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ASU Begins ‘Zero Waste’ Commitment; Goal of Diverting 90 Percent of Waste from Landfill Disposal by 2022

March 4, 2013. A “zero waste” commitment has begun at Appalachian State University with the goal of diverting 90 percent of all waste from landfill disposal by 2022. The university currently diverts 40 percent of its waste annually from a landfill by recycling, reducing and composting. 

zero_waste“Colleges and universities have adopted goals of 90 percent diversion when speaking of zero waste as there are certain items that become part of their waste stream that they have no control over,” according to Jennifer Maxwell, the university’s resource conservation specialist.  The non-recyclable waste generally is related to items purchased off campus but consumed or used on campus and that can’t be recycled or composted because of the packaging. These become part of the waste stream as a result.

“As educators, it is important for Appalachian to make a commitment to sustainability initiatives such as zero waste in order to cultivate a cultural shift toward a more sustainable society. Through this commitment, we will bring about better awareness of consumption habits, become more mindful of reduction and purchasing decisions and increase our overall landfill diversion rates as a campus community,” she said.

As part of this commitment, single stream recycling and mini-bin waste collections initiatives will be implemented. These initiatives are a collaborative effort between the Office of Sustainability, Building Services and the Physical Plant.

Beginning March 11, single stream recycling will be implemented in all academic and administrative buildings on campus. Students and employees will now use recycling containers to mix all recyclables in one bin. Mixed paper, paperboard, books, metal, glass, and plastics No.1 through No. 7 will all go into one container. 

“Being able to collect all these materials in one container will greatly reduce waste and collection costs,” said Maxwell.

Also beginning March 11, nine buildings will begin using the small mini-bin waste collection systems. Faculty and staff will be responsible for emptying their office recycling and waste containers into centralized sites in their building.  “By emptying your own container you tend to think more about your consumption and the waste you produce.  It’s a paradigm shift,” Maxwell said.

The initiative is being phased in across campus after recycling collection increased from six bags to 60 during a two-week test period in Raley Hall. The next phase of buildings will be during the summer, with the last phase occurring in the fall.  

Goals of the zero waste initiative are: 

·  Reduce the university’s impact on the environment
·  Increase awareness of personal waste stream
·  Reduce unnecessary and wasteful purchasing
·  Increase recycling revenues while reducing landfill fees
·  Increase effectiveness of waste handling and housekeeping processes
·  Educate students and community members in environmental stewardship

Part of the zero waste initiative includes institutional purchasing decisions that focus on reducing consumption and increasing recycling. 

“Appalachian is a proven leader in sustainability, and the commitment to zero waste is an important next step for our campus,” said Linda Toth, a graduate assistant in the Office of Sustainability. “Understanding the responsibility we all have will be the key to success in reaching higher diversion rates, and becoming future role models in our careers and personal lifestyles.”

Learn more at zerowaste.appstate.edu.