Special handling waste is any production-generated residual material that is not considered urban solid or hazardous waste, or comes from large urban solid waste generators. According to the General Law for Prevention and Integral Management of Wastes and the Basic Assessment for Integral Management of Wastes (SEMARNAT, 2012) , 84 million metric tons of fourteen types of special handling waste are generated in Mexico each year—e.g., copper, aluminum, tires, construction waste, mud from wastewater treatment plants, among others. Additionally, eight hundred thousand vehicles are disposed of nationwide every year, and these numbers are still on the rise.
Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon carries out a permanent awareness campaign for the university community to promote the proper storage and transportation of special handling waste, preventing the exposure to their hazards.
Rapid and short-useful-life innovation is one of the aspects causing an increase in electronic waste. Electrical and electronic devices, such as televisions, cell phones, computers, and appliances, are made up of hundreds of different materials, some of which are valuable like gold, silver, palladium, and copper, or potentially hazardous like lead, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic. Without proper disposal and depending on the type of technology, country of origin, and manufacturer, those materials may be accidentally released when the devices are disassembled, representing a threat to human health and the environment.
For instance, leachates are liquids that release toxic substances into the environment, which may permeate the soil and contaminate groundwater with heavy metals, and if people drink it, it can cause some of the following conditions:
- Acute poisoning
- Neurological damages
- Respiratory tract damages
- Cardiovascular conditions
- Liver and kidney damages
- Osteoporosis and bone deformation
- Immune system damages
According to the study “Analysis, evaluation and definition of strategies to solve the waste stream generated by household appliances at the end of their useful life” (SEMARNAT 2010), which reports a generation of technological waste of more than 350 tons per year .
Due to this situation, the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon, through the Sustainability Secretariat periodically carries out electronic recycling campaigns, through which it seeks to sensitize the university community and the general public so that they make an adequate provision of This type of waste that many times have accumulated in homes and offices.
In November of 2017 a campaign of collection of this type of waste was carried out, during four days five collection centers were located in the different campuses of the UANL (University City, Mederos, Health Sciences, Agricultural Sciences and Linares) managing to collect 29.19 tons of electrical and electronic waste, characterized as follows:
This campaign was also directed to the general public.
Of the total waste collected, 95% were contributed by the university dependencies and the remaining 5% by individuals. In addition to the benefits derived from adequate confinement of waste materials, the recycling of useful materials generated significant environmental benefits such as 689,066 kWh of unconsumed electricity and 107.8 tons of CO2 not emitted into the atmosphere, just to mention a few.
The Faculty of Agronomy of the UANL is currently carrying out a project for the use and exploitation of livestock waste (manure) and the use of pruning (garden waste) from the Marín campus, which consists of treating said waste using earthworms where we obtain humus or compost (vermicompost) and a leachate rich in essential nutrients (fulvic acids) which are used to fertilize the nursery, the experimental crops and the gardens of the same campus.
According to the information provided by those responsible for the project, 1.5 tons of organic waste are treated every year, obtaining a total of 700 kg of humus or fertilizer, as well as 1,000 liters of leachate annually; The latter is rich in nutrients and is used for irrigation of gardens or fields or as foliar sprinkler.
The treatment of organic waste every day is more important given the dimension of the problem represented not only by the increase in volumes generated but also by the use of fertilizers of chemical origin which, in addition to contaminating the environment and having a higher cost, represent a risk to the health of the people who handle them and for the consumers of the products.
Due to the consolidation and success of the project, it is foreseen that in the medium term it can present an important growth, which allows it to commercialize the humus or fertilizer, since currently it is only used internally to satisfy the needs of the University itself.
Vegetable oil residues
The waste generated from the vegetable oils and fats and / or animals used is the main cause of water contamination, due to uncontrolled dumping which can cause problems, causing blockages, bad odors and proliferation of pests in the drainage systems and / or sewage system.
Due to this situation, the UANL promotes that the waste of vegetable oil generated in the kitchens of the cafeterias, be stored in special containers, thus avoiding being poured into the drainage. Subsequently, said waste is transferred and recycled for use as a biofuel by specialized companies.