As far as garbage goes, it has been a pretty good year for York University’s ZeroWaste Program.
The numbers show that since it launched on June 8, 2010 by Campus Services & Business Operations (CSBO), ZeroWaste has diverted the equivalent weight of more than 11 subway cars of trash, or 716 metric tonnes of garbage, from area landfills.
The figure, which equates to a 23 per cent reduction in waste, shows that with the help of the University community, York is well on its way to reaching its initial ZeroWaste target of diverting 65 per cent of its total institutional waste by 2013.
“What the figures show is that the ZeroWaste message that we have to change the way we think about our garbage has been taken to heart by the community,” says York environmental studies grad and waste management supervisor Meagan Heath (MES ’10).
|Above: Some of the CSBO staff members on the ZeroWaste team. Sitting in the truck cab is Dominic Lacalamita, operator. In front of the truck are, from left, Lorie Thatcher, supervisor; Megan Collins, grounds team leader; Terrence Hanifen, operator; Rodney DeBassige, driver; and Meagan Heath, supervisor.|
Specific figures for the first year of ZeroWaste show that York community members have decreased the amount of paper they put in the trash by 46 per cent, or 257 metric tonnes, and there was a 13 per cent decrease in garbage, or the equivalent of 222 metric tonnes.
“Mixed paper products sent for recycling declined because of the increased emphasis on double-sided printing and paperless practices. During the first seven months of the program, bottles and cans going into the garbage decreased by 23 per cent because people are now bringing their own mugs and water bottles to work,” says Heath.
Rather than resting on the success of ZeroWaste, CSBO waste management staff continue to develop new and inventive ways to increase what can be diverted from landfills. Over the past few months, they’ve expanded ZeroWaste to include recycling of batteries, small electronics, appliances, ink cartridges and more. Paper towel dispensers are gradually being removed from the University washrooms in high use areas and are being replaced with hand dryers, which was likely the largest contributor to the drop in paper consumption. Heath says that several studies show that “hand dryers are more energy efficient than using paper.”
|Above: York has its own fleet of waste management vehicles|
There are now handy chilled water stations situated throughout the Keele campus specifically for refilling reusable personal water bottles. Add to these measures the increased signage, recycling bins and a continual encouragement through messaging and ZeroWaste is hitting home with York faculty and staff.
Heath says that students are also being encouraged to embrace ZeroWaste. “For the first time this year during residence move-out we did a formal e-waste drive,” says Heath. “We placed big bins in every residence and asked students to put any electronics or small appliances they were throwing out into the bins. We also included a bin to collect batteries.”
Right: York grad Meagan Heath
Students were receptive to recycling their e-waste and Heath says a lot was learned from the e-waste drive. “We learned that students need to be able to recycle their e-waste throughout the year and when something is broken, they need to be able to recycle it right away,” she says.
You can help the program by doing the following:
- Dispose of your organics into the organic bin located in all kitchenettes.
- Do not put organics in your office waste bin (unless you like fruit flies).
- Keep in mind that your office garbage is not collected, and empty your office recycling and waste bins into centrally located tri-bins.
You can also help the University be successful by making sure that all of your waste is placed in the appropriate tri-bin section:
- newspaper and office paper (not including used paper coffee cups or plates) should go into the paper products section of the tri-bin;
- cans, bottles, juice boxes and milk cartons that have been emptied of any liquid, should go into the bottles and cans section of the tri-bin;
- plastic or metal wrappers and packaging, such as coffee cups and take-out foam clamshells, should go into the garbage section of the tri-bin;
- all organic waste, including soiled napkins and coffee grinds should go into a separate kitchenette bin or digester.
When ZeroWaste was first conceived more than a year ago, CSBO staff knew the secret to the program’s success would be in how the community viewed their own trash. By making it necessary to walk to these communal trash and recycling centres, Heath says that people are really paying attention and thinking about what they are throwing away.
While there are many successes, Heath says there is still much to be done. “York doesn’t sort its trash, so if someone throws a water bottle that can be recycled into the garbage, it goes to the landfill,” she says. “Any garbage that ends up in a recycling bin goes into the recycling stream. We are just not equipped for sorting.
“Until now, there has been a big focus on creating an awareness of recycling and how it is important to put the materials into the right bins,” says Heath. “Going forward we will be shifting our efforts towards getting everyone to reduce the amount of trash we produce.”
For more on ZeroWaste, visit the ZeroWaste website.
By Jenny Pitt-Clark, YFile editor