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UCC's library bought an electric van with the cost savings from increasing their energy efficiency.
UCC's library bought an electric van with the cost savings from increasing their energy efficiency.
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UCC has a gum-ho attitude in its push towards sustainability

UCC's Boole Library is making efforts to become a leader in sustainability, following on from the World Economic Forum naming UCC the world's most sustainable university.

The library's latest initiative is a Gum Drop bin. 

This bin stores used chewing gum and then it is sent off to a company who can recycle the gum into mugs, pencils, frisbees and hair combs. The bin itself is also made with waste chewing gum.

Ann Byrne, the Liaison Librarian for Library Services and Environment, says a staff member saw one outside a hospital in the north of Ireland.

"We then looked into it and decided to get one. Why not? It's a quirky idea," Ann told The Echo. "We do have a gum problem here. People drop their gum onto the pavements outside the library and it's walked into the carpets. It's a big cost to clean them every summer."

The bin has only been up for two weeks, but Ann says people are putting their gum into it, and other buildings on campus are considering rolling them out.

 The latest sustainability initiative from UCC's library, a Gum Drop bin, which recycles used chewing gum.

The latest sustainability initiative from UCC's library, a Gum Drop bin, which recycles used chewing gum.

"It fits into our wider sustainability campaign. We are trying to change how people think about waste," she says.

The Boole Library is part of the "Saver Saves" scheme, run by the Buildings and Estates Offices in UCC.

Under the scheme, the energy budget is transferred to the library. Any energy consumption savings that are made remain in the library's budget and can be reinvested into future environmental projects.

"We put timers on our heating and lights, this made a big saving," Ann says. "We also turned off the lights in the Quad Reading Room during the summer days.

"There is plenty of natural light in that room, and the lights weren't needed. We saved €4000 by doing that."

"We also put a living wall in this room, and its maintenance is paid for through the savings."

The library was also able to buy an electric van, an air curtain to prevent heat loss, and the Gum Drop bin with this energy savings money.

The library has also changed its waste management.

"There were 160 bins in the library, we were creating so much waste," Ann explains. "So we got rid of all the bins in the staff and student areas, and have two big waste stations on the ground floor" 

The librarian says they were worried initially that the library would become strewn with waste, but this didn't happen.

"People bring their waste downstairs now, and this makes people think about much waste they are creating," she says. "It's improved people's recycling habits, the bins are clearly marked with compost, paper and plastic."

Disposable coffee cups are also banned from the library. 

"Initially there was some student opposition to this, but now people bring in their own reusable mugs. The library sells sugar cane bottles and mugs too, to get away from the plastic."

Ann also commends UCC's Environmental Society: "They are brilliant. They run a crisp packet recycling station and they send the packets to a company who is able to recycle them.

"They also are working with us to set up a books share scheme."