Mission: Zero-Waste. From Development to Implementation

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AASHE Webinar featuring Leader-Level AASHE Member, Waste Management and Rutgers University Thursday, April 11, 2013 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EDT

We live in a world where little should go to waste. No one understands this better than the young minds shaping our world. As higher education institutions compete to attract students, faculty and funding, it’s important that they take every opportunity to differentiate their school and their students in order to prepare and arm them to make an impact for their employers, for themselves and for the planet.

The pursuit of zero-waste is a strategy widely embraced by colleges and universities, for a wide range of reasons including reducing costs, engaging students and communities, environmental protection, acting as a responsible leadership institution and brand enhancement.

In this free, one-hour webcast, you will hear about Waste Management’s, Think Green ® Campus Model, a comprehensive framework to help universities improve diversion, drive toward zero waste, and make sustainability a way of life on campus. You will also get a real-world case study of the successful implementation of zero-waste events at Rutgers University. Associate Director of Environmental Services, David DeHart will share best practices for reducing the waste brought on campus, effective strategies to drive reuse and recycling of materials, enhancing student engagement and how to successfully measure and report results.

Webinar presenters include: • Seann Sweeney (facilitator), Director of Operations, AASHE • David L. DeHart, Associate Director of Environmental Services at Rutgers University • Herb Sharpe, Corporate Director of Education and Health Care Solutions at Waste Management

Audience Questions & Answers

1) If the trash and recycling bins in the stadium were not placed next to each other, how were they strategically placed to minimize contamination?

Since we were working towards zero waste football game days, we did not place any trash containers throughout the stadium. However, we did pair composting and recycling containers throughout the stadium. I walked the entire stadium (lower and upper concourses food areas, entryways, walkways.) with Jose Vegerano from Waste Management. Every step of the way we noted on a diagram of the stadium exactly where pairs of containers would be placed. Considerations included foot traffic patterns, and making sure to not block pathways of travel as High Point Solutions Stadium has narrow outer concourses.

2) Question for Rutgers: Please clarify about "no trash cans"... did they still have trash receptacles in the restrooms? Was restroom trash included in the waste to energy?

There were no trash cans outdoors and the majority of restrooms available were in the form of portajohns. We didn't remove the trash cans from inside indoor restrooms. The only "trash" that came from restrooms was roll towel waste which was composted.

3) Question for Rutgers: Did you get any push-back from your recycler about not trying to minimize contamination in the recycling waste stream?

Rutgers has to continue to maintain the 10% or less contamination in order to ensure that our recyclables are not rejected from the MRF and sent to the landfill. This goes back to the importance of signage and education, specifically around “Food Only” and “Everything Except Food” like we did inside the stadium.

4) What kind of staffing was needed in the football stadium at Rutgers?

Staffing was minimal. An outside vendor is hired by the Athletic Department to clean the stadium post game. We brought in approximately a dozen employees with nifty nabbers to monitor compost bins to try to keep them free of aluminum, glass and plastic.

5) Does Rutgers have its own MRF? Or is it sent somewhere else?

No, Rutgers University doesn’t have its own MRF. Waste Management hauls our recycling materials to a local MRF in the area.

6) Did removing trash cans result in an increase in littering?

No, there was not an increase in littering throughout the stadium because we still had recycling and composting containers available where trash containers used to be placed.

7) Do you know the average contamination at the MRF for your loads?

Rutgers University averages 7-10% contamination in our loads.

8) What about liquids contaminating the recycling load?

Liquids can be problematic in any recycling program. It is important to ensure that liquids are removed from materials (specifically bottles and cans) before being placed in receptacles. We didn’t encounter any more problems with liquids in our game day recycling program than we do in our daily campus recycling program.

9) Did you experience any issues from the bin being red and not blue for recycling?

We didn’t note any real issues with the bin coloring. We ensured that ample signage was available for patrons to recycle correctly. It is clear from the data that our signage and containers were effective. The colors helped promote school spirit during the games.

10) In your recycling results, what was the diversion

Rutgers had a 95% increase in recycling from 2011 to 2012. We had a 38% increase in composting from 2011 to 2012. Rutgers had a 77% decrease in trash from 2011 to 2012. (It would have been 100% decrease but a stadium vendor used black bags which caused two rejected loads which were sent to a waste to energy plant and used to generate electricity).

11) Does Waste Management consider incineration a waste diversion practice? Do they recognize the Zero Waste International Alliance's definition of Zero Waste?

WM is a full environmental service provider. There is no single commonly accepted definition across the US of either “waste diversion” or "Zero Waste." We respect the fact that our customers and stakeholders (public sector, private sector, NGOs, state and local regulators, etc.) have varying definitions of each and work with their definitions in helping to achieve their goals. Where the customer seeks a "waste diversion" or "zero waste to landfill" solution that includes waste-to-energy (WtE), we can provide that option. Where the customer wants non-combustion options, we have that capacity.

When discussing "waste diversion," many have used the "waste hierarchy" of reduce, reuse, recycle, recover and dispose. To better understand whether these categories advance the cause of more sustainable materials management, WM asked the former head of US EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response to convene a group of representatives from environmental and community-based organizations, business, state and local government and academia to discuss the waste hierarchy and how it fits in environmental policy. The results of those deliberations are reported at http://www.michaeldbaker.com/documents/smm_final_report.pdf. The general conclusion of this coalition was that life cycle thinking rather than simple definitions within a waste hierarchy is most likely to result in waste handling selections beneficial to human health and the environment. A second report on the importance and use of life cycle analysis is expected to be released in the Fall of 2013.

12) How did Rutgers Day become zero waste? Did the event organizers approach the waste management department?

Our Rutgers Facilities Management team knew as a university we needed to do something for the greater good, specifically around our sustainability efforts and recycling initiatives. We also knew the financial benefits would more than provide the motivation to instill best practices at the university.

We decided to start with a single event that we could see direct results, so Rutgers Day 2012 was a perfect place to begin. We reached out to our partner, Waste Management, to help us provide the expertise needed to put a plan in place.

13) Please clarify the amount of $ saved in landfill diversion. $200 million?

In 2011 we spent $5,031.16 in disposal costs to dispose of the solid waste coming out of High Point Solutions Stadium. In 2012 we spent $980.21, a total savings of $4,050.95.

Since 2005, Rutgers has avoided over $2 million in landfill costs as a result of our focused and innovative recycling initiatives.

14) If they have had success in doing zero-waste on a smaller scale. Our institution is been easier to build the excitement for the big all campus annual events but not for the everyday student org - dinners, lectures, mtgs, etc. -programming. any insights would be appreciated!

We have had success on a smaller scale by continuously engraining our university goals and encouraging behavior change in the minds of our campus community. The key to success in everyday life is by making these changes habitual for the population.

By hosting large scale zero waste events like Rutgers Day and Greening Game Day, as well as participating in competitions like Recyclemania, we have made recycling on campus exciting. Through this excitement, students feel a stronger commitment to continue their efforts and be better environmental stewards each day.