Materials

Using and Reusing Materials to Inspire

University operations and academics require a vast array of materials - from art supplies to furniture, from medical equipment to sports uniforms, from construction materials to food. Yale helps drive sustainability within this complex materials system by leveraging relationships with suppliers and using data to inspire, incentivize, and empower our community members.


Yale’s Efforts

  • We continually look for opportunities to encourage reuse of products within the Yale community and beyond. Spring Salvage donates items from students leaving the University.
  • Managing the disposal of items leaving campus is a complex process. We strive for transparency, and look to the Yale community help us reach our goals. 
  • We are currently exploring the feasibility of a Pay As You Throw program at Yale to help with our waste reduction efforts. 

What You Can Do

Our Objectives and Goals

Purchasing Standards

Advance purchasing standards that promote sustainability and resilience

As part of the Library Sustainability Advisory Group’s materials management efforts, thermal paper containing phenol chemicals is being phased out. Thermal paper—found in receipts, hold slips, and routing slips—can lead to chemical absorption into the body when touched. These chemicals are harmful to human and animal reproductive systems. Thermal paper is also not recyclable. 

The Library system has switched to an alternative, phenol-free product that uses Vitamin C to achieve the same function. It is completely nontoxic and recyclable. 

This Objective is supported by the following goals. Progress reflects activities and accomplishments from July 2018 - June 2019: 
Goal: 

Vendor Management

UPDATING

By 2019, define, refine, and systematize progressive language for requests for proposals and vendor contracts.

Progress: 

A cross-departmental committee convened to learn about the negative health impacts of certain “chemicals of concern” often found in furniture. These chemicals include: flame retardants, volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde, endocrine disruptors like phthalates, highly fluorinated compounds, and antimicrobials. Furniture purchased for new projects will reflect updated specifications to help protect the health of building occupants.

Goal: 

Sustainable Packaging

WE COULD DO BETTER

By 2020, establish and promote sustainable packaging standards.

Progress: 

Sustainable packaging preferences continue to be assessed; once complete, they will be communicated to vendors.

Material Flow Systems

Promote material flow systems that employ use and disposal patterns to inform purchasing decisions

Yale eliminated 11,000 single-use water bottles from the 2019 Commencement weekend, instead encouraging honorees and guests to bring their own reusable bottles or use compostable cups at hydration stations in and around Old Campus. In previous years, Yale distributed more than 300 cases of individual plastic water bottles, many of which were left unopened after the ceremonies had concluded. Waste reduction efforts at Commencement will continue to expand in the future.

This Objective is supported by the following goals. Progress reflects activities and accomplishments from July 2018 - June 2019: 
Goal: 

Pay As You Throw

ON TRACK

By January 2022, create, pilot, and assess a “pay as you throw” system.

Progress: 

The Pay As You Throw pilot took place in Spring 2019, the first of its kind at an American institution of higher education. The experiment included three treatment groups and two control groups; details about the pilot can be found here. Departments from around campus were engaged, and one of the treatments focused specifically on Yale College. Data and outcomes from the pilot are currently being assessed, and the final analysis will be complete in Fall 2019. 

Goal: 

Targeted Waste Reduction

ON TRACK

By 2020, identify the most impactful commodity groups that contribute to Yale’s waste stream through material flow analyses.

Progress: 

A material flow analysis on pallets was completed, complementing the previous analyses on animal bedding and paper. Pallets come to Yale from various vendor deliveries and accumulate at certain locations around campus. One outcome from the analysis included the recommendation that the value of pallets be recovered downstream, and that more upcycling of pallet wood take place.

Purchasing and Disposal Decision-Making

Cultivate sustainable purchasing and disposal decisions

In spring 2019, the Yale School of Music implemented an instrument string recycling program. The program, which is in partnership with Terracycle, collects all types of used instrument strings—violin, viola, cello, double bass, and guitar. The School of Music has a collection bin set up near its strings studios; once the bin is full, it will be sent back to Terracycle, where the strings will be melted down and turned into new metal alloys.

This Objective is supported by the following goals. Progress reflects activities and accomplishments from July 2018 - June 2019: 
Goal: 

Materials Outreach and Engagement

ON TRACK

By 2020, create and launch an engagement strategy to empower Yale students, staff, and faculty to make responsible materials management choices, including communications about purchasing volume for key commodities; reuse; and diversion of materials from the waste stream.

Progress: 

Presentations on recycling best practices were conducted at different departments and units on campus. Waste metrics for 2019 were as follows:

  • Waste diversion in 2019 was 41%. This is 19% away from our goal to achieve a diversion rate of 60% by 2024. We produced 3.8% more waste in 2019 than in 2017, which indicates improvement is needed in order to reach our goal of maintaining or reducing the overall amount of waste produced since 2017.   
  • Construction and demolition diversion rate was 88% in 2019.
  • Paper purchases have increased by 19.5% since 2017.
  • 27% of cleaning chemicals used at Yale, by volume, were green preferred or green certified in 2019, which is 13% away from our goal of 40% by 2022.
Goal: 

Reuse

ON TRACK

By 2021, create a suite of coordinated solutions for exploring inflow and outflow of high-volume materials, by identifying opportunities for reuse within Yale, the New Haven community, and the region.

Progress: 

A comprehensive analysis of Eli Surplus Exchange—Yale’s online reuse platform—was conducted, and the various reuse efforts that take place around the university were catalogued. In the hopes of streamlining these efforts and obtaining better data on material reuse at Yale, a new platform is being considered.