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Examining Campus Waste through Strategic Waste Education and Elimination Project (SWEEP)

Published September 12, 2010

by hdrdla

THEME: Campus Sustainability

TITLE: Examining Campus Waste through Strategic Waste Education and Elimination Project (SWEEP)

AUTHOR(S): Alexis Esseltine, Meagan Heath, Granaz Ghalehvand, Holly Ouellette, Guru Rengan, Sridhar Srinivasan, Santhosh Poobathy, Nina Popova, Chiara Camponeschi

DATE: 2009-2010

TAGS: waste management, food sustainability, recycling/compost, biodegradable containers, Green Report Card, paperless practices, environmental awareness, re-usable dishes, convenience

ABSTRACT: The Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS) became interested in waste management during their 2008-09 investigation into the sustainability of campus food services. Waste, as the report identified, was a key issue relating to food sustainability. And so it was through this research that IRIS was driven to delve deeper into the world of campus waste management, investigating food waste and every other type of publicly generated waste on campus. The majority of the York community members surveyed indicated that they were very interested in the environment, with 84% being either interested or very interested in environmental issues, and 90% considering  themselves either dedicated recyclers/composters or aware of what could be recycled/composted and doing their best to comply. However, respondents showed that, despite good intentions, many found it difficult to divert waste at York. Only slightly more than half (55%) of respondents were aware of the organic digesters (composters) located around York’s two campuses, and, of those who knew of their existence, 63% rarely or never used them. Additionally, the majority of respondents (65%) did not know that York manages its own waste, and 70% agreed or strongly agreed that they were confused about what was recyclable at York. In fact, 76% of respondents thought that paper coffee cups were recyclable on campus when this is currently not the case. When asked how York could improve their participation in waste diversion and reduction the top three answers were: have more bins available, provide clearer labels for waste bins, and provide feedback on how well the York community is managing its waste. As for what respondents thought York should make its top waste priorities, collecting organic waste indoors ranked first, followed by increased paperless practices and encouraging food vendors to offer reusable dishes and cutlery. As a result of these findings, we recommended that York undertake a communication and education strategy aimed at improving overall campus knowledge about waste that will result in significantly improved waste diversion rates. Education could be conducted in many different ways, such as through orientation waste lessons, staff outreach, and a program similar to the energy reduction program Res Race to Zero, with a possible title of Res Race to ZeroWaste. Communication could be improved through a more user-friendly waste website, the production of campus waste maps, and more detailed waste bin labelling. Additional programs are also recommended to further fulfill the community’s needs and wants, including: more paperless practices, reusable dishes in campus eateries, end of year waste drop off depots for residence dwellers, and more conveniently located waste bins. These initiatives, along with the engagement of the York community, will lead York to its target of recycling/composting a minimum of 65% of its waste by 2013. The following report reviews the waste management program offered at York University by the Campus Services and Business Operation’s (CSBO) Grounds, Fleet and Waste Management unit, while also identifying trends and best practices in campus waste management at other post-secondary institutions in North America and Europe. These reviews provided a context for conducting a survey of the York University community about the current waste management practices at York. The survey, in which respondents were asked to reflect on their waste behaviours, perceptions and priorities on- and off-campus, was one element of the larger waste-awareness program entitled Strategic Waste Elimination Education Program (SWEEP). The following document reports on the findings from this survey and provides recommendations for York University to further improve its successful management of waste management at other post-secondary institutions in North America and Europe

LINKS: To view the entire publication, go to

COPYRIGHT: Copyright © 2009/2010 Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Esseltine, A.; Heath, M.; Ghalehvand, G.; Ouellette, H.; Rengan, G.; Srinivasan, S.; Poobathy, S.; Popova, N.; Camponeschi, C.; 2009/2010.“Examining Campus Waste through Strategic Waste Education and Elimination Project (SWEEP)”

Posted in: Publications