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Sustainable Infrastructure Hub: Waste Management

Sustainable Infrastructure Hub: Waste Management

Ohio University is committed to reducing waste from campus activities and aspires to become a Zero Waste institution that responsibly manages all waste. Ohio University holds the goals of diverting 60% of its municipal waste from landfills by 2026, as well as diverting 80% of total University waste. The Office of Sustainability seeks to support this goal by creating initiatives that provide education on waste reduction to students, faculty, staff, and the local community. Other initiatives seek to increase diversion from landfills by reusing, recycling, and composting, such as Move Out efforts and the Game Day Recycling Challenge. Recent initiatives include the Repurpose & Repair Fair, ReBike Program, residence hall composting pilot, and the Zero Waste Initiative.

 

The Sustainability Project Laboratory is a database of sustainability-related project proposals. This resource hosts projects and project ideas that can be adopted by faculty, staff, and students for course projects, capstone or senior projects, theses, and more!

To find waste-related projects just type "waste" into the search bar at the top of the Projects Database  

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) is currently revising its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), which Ohio University uses to measure its sustainability efforts. View a Draft of the Proposed Updates

2017 Waste Infographic: all text and graphics are outlined in the page content.
The 2017 Waste infographic outlining progress towards the 2011 sustainability benchmarks and new goals set for fiscal year 2026. Find the information in the tabs "Where we are now (2017): Progress toward 2011 Sustainability Plan," "Moving Forward: 2017 Sustainability & Climate Action Plan Goal #1," and "Moving Forward: 2017 Sustainability & Climate Action Plan Goal #2."

The 2017 Waste infographic outlining progress towards the 2011 sustainability benchmarks and new goals set for fiscal year 2026.

Accessibility View of Waste Graphic

Where we are now (2017): Progress toward 2011 Sustainability Plan

  • Benchmark 5: Reduce solid waste. Target exceeded. 8.2% annual reduction surpassing the 5% reduction target.​

  • Benchmark 7: Increase recycling rates. Currently not meeting target.​

  • Benchmark 15: Improve identification and proper handling of hazardous waste. Target met. Approval, tracking and notification system in place.​

  • Benchmark 32: Increase food donations to local service organizations. Target met and in progress.​

  • Benchmark 34: Implement notification system for local service organizations regarding availability of surplus items. Target met and in progress.

Waste Graphics

STARS Waste Comparison

AASHE STARS compares programs across the nation in many different categories. Ohio University reports above the national average in waste.

 

Ohio University Emissions Breakdown

At Ohio University, waste is the third highest producer of carbon emissions, composing of 5% of the total emissions. Waste is behind only energy, which composes 65% of total carbon emissions, and transportation, which produces 29%.


Moving Forward: 2017 Sustainability & Climate Action Plan Goal #1

Goal 1: Reduce municipal and Universal Solid Waste from 0.24 tons per weighted user to 0.22 tons per weighted user. "Weighted user" is defined by AASHE STARS.

Potential Strategies​

  • Educational campaigns for zero waste dining/events; Learning Communities; university events; orientations​

  • Resource sharing/reuse incentives​

  • Regional nonprofit salvage/circular economy opportunities​

  • Print reduction campaigns​

  • Dining Hall food waste reduction competitions​

  • Self-serve vs staff-served food portions in dining halls​

  • Laboratory chemical reuse​

  • Waste reduction through sustainable procurement; including sustainability goals in new/renewing contracts

Benefits of Goal #1 

  • Reduced operating expense
  • Reduced emissions
  • Reduced resource extraction
  • Circular economic benefits

Costs of Goal #1

  • Staff time
  • Job retention

Moving Forward: 2017 Sustainability & Climate Action Plan Goal #2

Goal 2: Increase diversion from landfill to reuse, recycling and composting

  • Increase percentage of municipal products diverted from landfill from 56.1% to 60%
  • Increase percentage of food products diverted from landfill from 70% to 75%
  • Maintain percentage of landscaping products diverted from landfill at 100%
  • Increase percentage of universal, including, but not limited to, batteries, pesticides, and mercury-containing equipment, such as thermostats and lamps, diverted from landfill from 90% to 95%
  • Increase percentage of C&DD LEED* certified products diverted from landfill from 77.5% to 80%
  • Increase percentage of C&DD non-LEED* certified products diverted from landfill to 25%
  • Maintain percentage of hazardous products diverted from landfill at 100%
    • Hazardous waste audits will be conducted on an annual basis to correct and calculate percentage targets

*Construction & Demolition Debris (C&DD) tracking is currently only in place for LEED projects, though C&D materials are recycled whenever possible for all construction projects. By 2026, OHIO Low Impact Building standard will replace LEED for all buildings.​

Potential Strategies​

  • Continued co-location of recycling and trash across all campus operations​

  • Waste diversion videos for orientation programs​

  • Food recovery programs​

  • Composting pilot programs (student/faculty/staff)​

  • Pallet recycling​

  • Low-cost C&DD recycling program; with salvage included in timeline for community partners​

  • Waste management plan requirement in contracts for construction and demolition projects​

  • Waste reduction emphasis at athletic events​

  • Hazardous waste spill tracking​

  • Bobcat Buy tracking and notification system for hazardous waste​

Benefits of Goal #2

  • Reduced emissions
  • Reduced resource extraction
  • Enhanced community engagement
  • Circular economic benefits

Costs of Goal #2

  • Staff time
  • Operation and management costs

Current Data

Line graph that shows trend of tons of landfill waste per weighted campus user from FY17 to FY23
The amount of campus waste dropped significantly between FY17 (0.14 tons) and FY18 (0.10 tons). FY18 to FY21 saw a steady decline in tons of waste per user. Because this data is normalized with the number of campus users, this drop was not due to the limited number of users during the pandemic, signaling that campus sustainability efforts are contributing to this decline. While there a slight 0.01 increase in FY22, the decreasing trend has continued into FY23 at less than 0.09 tons of waste per weighted campus user.
This graphs shows the recycling rate of campus between the fiscal years 2017 and 2023.
The percentage of municipal waste diverted from landfill from FY17 to FY19 remained steady at just below 60%. Between FY19 and FY21, there was a reduction of nearly 20% in the amount of waste being diverted from the landfill. The most probable cause is the reduction of staff and resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the past two fiscal years, the recycling rate has increased dramatically. FY23 has seen above an 80% recycling rate, which is much higher than pre-pandemic recycling rates.

Initiatives

2023 Initiatives

Infrastructure Hub Supported Initiatives SCAP Alignment

Oscarsort: 

Possible partnership with Oscarsort, a  zero touch AI zero waste stations that tell users whether their waste is recyclable in their city.

Increase diversion from landfill to reuse, recycling and composting  

Zero Waste Initiative: 

Grant funded waste reduction initiative through Voinovich School 

ncrease diversion from landfill to reuse, recycling and composting  

Composting in Student Dorms:

Undergraduate student Katelyn Rousch dedicated her time to develop a composting program for use in OHIO residence halls. Students can sign up for a Cats' Compost Bin to get a compost bin for their dorm. 

Increase diversion from landfill to reuse, recycling and composting.
Move Out 2023:
Support of student move out for sustainable waste management. 
Increase diversion from landfill to reuse, recycling and composting.

 

2022 Initiatives

Infrastructure Hub Supported InitiativesSCAP Alignment

Construction and Demolition Debris: 

A partnership with Habitat for Humanity to divert construction material like doors, drywall, and windows to new users, rather than the landfill. Read more here

Increase diversion from landfill to reuse, recycling and composting  

Zero Waste Initiative: 

Grant funded waste reduction initiative through Voinovich School; EcoChallenge project. 

Increase diversion from landfill to reuse, recycling and composting  

Recycling Plastic Polymers:

 An ongoing initiative within the Russ College of Engineering and Technology is recycling plastic polymers for use in 3D printing. View a previous Hub Seminar on the topic here

Increase diversion from landfill to reuse, recycling and composting  

Composting in Student Dorms:

Undergraduate student Katelyn Rousch dedicated her time to develop a composting program for use in OHIO residence halls. Participating students were given a composting bin to be emptied every week at a location on campus. 70 bins were put into use in the first semester (spring 2022).

Increase diversion from landfill to reuse, recycling and composting.

 

2021 Initiatives

Infrastructure Hub Supported Initiatives SCAP Alignment 
Sustainability Project Laboratory:  
Website of sustainability projects developed for curricular purposes 
 
Increase faculty, student, and community engagement across all hub themes. 
Triple Bottom Line Cost Benefit Analysis (TBL CBA) Tool:  
A framework for assessing sustainability impacts. 
Communication and decision-making tool for use in all hub themes.  
Zero Waste Initiative:  
Grant funded waste reduction initiative through Voinovich School; EcoChallenge project. 
Increase diversion from landfill to reuse, recycling and composting 
Reuse, Repair, & Relax Fair: 
Earth Day virtual activity & education opportunities jointly sponsored by OoS and Zero Waste Initiative. 
Increase faculty, student, and community engagement across all hub themes. 
Game Day Recycling Challenge: 
National competition among universities to promote waste reduction at football games. 
Increase diversion from landfill to reuse, recycling and composting 
Campus Recycling: 
Initiatives to reduce campus waste and increase diversion from landfill. 
Reduce municipal and Universal Solid Waste; Increase diversion from landfill to reuse, recycling and composting 
Move Out 2021:
Support of student move out for sustainable waste management. 
Increase diversion from landfill to reuse, recycling and composting 

Waste Management on Campus

Office of Recycling and Zero Waste

The Office of Recycling and Zero Waste is responsible for maintaining, monitoring, troubleshooting and upgrading the recycling and waste handling at all campus buildings and grounds areas.
Please visit Recycling and Zero Waste to:

  • Order recycling, compost and landfill bins (through online work request system)
  • Inquire about annual move-in and move-out days at the residence hall
  • Participate in the annual RecycleMania national competition (OU helped start it!)
  • Request presentations to students, faculty, and staff about campus recycling services
  • Organize campus event recycling (athletics, conferences, etc.)
  • and more!

The waste generated on the Athens campus is managed in multiple ways internally by the Office of Recycling and Zero Waste, the Compost Facility and Moving & Surplus, as well as externally through a contract with Athens Hocking Recycling Centers. Recycling, compost, landfilled waste and surplus items generated on campus are carefully and separately processed.

The Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service is a part of the Sugar Bush Foundation-funded Appalachian Ohio Zero Waste Initiative, and collaborates with many stakeholders across campus to promote zero waste implementation and Green Events.


Ohio University Compost Facility

Ohio University currently produces Class II Compost and Class IV Compost. The Class II compost facility is managed by Facilities Management and Safety, and is the largest known in-vessel composting system at any college or university in the nation. Food waste generated in the dining halls on campus is taken to this facility where it is processed into nutrient-rich soil amendment and then used on campus grounds and sold to the public.

Visit the Facilities Management webpage to:

Compost Facility Tours
Are you a faculty member interested in bringing your class up to the compost facility? Are you a staff member at another institution looking to develop a compost facility? Or, are you a student club interested in learning more about organics recycling? The staff in the Office of Sustainability would be happy to support your goals by offering a tour of the facility for groups of 6 or more. Schedule a tour of the facility by filling out a tour request form

Video about the OHIO Class II Compost system


Surplus Materials

All materials on campus that can be reused are transferred to the Office of Moving and Surplus. There, the items are placed into inventory and resold to the campus and community. Please contact Moving and Surplus to:

  • Schedule a pick up of reuseable materials such as furniture and electronic equipment
  • Purchase materials for reuse
  • Rent tables and chairs for events

Zero Waste Initiative

The staff members of the Zero Waste Initiative advance zero waste implementation on campus, including supporting Green Events. Please contact the Zero Waste Initiative to:

  • Register a Green Event
  • View the Green Events Guide
  • Request a Green Events consultation
  • Participate in zero waste initiatives on campus
  • Find out more about zero waste

Comments and Responses on the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan Sustainable Waste Section

Do the goals, metrics and targets in the this category of the draft 2021 OHIO Sustainability & Climate Action Plan seem appropriate to you? Response
The only thing I would edit in regard to goals/metrics/targets would be the food diversion target in goal 2. That should be higher than a 5% increase—80% or 85% seems more reasonable to me. Otherwise, I think goals/metrics/targets all check out.Thank you for your feedback. The food waste diversion target was higher in the past Sustainability Plan, but the University has been unable to reach a higher percentage despite many efforts. Culinary Services diverts almost all (>98%) of their pre-consumer food waste, as well as most post-consumer food waste in dining halls. This goal is based on what our Auxiliaries and Facilities departments are prepared to achieve in the five-year period, based on staffing, resources, current programs, etc.
Do the strategies to reach the targets in this category of the draft 2021 OHIO Sustainability & Climate Action Plan seem appropriate to you?Response
Recycling education is a necessary program to prevent stream contamination and to promote a cleaner campus. There is a need for education for residence hall students and I feel composting bins should also become an option near residence halls.Thank you for your comments, Campus Recycling and Zero Waste will continue educational campaigns, including through a collaboration with Athletics. Climate & Sustainability Ambassadors will continue to assist on education, including as "bin goalies."  Residential Life composting programs will continue to be examined as there are numerous issues to be resolved.  A pilot program occurred in Bryan Hall during the 2020-21 academic year.


I believe that most of the strategies are conceptually very useful and, if implemented with care, can be proven effective.

 

However, I would like to make sure that there is special emphasis placed on empowering students to be the changemakers. For example, many of my friends who are international students have told me that they never received any training or education during the entirety of their orientation about recycling on campus. I have had to teach them the basics of what to put in the blue can vs. the black can, which they obviously pick up on quickly once educated. I would suggest to make a more concerted effort to include this information in their orientation and throughout the many international student events on campus.

In addition, I think that it would benefit OU in the long term to offer each incoming student (undergraduate, graduate, transfer, etc.) a reusable, stainless steel cutlery/straw pack when they start at OU. This would eliminate an enormous percentage of one-use plastic cutlery across campus. If ordered from a company like Ten Tree then OU would also be supporting global reforestation efforts, essentially offsetting a small percentage of their carbon emissions.

Thank you, great points! We are currently working with GSO and ISO on a sustainability orientation video that includes waste management issues/information. Good suggestion too on cutlery/straw packs, obviously funding will be an issue for such a program but we will include this in our implementation strategies. This has been discussed in Greening OHIO Initiative meetings which includes university-wide partners such as Catering and Culinary Services.
Do the costs and benefits in this category of the draft 2021 OHIO Sustainability & Climate Action Plan seem appropriate for the goals? Please note that these cost/benefit criteria will be used to decide which strategies to pursue.Response


Under goal #1 - the cost of "job loss (or new jobs)" could be switched to "potential job loss", then "potential new jobs" could be added to the benefit side

Under goal #2 - it seems as if this definitely would cause reduced resource extraction, so the question mark could be eliminated if this is the case

Thank you for these comments. We have changed the Waste section to reflect your comments.
If you have additional comments on this category, please provide below.Response


Add an arrow to the STARS Waste Comparisons bar chart indicating if higher/lower is better.

 

Another goal could be to improve tracking of waste, as many of the numbers had question marks.

Could there be a way to encourage the development of a waste reduction plan for different specific departments across campus? Or perhaps waste ambassadors for each department? This topic needs to be incorporated everywhere for success. It is hard to produce deliverable results without concrete instructions; the plan is very general therefore there may be a need for more focused action at a departmental level.

Thank you for your suggestions - we have added an arrow to the STARS chart, and the waste tracking goals now all have numbers for metrics. We would love to develop waste reduction plans on a departmental level, but such plans would be in our implementation guide and not in this 5-year plan itself.
I'm very excited to see the implementation within athletic eventsThanks, so are we!
I think the dining hall competitions and the pilot for the composting programs are both great ideas, and I think they will be helpful.Thanks
Nicely detailed and presented poster. However, another thing to note in the strategies listed for both goals could be the promotion of student employment and volunteer opportunities through Campus Recycling (e.g., diverting waste at football games). Volunteer/student org hours could also cut back on costs.Good point, thanks, we will share with Campus Recycling & Zero Waste.
I think the strategies for goal 1 are attainable and offer guidance to facilitate education on waste reduction in many different ways.Thanks
I think Ohio University's best chance at reducing waste on campus is by educating students about the negative impacts of waste and the advantages to recycling, composting, and not purchasing food/items that they don't need. Encouraging students to participate in this education through competition is a great way to get them involved.Excellent points, thanks.

Experts and Stakeholders on Sustainable Waste Management

Name: Contact: Position and Research Interests
Cody Petitpetittc@ohio.eduSustainable Infrastructure Hub Coordinator and Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering 
Sam Crowlcrowls1@ohio.edu

Director of Sustainability

Building, transportation, zero waste, grounds, human resources, athletics or student life sustainability initiatives

Jesús Pagánpaganj@ohio.eduAssociate Professor of Engineering Technology & Management
Jason Trembly trembly@ohio.edu 

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Electrochemical capture of nutrients from waste streams, water remediation, and sustainable composite materials

Scott Miller millers1@ohio.edu 

Associate Dean for Industry Partnerships 

Zero waste; water quality 

Teruhisa Masadamasada@ohio.edu

Professor of Civil Engineering

Soil-structure interaction (buried structures); in-situ and laboratory testing of soil and rock 

Andrew Weemsweemsac@ohio.edu

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Circular economies, polystyrene reuse

Other Stakeholders & Experts on Sustainable Waste Management

Name: Contact: Description:
Rural Actionhttps://ruralaction.org/our-work/zero-waste/A nonprofit that focuses on public and environmental enrichment projects in Appalachian Ohio