The Vice Presidency of Sustainability in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Management and Operational Safety created the Waste Management Institutional Program, in order to establish a set of standards to minimize the generation of wastes at UANL Campuses. This will also promote sustainable practices within UANL community.
Urban Solid Waste
Urban solid waste is generated at homes, workplaces—as a result of garbage disposal: plastic containers, bottles, cartons, or packages—, household-like establishments or places, and public spaces, as long as it is not considered other type of waste.
In accordance with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT, for its acronym in Spanish) the generation of urban solid increased by 43.8% during 1997 to 2012, going from 29.3 to 42.1 million tons per year. This was clearly a result of urban growth and industry and technology development, as well as changing consuption patterns.
This trend is also evident from 1950 to 2012 where the diary volume of waste generation increased over three times, going from 300 to 990 grams on average. In annual terms, waste generation rose from 301 to 361 kilograms between 1997 and 2012, in other words, it grew on average 3.3 kg per year.
From a public health and environmental perspective waste management will help to mitigate the negative effects on the environment, health, and natural resources. Reuse and recycling are fundamental tasks for preserving the ecosystems through the conversion of waste materials (paper, carton, plastic, and some metals) into reusable materials.
The UANL, in order to raise awareness among its students and staff, started in February 2013 a Program of Separating and Recycling of Waste, in this program, UANL entities are in charge of the separation of wastes through special containers so later, this wastes can be recycled. During the period of February 2013, a total of 285.66 tons of materials (aluminum, plastic, paper, and cardboard) have been recollected. This has represented an important environmental benefit such as the saving of 4,403 trees from being cut, 995 CO2 tons not released to the atmosphere and 766m3 of landfills not used.
Special Handling Waste
- Electronic Waste
Special handling waste is any production-generated residual material that is not considered urban solid or hazardous waste. For instance, electronic waste, 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, those materials may be accidentally released when the devices are disassembled, representing a threat to human health and the environment.
Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon, through the Vice Presidency of Sustainability, seeks to raise awareness among the university and the general public by implementing an annual electronic recycling campaign to promote and ensure the proper disposal of such waste. During the last campaign in November 2016, significant environmental benefits were achieved: 17.74 metric tons of electronic waste were collected, saving 418,775 kWh of electric power and reducing CO2 emissions by 65.52 metric tons.
2. Organic Waste
Organic waste treatment has become more important due to the extent of the problem that arises from the increasing generation of this waste and the use of expensive chemical fertilizers, which not only contaminate the environment, but also represent a health risk for users and general consumers.
The UANL School of Agronomy (http://www.agronomia.uanl.mx/sustentabilidad/) carries out a project for the use and management of livestock waste (manure) and prunings (garden waste) at its facilities in Marin, Nuevo Leon. This waste undergoes the process of vermicomposting to obtain about 700 kilograms of earthworm humus (vermicompost) and 1,000 liters of fulvic acid leachate that are used to fertilize the gardens, plant nurseries, and experimental crops in the different campuses.
3. Waste Oil from Cafeterias
The main cause of water pollution is the uncontrolled disposal of waste from animal and vegetable fats and oils used during food preparation, leading to major problems like pipeline blockage, bad smells, and pest proliferation in drains and sewers. Several UANL entities collect the waste oil from their cafeterias in special containers; such waste is later collected and disposed of by a specialized company.
4. Hazardous Waste
According to the General Law for Prevention and Integral Management of Wastes, a hazardous waste is any solid, semisolid, liquid or gaseous material whose owner has disposed of in containers and it can be assessed or undergo treatment or final disposal. It also contains at least one of the CRETIB properties (corrosive, reactive, explosive, toxic, flammable, biological and infectious).
The Vice Presidency of Sustainability, assisted by the Department of Environmental Management and Operational Safety, developed a program for the proper handling and disposal of hazardous waste from UANL entities, which can be used as a basis for their manuals on the environmentally sound waste treatment. A significant progress has been accomplished since twelve UANL entities integrated these procedures into their daily activities. From January 2016 to June 2017, this systematic work provided 294.63 metric tons of treated hazardous waste, of which 239.33 metric tons are biological-infectious waste and 55.3 metric tons are chemical waste, according to the current environmental law.
Additionally, it is important to be registered as a hazardous waste generator at SEMARNAT based on the annual average of generated hazardous waste. From January 2016 to June 2017, twelve UANL entities, supported by the Department of Environmental Management and Operational Safety, applied to this procedure and now they have their Environmental Registration Number.