ORAU collects nearly 5 tons of recyclables at Earth Day event

Oak Ridge Associated Universities’ employees and retirees combined their efforts to preserve the Earth’s natural resources during the company’s two-day Earth Day recycling event last month, resulting in five tons of materials being recycled — and not going into the local landfill

ORAU held the event held this year for the first time in two years. The event paused those years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of the two-day event, held at ORAU’s South Campus location off Bethel Valley Road in Oak Ridge, ORAU’s Environmental, Safety and Health Office, with the help of individuals from across ORAU, accepted nearly five tons of reusable and recyclable materials from employees and retirees. It included 6,549 pounds of “technotrash,” 150 pounds of batteries and 793 pounds of household donation items, according to an ORAU news release.

ORAU invited local vendors onsite during the event to assist with secure shredding of 1,800 pounds of paper and collecting 77 pounds of medication for disposal. The Michael Dunn Center performed onsite secure shredding; Allies for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) of Anderson County and the Oak Ridge Police Department collected unused or unwanted medication as part of Operation Medicine Cabinet.

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“This year, we thought it would be a great idea to collect donations for local nonprofit organizations within Oak Ridge to help us celebrate ORAU’s more than 75 years of being a part of the Oak Ridge community,” Jennifer Clary, an ORAU Environment, Safety and Health specialist who organized this year’s event, stated in the release. “During the event, we were able to collect nearly 800 pounds of lightly used household items for donation to local nonprofits.”

The donations were collected for the Blossom Center for Childhood Excellence, a non-profit organization in Oak Ridge that partners with parents to provide child-centered programs that are affordable and accessible seven days a week, and the Ecumenical Storehouse, an organization made up of several Oak Ridge churches, that collects, stores and distributes household items to assist people in need with setting up small living quarters.

Return to normalcy?

The Earth Day event also was another step toward normalcy for ORAU employees after the pandemic.

“Earth Day was a huge success for us, not just for the good we did for the environment and our community, but also for our efforts for employee engagement and outreach,” stated Mark Berkheimer, director of ORAU’s ES&H Office. “With a large number of new employees, as well as the fact that a large number of our employees had not been onsite in a while, we wanted to give them an opportunity to get together and hopefully begin to rebuild some of the community and connectedness we may have lost over the last couple of years from working from home during the pandemic.”

ORAU hosts the Earth Day event to encourage employees to bring in unwanted items from home for recycling or reuse. Since 2010, ORAU employees have recycled more than 44 tons of material from their homes as part of the company’s Earth Day recycling and donation events.

As an organization — whose corporate office building in Oak Ridge was the first new, gold-level, LEED-certified office building in Tennessee — ORAU’s environmental management philosophy emphasizes sustainability through recycling, waste minimization, green purchasing and energy efficiency, the release said. Whether it means saving more than 125,000 pounds of materials annually from landfills or ensuring that hazardous waste is handled properly, ORAU is committed to incorporating environmental responsibility into our business strategies and day-to-day operations.

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