The Sustainability Office has recently audited the waste streams at UC, primarily looking for issues of contamination (items in incorrect bins) as well as opportunities for addressing this. Addressing contamination issues is important because the contamination of bins leads to significant collection issues and unnecessary items ending up in the landfill.
We audited three locations: the Undercroft, the Central Lecture Theatres and the History Building. One week’s worth of bins were collected and audited for each area by our intrepid and heroic auditor Alejandro.
Alejandro’s audit revealed good progress in some areas and some challenges in others. Overall, contamination of co-mingled recycling appears to have dropped overall from 35% in 2010/11 to less than 20% in 2014 , which is wonderful news. However,
- About 20% of the collected co-mingled recycling is actually incorrectly and unnecessarily sent to landfill.
- While paper recycling is highly successful in the office environment (100% clean in the History Building), it is contaminated in more public spaces. There are significant collection issues associated with this.
- 12-30% (depending on location) of the red landfill bins are composed of organics – which could be diverted from landfill!
- The most significant (by weight) recyclables incorrectly deposited in the landfill bins are, in order, food containers, glass bottles, plastic bottles and cans/tins.
- The Undercroft bins are particularly bad contamination-wise! Let us know your bright ideas about on how this could be improved.
So what are some areas of improvement? The main items unnecessarily being sent to landfill are plastic food containers (like from the Wok), glass and plastic bottles, and drink cans. Rather than popping those items in the red bins, put them in the yellow ones! Please remember that plastic food containers should be rinsed before being sent to recycling – there’s a sink in the Heat ‘n’ Eat area.
By sheer number of items (rather than weight), lids for takeaway coffee cups are still a prime offender. Bad lids! These lids should be put in the yellow recycling bin, while the cups currently need to be landfilled. And please, don’t fill your coffee cup up with apple cores and banana skins – empty these into the organics bins before you put the cup into the landfill bin. Thanks so much.
Overall we are doing really well, and your efforts to help reduce our waste to landfill are really paying off.
The Sustainability Office has also just released the draft UC Waste Plan 2014-2022 and we are now inviting comments on this. The Plan focusses on reducing the absolute amount of landfill and recycling on campus by 10% in the medium term. In part this will be achieved by reducing the amount of ‘landfillable’ and ‘recyclable’ materials being purchased onto campus through tighter controls on the procurement chain, and choosing to focus more on compostable materials where possible (as in the case of packaging. Do we still need polystyrene? No we don’t!). We will also look to enhance our composting solutions.
To get an idea of how we are progressing with composting single-use coffee cups, check out our other post!