Even UWSP, one of the UW-system green campuses, has waste. Waste can impose both direct and indirect costs to a community. Waste must be collected and disposed of, requiring receptacles, bags, hauling and processing, all at a direct cost. Indirect costs arise when waste is not properly disposed of, creating litter and an aesthetically unpleasant environment which can lead to poor attitudes, decreased tourism, sanitation issues and overall negative impacts on the community.
What is waste and where does it go?
Waste is something that is no longer wanted, and in turn, requires disposal. A waste that may have a value or use to someone else is known as a by-product. At UWSP our waste is taken by a hauler to a landfill about 22 miles outside of town. Recyclables are processed at the only UW-system recycling center, where students studying waste through the College of Natural Resources are able to gain hands-on experience.
Zero waste, a buzz word often thrown about sustainability circles, does not literally mean “zero waste.” Instead, the term means that more than 90 percent of the waste stream is recovered and either recycled or reused.
“When UDS first took over dining services we audited the food waste at DeBot with trays. The waste was approximately three ounces per student per meal (425,000 meals). This equated to 80,000 pounds of food waste per academic year. After fully removing the trays and going tray-free, the waste dropped to one ounce per student or 27,000 pounds.” Mark Hayes, Director of UDS, said.
This translates to about 195 pounds of food waste generated per day at DeBot. Of this about 95 pounds are composted on campus and the rest is collected and composed by Veolia, then used as a landfill cover at their Cranberry Creek facility.
Students of the first solid waste class in the new Waste Education Center are currently performing a waste audit of the Dreyfus University Center. The students will interpret the results and present recommendations based upon the waste stream.
Waste Reduction Initiatives
“All students on campus who are conscientious of taking only what they wish to eat are involved in waste reduction. Students majoring in Waste management are currently performing a waste audit that is revealing a strong potential for a campus-wide composting program... This will reduce total waste considerably. Students who are members of [Sustainable Agriculture in Communities Society] are composting some food waste.” Guy Pledger, waste management major, said.
The FRESH Project is currently collecting polylactic acid, or PLA, containers and looking at ways of recycling or repurposing them. Each dorm has waste reduction and recycling committees and a contest is underway between dorms to collect the most recyclables. At the end of spring semester a ‘tent event” is held hear each dorm where students may dispose of furniture and large items at no cost to them. Also, Saturday 10 May Waste Management Society of UWSP will host an electronics recycling drive for staff and students.
“If you are efficient at everything, then there is no waste.” Aga Razvi, professor of soils and waste, said. But, being efficient at everything is no easy task. To work towards this everyone must be involved, starting with the administrators who must purchase only items that are reusable or recyclable. Then, through education, training and management, better utilization of items such as printing on both sides of paper, will begin to eliminate waste by increasing efficiency and decreasing unnecessary waste of staff and students. Where recyclables and reusable items are not available or practical, renewable and long-lasting items could be substituted.
The so-called, “route to efficiency,” as it may be called, is really quite simple. First, start with renewable items, then recyclable items, then decrease the amount needed, increase the life of the item and reuse the item to its potential. There, now efficiency of the item has been maximized and waste has been minimized. High-five!
“Efficiency all over the place is what we should go after... Is there room to improve - yes. Is it achievable – yes.” Razvi said.