Lake Superior College Shreds Landfill Load


Lake Superior College Shreds Landfill Load

April 14, 2011

Lake Superior College has been a member of Minnesota Waste Wise since 2008.  In 2008 and 2011, Waste Wise conducted site visits and made many valuable suggestions including strategies to reduce our solid waste.  This has prompted LSC to evaluate waste hauler contracts, establish a waste tracking system, and examine our overall solid waste system handling from purchasing to disposal.  Also, as a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), and as a signatory of the American Colleges and Universities Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), LSC will submit its Sustainability Plan of Action in May 2011 which outlines the campus’s goal to reduce solid waste, purchasing and food waste by 50% by 2030.  In conjunction with this Sustainability Plan, LSC is in the process of creating a campus-wide sustainable purchasing policy which will include tips on helping campus purchasing agents make product choices with less overall environmental impact, and at the same time, reduce the amount of single-life packing material that reaches our campus.

What do you do with large chunks of unavoidable styrofoam that ships along with fragile equipment as packaging?  It can’t be recycled, it isn’t biodegradable, its combusted bi-product is toxic to respiratory systems and the atmosphere, and it stays in landfills for centuries taking up almost 30% of landfill space in the United States.  LSC’s Integrated Manufacturing Program has created a solution that that will make this product reusable to community members and businesses alike.

This year’s Integrated Manufacturing Team, including students Nathan Zobel, Pete Alms and David Hauff, took their styrofoam shredder to the two-day SkillsUSA competition in Bloomington, Minnesota.  The project competed in the Community Service category and won a gold medal, advancing them to the National SkillsUSA competition in Kansas City, Missouri this June.  The machine, designed as a prototype for a new and improved machine already in production, has been in service at LSC for four years.  Designing and building the shredder, though, is only half the story.  The machine has shredded over 8,000 cubic feet of large styrofoam packing material over its life and the team has spent over 160 hours shredding campus styro and also material dropped off by the public.

But they didn’t stop there!  Throughout the four years of service, the Integrated Manufacturing team has been taking notes on design shortfalls of the current machine.  The team is utilizing their CAD/CAM design knowledge, machine skills, previous experience, and is also adapting and developing trouble-shooting skills to produce a machine that will give them a more usable end-product with consistent-sized pieces, and, “with the new design the shredded pieces will be more uniform and have less static…” says team member Zobel.  This will make the material more appealing to commercial businesses and the more efficient machine design will mean they can take in more from the community; thereby diverting even more of this nuisance material from the landfill.  Besides the shredded material’s obvious use as packing material, individuals have found use for it as filler for bean bag chairs, dog beds and outdoor planters.

This project not only serves to promote our Integrated Manufacturing program through college publications, but when the new machine is completed, it will also serve as a tangible community outreach project for the college with on-line advertising of shredded styrofoam. “At the same time, the project will help us to reach our college’s sustainability goals by keeping styrofoam out of landfills,” says Deanne Roquet, LSC’s Environmental Council Chairperson.

This project is an excellent example of hands-on classroom learning and fills a very necessary niche within the campus and ultimately the community, as no place else in the region has the capacity to manage the product after its initial purpose has been exhausted.

For more information on this or any of Lake Superior College’s Sustainability initiatives, email Kristi Heintz at


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