Committed environment enthusiast takes over
He wants to get things done and he wants things to happen. When Micke Nilsson takes over as University Services’ new environmental coordinator his commitment, enthusiasm and plans will cover the whole university.
A normal A4 sheet of paper lies on the table in front of Micke Nilsson. On it he has written, by hand, the things he thinks are most important regarding the environment and LiU. He gets right to the point.
“Separating household waste at the source! It’s really important. There is one recycling station at LiU, on the northern side of A Building. Here there is a skip for unsorted waste. Everything ends up here, absolutely everything. When Ragnsells collects it, it costs LiU SEK 1,200 per tonne.
Nilsson’s idea is to separate the unsorted waste into wood, metal and so on. This will reduce the waste and save LiU money.
“Either we dismantle and sort the waste ourselves or we pay to have it done. In Norrköping there are no skips for unsorted waste and it works out fine.”
A lot has happened in the area of the environment since Nilsson arrived at LiU 29 years ago.
“At that time we only had one skip for all the rubbish, and a huge machine that compressed it. In 2004 we began collecting waste from different environmental areas out on the campus. Since then, awareness about the environment has grown. The students push the issue – they ask how they can sort their waste at the source – and staff have become much better at sorting.”
But Styrofoam is something people are still unsure about. It is combustible, but it often ends up with the plastics. Or on the ground beside it.
“It’s just pure ignorance,” Nilsson says. “I want to put up proper signs so that people know where they should put things.”
Nilsson has used learning by doing. As a technician at Post- och husservice, he worked daily with waste collection. He is also the one who delivers incoming goods – everything that cannot be moved with electric trucks in the culverts. Nilsson is also involved in trade union work, and he sees a number of areas where the environment in general and the working environment go hand in hand – things to do that benefit both. The fence around the recycling station is one such example.
“We have a constant problem with stealing from the skips. Just yesterday I saw a pair of feet sticking up out of one skip – some children were rummaging around. But it’s not only children. When I ride my bicycle through the residential area, I often see things from LiU there – an old sink for example. And old computers get stolen too. It’s not good for them to fall into the wrong hands, especially if not all the contents have been wiped.”
And other people sometimes come and throw things into LiU’s skips. It’s not enough simply to put locks on the skips.
“Then they just put things by the side. And we can’t just let it sit there, we have to deal with it. And pay for it.”
There is more on Nilsson’s to-do list. He is planning to go through the statistics to see whether LiU is living up to its environmental objective to reduce combustible waste (collected by Tekniska verken) by 10% from 2013 to 2015. It’s the same with University Services’ environmental plans from 2009 - have we met our targets?
He wants to work on travel at LiU – to get people to travel more with our own fleet of environmentally friendly cars, not their private cars. Currently there are two hybrid cars; in January, there will be two fully electric cars that can be driven 190 kilometres before recharging.
“It’s not just about the environment, but also things like insurance,” says Nilsson, who also wants to get more colleagues to use the bicycles and electric bicycles than can be borrowed.
“If we get a new Origo I want to have a bicycle station where staff can simply borrow a bike by unlocking it with their LiU card. But that’s over the longer term.”
Information for staff and students is another thing Nilsson wants to work on.
“New students should be able to get environmental information via their student mentors. It’s all about instilling a way of thinking and a way of behaving. Food waste, for example. We now recycle in Kårallen, at the students’ request.”
Nilsson has already been practising with the information. When he was asked to make a presentation to the cleaners about what happens to our waste, he did his own research at Händelöverket in Norrköping. And he went to Hammar in Närke, to Svensk Glasåtervinning (SGÅ), where all the recycled glass in Sweden ends up.
“Glass can be recycled as many times as you like,” Nilsson explains. “Did you know that three out of five glass packing units you buy in the shops is recycled?”
Nilsson’s interest in the environment appears genuine. The job of environmental coordinator seems to be in safe hands when he takes over from Anika Agebjörn, who is retiring. The handover is in progress, but from 1 October he will be on his own. He will, however, have support in LiU environmental strategist Annakarin Unger. They will work closely together and coordinate the university’s environmental work.
What should a good environmental coordinator be like?
“A jack of all trades,” Nilsson replies quickly. “And environmentally aware, of course.”
Can you give an example of a LiU department that is particularly good in the environmental area? That might serve as a role model?
“That would be my own unit, LiU Service.”
You practice what you preach?
“Yes, I think so to be honest. I have a summer house by lake Järnlunden in Rimforsa. I modified it to make it a permanent residence, and in the process I did some environmental work on it. For example I put in a three-chamber well with environmental purification, together with my neighbour. The water ends up so clean we can run it straight out into the environment.”
“Do you have a guilty conscience about any environmental issue?”
“That would be that I do a bit of volunteer work on motor rallies. But I don’t drive so much myself nowadays. And we actually work on environmental issues there too.”
Text: Elisabet Wahrby
Photo: Anna Nilsen
Last updated: 2014-10-03