The Duke Key and Lock Shop utilizes various improvised containers to store its recyclable metals—five gallon buckets, an old Mountain Dew bottle, the backs of a pickup trucks.
Whatever works and whatever helps Shop Manager Barry Clark keep the key and lock parts that pass through the shop daily from going to the landfill.
Recently, the Facilities Management Department shop carted off 3,375 pounds of old keys and lock parts on two pickup trucks to be recycled. The parts were mostly made obsolete by lock re-keying and campus building renovations. The shop has been recycling keys for 15 years.
“We re-key and cut all keys for Duke University and the Medical Center,” said Clark, a Durham native, who has worked 30 years in the Key and Lock Shop, and 11 as its manager. “All obsolete keys come back to the key shop.”
The biggest bulk of obsolete keys, all made from brass, comes from unreturned residence hall room keys. Also, for security, local locksmiths are not allowed to make a key to a Duke door and Duke uses keys that are patented so keys cannot be copied. Once a patent expires, keys are recycled.
About 400 to 600 keys are recycled monthly, and 50 to 75 new keys made daily. The keys and lock parts are taken to a metal recycling facility where they are heated to around 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit and melted into brick-sized blocks, then sold to manufacturing companies in need of brass.
“It’d be a waste not to make some effort and recycle, especially in precious metals,” said shop locksmith Joey Ingram.
Rebecca Hoeffler, Sustainable Duke’s program coordinator, agreed.
“Recycling is the crucial last step to creating a closed loop economy of materials to avoid the degradation of the environment and pollution of our resources,” she said.