus.
Mike McDede, manager for Material and Logistical Services, said that BAS covers a little bit of everything. The department’s main focus is surplus, but it also handles furniture installation, transportation of records, shredding and all of the transport for the shredding.
Peter Shergalis, supervisor for Material and Logistical Services, said that the decision to remove things is done at the departmental level with deans, directors and department heads and then BAS follows it through to its logical end with sales, donations, recycling or trash.
“We get pretty much any moveable object that is being disposed in the University that isn’t straight up garbage. So we deal with everything from vehicles to computers to office desks to chairs to boats. We’ll see a wide variety, including, now, science materials with the new medical school,” he said.
The sales of Rutgers' surplus fall into specific categories dependent upon the type of disposal it is. For the most part, because all items are considered state property, the surplus is auctioned or sold on the government website, GovDeals, according to the department's website. Most items which are at a perceived value of $200 or above are available for auction instead of direct sales, according to University policy.
These items range in variety, but usually revolve around vehicles, electronics and some furniture. In addition to sales, the department also contains a private warehouse where certain items are sold and refurbished back to different departments within the University. All movement of these items is done through Material and Logistical Services, following the fleet of trucks that they have at their disposal, McDede said.
Exceptions to this are electronics and computers, which are always made in accordance with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) before its assessment for sales or donations.
“We actually exceed most of the EPA standards for computers. Our Environmental Health and Safety department does an audit downstream to make sure all of our stuff is being disposed of safely,” Shergalis said.
Both material waste and electronics disposals are extremely diligent. Rutgers recycled 20,000 tons of solid waste in 2013, marking it as one of the most successful recycling programs in the nation.
The department takes care of all the University's campuses, including the Newark and Camden areas for disposal. In order for such a feat to be maintained, pickups for disposal are scheduled based on their geography. Routes are scheduled based upon requests within a general area, and units are dispatched to take care of those requests, McDede said.
“We have four FD’s on the road full time, and then we sub out with other moving companies to help us with the remaining materials,” McDede said.
While most materials easily fit into general categories, there are always exceptions. Given the large variety in materials that the department covers, strange items are bound to show up from time to time.
“A lot of it, I don’t even know what it is. You’ll see stuff that looks like it’s from a 30s science-fiction movie,” Shergalis said. “There are a lot of departments in Rutgers University that do research that may be one of a kind. As for oddball stuff, we’ve disposed of a 1950s fire engine that emergency services had and never put into action.”
BAS also offers opportunities for students of the University to work among the various departments, presenting jobs for individuals in need of financial aid, said Magen Davies, the department administrator with Business and Auxiliary Services.
While currently employing the help of four student workers, the Material and Logistical Services is looking to expand and help give back to students and members of the University.
“Our records management and mail services units have participants that partner with the Rutgers adult autism department on campus,” Davies said. “It’s a really great way to help integrate these people with real day-to-day jobs and in a professional work environment.”
The program is intended to help adults with autism become more independent and self-sufficient. In the future, the department is looking to further branch out with programs that benefit individuals within the University.