Ed Lehman, director of facilities management, receives a check from Jack Hummel and Matthew Freed, EMU's recycling crew who collected a record value of $500 in non-ferrous scrap metal this spring. Many creative possibilities were explored to illustrate this article but eventually it was decided the traditional "grip and grin" ceremonial check presentation, socially distanced for pandemic times, would be ideal. Lori Gant, administrative assistant in facilities management, snapped the photo and also tipped off EMU News about the story. (Thanks, Lori!)

EMU recycling team notches historic scrap metal run

“Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a metal is non-ferrous. Jack and I carry a small magnet on our persons for just these instances,” said Matthew Freed, the recycling crew leader at Eastern Mennonite University. 

He and his Facilities Management colleague Jack Hummel regularly collect scrap metal that’s leftover from renovation work on campus to haul out to the local scrapyard, and they use the magnets to know whether or not a bit of metal belongs in the ‘contains iron’ or ‘does not contain iron’ bin.

“These metals come from leftover wire from electrical work, leftover copper pipe from various construction/renovation work on campus, electric motors taken out of different broken appliances and HVAC units, brass items such as old door hardware and old kitchen faucets, and discarded lead-acid batteries,” Freed said. 

Recently, Freed had a non-ferrous scrap run of “epic” proportions, earning over $500 for their quarterly haul. 

“This time we had a lot of brass for some reason and metal prices are higher than they have been in about 10 years,” he said. 

One of the most unique things they’ve hauled off so far was the old planetarium’s star projector assemblage during the Suter Science Center renovations last summer – an approximately 400-pound, steampunk-esque contraption that was state of the art when first installed in 1968.

This isn’t exactly a cash cow for the university, though – more of a labor of love. Freed usually only gets around $100 per load of non-ferrous metal, but is committed to the practice as a good steward of the materials that come through EMU’s campus. 

That commitment has shone through in the annual RecycleMania competition, as EMU has placed first for five years straight among participating Virginia universities. 

Recycling staff and student workers at EMU collect 70 tons annually of recyclable materials from 24 campus recycling points using custom-built bicycles pulling specially-designed, eight-foot trailers that can each haul about 300 pounds at a time.

“Recycling scrap metal is just one of the facilities management initiatives that supports our goal of increased sustainability as an institution,” said Ed Lehman, director of facilities management. 

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