UVM Campus Diverts 40% of Its Waste from Landfill

From the Office of the President:  The numbers are in, and the news is good. In 2012, the UVM campus diverted 40% of its waste from landfill disposal through its recycling and composting efforts. Even better news: the amount of total solid waste generated by the campus has steadily been on the decline despite increases in square footage and campus population.

UVM Recycling recently evaluated data from the past decade with the help of first-year engineering student, Austin Grant. The data shows that the campus produced more garbage five years ago than it has in recent years. Here is a closer look at the numbers:

   *   Solid waste generation went from a high of 2,866 tons in 2006 to a low of 2,326 tons in 2012 – that’s an 18% reduction.

   *   The amount of waste generated “per square foot” of building space went from a high of 0.92 pounds per square foot in 2005 to just 0.50 pounds per square foot today.

   *   And, the amount of solid waste generated “per student per year” has dropped 
from 485 pounds in 2004 down to 355 pounds today.

UVM is clearly on the right path towards reducing waste, especially as landfill disposal space in Vermont becomes scarcer and the cost of trash disposal rises each year. W

hat is the reason the campus is "less wasteful" now? According to Erica Spiegel, Solid Waste Manager, there is no single factor, but rather there have been many changes in university operations and consumer habits over the years.

One noticeable change is capturing more organics, (i.e. food scraps) from the waste stream which are hauled to the local composting facility operated by the Chittenden Solid Waste District. On average, UVM dining facilities collect 9.45 tons of food scraps per week to be converted back into soil for growing more food locally. This is up from 4.96 tons per week back in 2006. Last fall, UVM Recycling introduced a new program with One Revolution, a local bicycle-based compost collection service, to divert an additional 120 pounds of food leftovers per week from 40 office locations around campus. 

Other significant measures over the past decade include:

   *    Elimination of the printed UVM telephone directory.

   *    Reusable take-out packaging, known as Eco-Ware, introduced by Dining Services.

   *    "Tray-Free” dining in three resident dining halls.

   *    An increase in "paperless" business transactions and procedures.

   *    Elimination of desk-side trash collection and use of plastic trash bags in staff and faculty office areas.

   *    Expansion of compostable packaging collection within the Davis Center.

   *    Greater awareness and cultural shift among students, staff and faculty to recycle and compost more, and waste less.

It’s not all silver linings however. Some parts of the University’s waste stream never seem to dwindle. Every year, the campus tosses out between 35-40 tons of old computer equipment and electronic waste to be disassembled and recycled.

UVM Recycling is offering new at-desk recycle boxes for staff and faculty. For details and to request a bin, visit UVM Recycling Website.


By Erica M. Spiegel

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