Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Total Diversion

I discussed in an earlier post the recycling system that was set up at the AASHE Conference I attended in the fall. At each station there was an opportunity to divert paper, compost, cardboard, and recyclables from the landfill. The recycling stations were impressive and I liked how the trash bin was labeled LANDFILL. Let's just make it clear where this material is going.

AASHE recently published the statistics from this recycling effort. I'm sure it took a lot of work to set this system up and to make it work but the results are impressive. For a conference with over 2000 people in attendance they were able to divert from the landfill over 90% of the waste material. Very impressive! Around 8,000 pounds of waste was collected and only 778 lbs was sent to the landfill.

At Lasell College we should learn from the AASHE Conference recycling. Their success clearly shows that if you give people the opportunity to divert their waste from the trash they will. In the next few weeks we will be launching a new single stream recycling system at Lasell. I'm excited about this system because it will give campus community members the opportunity to recycle many more materials than in our previous system. With this system in place, it is reasonable to set a goal of a 30-50% diversion rate.

But the AASHE Conference recycling results also highlight the importance of standardized waste stations. I believe we should set a goal at Lasell to eliminate all stand alone trash bins. If a trash bin is standing alone it will inevitably collect material that could be recycled. We need to standardize the appearance of every waste station and make sure there are more opportunities to recycle than to trash. With a standard look to every station, community members will learn the system and our recycling rates will increase.

It is interesting to also point out the amount of compost collected at the AASHE conference. This is an area I have suggested we consider at Lasell. Over 33% of the waste weight at the conference was compostable material. We do not collect any compost at Lasell. Back of house compost from Dining Services is the first place we should look. The waste from chopped vegetables currently goes into our trash. We could develop a system to get this material to a farm for composting. We pay by the ton for trash hauling and organic waste is filled with water and heavy. We could save a lot of money and increase our diversion rate with a simple composting system. Dining Services supports this idea and we are now trying to find a way to make it happen.

1 comment:

Xarissa said...

I was at AASHE too, and similarly impressed by the sheer amount of diverted material. I think you're right that eliminating the stand-alones, at least in as many cases as are possible, would go a long way towards making it instinctive.