Waste Systems in U.S. Higher Education
(Part Two in a Three Part Series by Paul Slocum–Sustainability Research Student Worker)
Managing waste efficiently at the college level is becoming a serious issue for many institutions, and creating sustainable systems is now a centerpiece in numerous administrative planning schedules. A college owning the reputation of being an environmentally sustainable institution is also becoming of increasing importance to potential students when looking into higher-education options. Take the University of Idaho for example, a university which exudes roughly 1,500 tons of waste a year according to a 2009 study. And of this number, the university was only able to boast a 19% recycling rate and found that up to “66% of all materials found in their dumpsters was recyclable” (UI). In response, the administration piloted a composting program which utilized food scraps and agricultural waste. The program set up an on-site facility and resulted in saving the university roughly $8,000 in annual hauling fees as it helped successfully divert 86 tons of waste from landfills. The primary objective of UI’s sustainability efforts is to eventually see a 66% reduction in waste-generation through education and campus dumpster waste-sorts with potential university savings totaling $70,000 annually. Innovative programs such as UI’s which effectively divert waste are being widely adopted in universities across the United States for their cost-saving benefits.
In neighboring Kankakee, IL, Kankakee Community College has been developing similar programs in regard to food waste and recyclable materiel conservation. The small Illinois community college found that up to 30% of their campus waste was in food scraps– thereby necessitating an effective composting program so as to save on annual landfill costs. Although their food-diversion program is currently being developed, the college boasts high diversion rates for recyclable products: “We divert 59% of other products (recyclables) ie. Plastics, electronics, wood scraps” (Jacobson). According to KCC’s 2009 waste study, the college produced 100.8 tons of total waste, of that number 69% of their total waste was diverted and only 60 tons of waste went to landfill (Jacobson). Such high percentages of waste diversion are a benchmark for Oakton and other ICC institutions to progress towards. Although Oakton has a much larger student population than other Illinois community colleges, diverting 50-70% of our recyclables is a very feasible goal that we can all work towards through education and inspiring sustainable practices within our students.
Check out Part Three Next Week….
Nagaweicki, Tom. University of Idaho Waste Characterization. University of Idaho. June, 2009. Web. Retrieved from:
http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCMQ FjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.uidaho.edu%2F~%2Fmedia%2FFiles%2Forgs%2FS ustainability%2FWaste%2520Characterization%2520Study.ashx&ei=gB-DVdTYEIW6- AGU_ICICg&usg=AFQjCNG75blHe3uUQ570rNp908m9Nd64YQ
*Taken from Interview with Bert Jacobson, Dean of Environmental and Institutional Sustainability, Kankakee Community College. June, 2015.