When it comes to sustainability at Cal Poly Pomona, the process is in the bag — especially one that’s literally plucked from the fields of farms.
The university has switched from using outdoor trash can liners made from petroleum-based materials to an eco-friendly product from Revolution Bag.
Sustainability is one of the core values of the university. Efforts on campus include solar power, reclaimed water for irrigation, electric and hybrid vehicles, LEED buildings, and recycling and composting programs. The new trash can liner is the latest contribution to sustainability.
“We are always looking for something sustainable and this was an easy thing to do,” said Richard Farmer, manager of Landscape Services for the Cal Poly Pomona Department of Facilities Planning and Management. “The liners are as good, if not better, than the ones we had been using.”
Landscape Services maintains about 300 outdoor trash cans on campus and the new liners are used in those receptacles. Depending on location, trash cans are emptied and liners replaced daily or once a week.
The trash can liner production process starts at Revolution Bag’s parent company, Arkansas-based Delta Plastics, which manufactures tubing used for irrigation on farms. At the end of the yearlong growing season, Delta Plastics collects the tubing from the fields and hauls it back to the factory. There, the tubing is cleaned then chopped into small pieces before being turned into a resin, allowing for the manufacture of the liners.
The resin used to manufacture the tubing is derived from natural gas. The irrigation tubing is used on farms across the South, and the company is making inroads in agriculture-rich Bakersfield.
“We regurgitate the plastic, from a processing standpoint,” said Terry Hudson of Revolution Bag. “The liner gets made again into another product. The cycle could go on forever. It’s a loop.”
Trash from the outdoor campus bins is hauled away by a contracted waste disposal company to a collection facility. There, the liners and other recyclable materials are separated from the trash and set aside before the company retrieves the used liners to become part of the manufacturing process again.
Several vendors had been supplying outdoor trash can liners, but Landscape Services wanted to streamline the supply chain to a single source. That’s when Brian Lake, a gardener specialist, found that Revolution Bag offered a sturdier option that also was cost-efficient and sustainable.
“The cost savings happen in two ways. First, the liner material is stronger than a normal bag, so we can buy a thinner bag,” Lake said. “Second, a lot of bags need to be double-bagged because they are not very strong, but with the Revolution Bag liners we use one bag and we haven’t had any issues with them breaking or splitting.”
There is a third aspect to cost-savings. Because the liners are not manufactured using petroleum products, the cost of the bags does not fluctuate based on the price of a barrel of crude oil. The price of the bags to Cal Poly Pomona has been locked in for five years by Brady Industries, the distributor of the liners.
Revolution liners may be thinner, but they are heavyweights when it comes to sustainability. The bags have earned Ecologo certification from Underwriters’ Laboratories by meeting sustainability standards for plastic products. In addition, the liners meet standards for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) and also comply with Scientific Certification Systems guidelines for sustainable manufacturing.
“The liners are good for the environment because they are made from used material,” Hudson said. “That’s the main thing. It’s already been something else.”
Hudson also cites that because the liners are made from recycled material, the manufacturing process generates fewer emissions that contribute to climate change.
Users of the sustainable trash can liners include major Las Vegas casinos, universities (including Cal State Northridge and UC Riverside) and airports across the U.S.
An open workshop on Feb. 28 that addressed sustainability and other issues attracted a plethora of students and other campus stakeholders. The next Campus Master Plan, which is expected to be completed in the fall, will incorporate findings and feedback from the sustainability workshop.
“Sometimes, sustainable products are not easy to find,” Farmer said. “It’s been a win-win situation for us.”