Most trash in UGA bins was recyclable, audit finds

By LEE SHEARER updated Wednesday, April 24, 2013 – 10:39pm

The University of Georgia still has a way to go before it meets a goal of diverting about two-thirds of its waste from landfills to recycling centers.

A waste audit conducted Tuesday on the Tate Center lawn demonstrated part of the reason why.

Student volunteers and members of UGA’s sustainability office donned protective suits and sorted through all the trash UGA faculty, staff and students had thrown into the roughly 400 outdoor trash bins that dot the UGA campus, sorting the fairly smelly contents into what was recyclable and what was not.

They filled up about two bags of recyclable paper, plastic and metal for every bag of landfill-bound trash, said UGA Sustainability Coordinator Kevin Kirsche.

The nonrecyclable bags were a lot heavier and included a lot of soggy half-eaten food, however, he said.

Weekend rains probably contributed to the weight and the odor.

Kirsche hopes workers will find a lot less recyclable stuff in the trash bins a year from now.

Little by little, UGA is diverting more of its waste stream, according to numbers provided by Cale Caudell, support services manager in UGA’s Facilities Management Division.

In the 2013 fiscal year, UGA diverted nearly 40 percent of its waste tonnage, saving about $630,000 in avoided landfill costs plus revenue from selling recyclable metal, paper and other material. Still, UGA trucks hauled nearly 4,800 tons of waste to landfills during the year.

Year by year, the percent diverted increases, Kirsche said. UGA’s official 2020 goal is a 65 percent diversion rate through recycling, composting and other measures.

Tuesday’s public trash audit was staged for two reasons, Kirsche said. It was partly to raise awareness about waste and recycling on the UGA campus.

But the waste audit will also provide information to help Physical Plant planners devise a new system of outdoor waste collection.

By this time next year, Kirsche and Caudell hope to see recycling receptacles paired with UGA’s outdoor trash cans. There may also be fewer trash cans.

Starting in 2011 with the Miller Learning Center, UGA has been reducing the number of trash cans in many campus buildings and pairing each remaining trash receptacle with recycling bins.

Given a choice like that, very few people actually choose to throw recyclable materials into the trash bin headed for the landfill, Kirsche said.

Tuesday’s waste audit was just one of numerous environmentally themed events the university is staging this week in connection with Earth Day, which was Monday.

Today, panelists from several area businesses and industries will talk about how they’ve made their businesses more sustainable,

On Friday, volunteers will sally forth in canoes and kayaks from Big Dogs on the River, 2525 Atlanta Highway, for a Middle Oconee River clean-up.

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