UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State’s recycling efforts are going through the ceiling.
In a partnership with Armstrong Ceilings, Lancaster, Pa., old ceiling tile material removed from building renovation projects on the University Park campus is being remanufactured into new ceiling tiles.
The program, now in its third year, has generated almost six tons of material that has been kept out of the waste stream and recycled.
During the past year, 2,230 two-by-four-foot ceiling tile panels were removed during renovation projects and recycled into new ceiling tiles.
“In keeping with our Environmental Stewardship Initiative, we want to be on the green side of the thought process in terms of what we can do to divert material from the waste stream,” said Al Matyasovsky, supervisor of Central Support Services in the Office of Physical Plant. “The ceiling tile program is another example of identifying material that we can keep out of the landfill and partnering with industry in a recycling effort.
“It fits in well with the University’s overall recycling program, through which we long have been recycling traditional items such as cans, bottles and newspapers,” he added. “It also helps increase our support for the county’s recycling efforts, which results in additional state funding. At the same time, the program has become an important piece of our management of construction and demolition material.”
The program works like this: Old ceiling tile removed during renovation projects is placed on pallets, shrink-wrapped and moved to a trailer, provided by Armstrong and located at the University’s Surplus and Salvage warehouse. When the trailer is filled, the company is notified, and it is exchanged for an empty one.
Matyasovsky, whose recycling efforts are widely recognized, said University employees are responsible for collecting, wrapping and loading the material onto the trailer, reducing the carbon footprint on campus. When it is filled, the company pays for transporting it to Lancaster.
The first project in the program involved renovation of the former Business Administration Building, now the Donald Ford Building.
“That project, in which we recycled ceiling tiles from seven floors, was a good opportunity for us to pilot the program,” said Chet DeFurio, manager of Renovation Services.
University workers were able to fill a trailer at the site and subsequent projects have proven the program to be highly successful from both the University’s perspective as well as the company’s.
“While we avoid landfill tipping fees, keeping the material out of the landfill as another means of protecting the environment was a determining factor for our participation,” DFurio said. “That was the catalyst that got us involved. It hasn’t had any adverse effect on our renovation projects and, in fact, our employees are very enthusiastic about the program’s environmental benefits.”
According to Matyasovsky, the most difficult aspect of the recycling effort was finding a partner, putting the partnership in place and getting it to work smoothly.
“After determining each partner’s responsibilities, the program has operated very effectively,” he said. “We’ve had a number of inquiries from other universities about the program and we’ve passed them on to Armstrong. There is no use for this material other than putting it in a landfill or recycling it. Old ceiling tile is a good fit for recycling because it is the perfect consistency for the remanufacturing process. We want to use the landfill for what it was intended — as a place for material that can‘t be recycled.”
DeFurio sees the program as a positive opportunity for everyone involved.
“There’s no question that it is working very well,” he said. “The University helps the environment by keeping the material out of the waste stream, and the company saves costs since 90 percent of new ceiling tile comes from recycled material.”