Waste Minimization and Recycling

A number of initiatives and programs can be implemented to reduce the overall amount of waste Colgate sends to the landfill.  Preventing unnecessary materials and packaging from entering the university in the first place, offers the first important strategy in reducing Colgate’s landfill waste. We refer to this as source reduction.  Purchasing decisions, new policies, and working with major supplies/contractors are all important options here.  Source reduction strategies reduce the amount of packaging and materials before they enter the campus waste stream.  Focusing on source reduction is important because it reduces labor and time (through handling, storage, and separation) and reduces greenhouse gas emissions through less waste entering, and therefore, leaving the university.

Once items, materials, and packaging make it to campus, options exist to divert them from the landfill once they are deemed no longer useful by the Colgate community.  This includes reusing or donating items and materials such as office supplies, electronic equipment, furniture, etc.  Strategies that focus on reuse keep items out of the landfill through salvage programs, donations, and giveaway options.  “One person’s trash is another’s treasure” captures the essence of focusing on reuse as a strategy.

Items that reach the end of their useful life may be recyclable and made into new products. Recycling strategies keep items out of the landfill through better recycling infrastructure, increased recycling rates, and changing social norms.  Paper use and behavior change are also important areas where mitigation is possible. In Fiscal Year 2009, Colgate consumed over 12.8 million sheets of paper which is equivalent to over 130,000 lbs or 65 tons.  This contributed to over 278,000 lbs or 139 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.  Consuming less paper, recycling more of it, and purchasing recycled or tree-free paper are all strategies that would reduce emissions.  Additionally, there are many opportunities to reduce landfill waste due to behavior change or changes in social norms on campus.  We have identified two strategies in particular that will help landfill waste reduction: Green Living Program and Green Office Program. See section 4.1 for more detailed information on these behavior-change programs.
And, finally, composting organic matter (yard waste and food scraps) can result in huge reductions in our landfill waste stream.  Perhaps the single most important strategy Colgate could implement to reduce landfill waste would be to create a composting program.  By weight, food scraps make up a significant portion of our landfill waste. 

Specific mitigation strategies under each of these key areas will be explored in more detail in this section.

Current practices and recent accomplishments:
From 2008 to 2010, Colgate reduced its landfill waste by 150 tons (Table 31). This was accomplished in large part by:
  • recycling at all campus events including, but not limited to, special ceremonies, evening lectures, social gatherings, alumni reunions, orientation events, home football and hockey games, and community events of all kinds;
  • composting at various events such as brown bag lunches, Reunion College 2010, and special events;
  • increased education and awareness led to increased recycling rates;
  • increased recycling infrastructure.  Colgate purchased new recycling bins for better coverage and increased recycling opportunities;
  • developing new easy-to-see-and-read recycling signs.  The Sustainability Office created new recycling signs that are posted above recycling bins.  This reduces contamination and helps educate students on how to recycle;
  • decreased paper consumption.  From 2009 to 2010, Colgate reduced its paper consumption by over 4.2 million sheets of paper (from 12.8 to 8.6 million sheets).  This was accomplished by adding print-release stations in public printing areas, by setting double-sided printing as the default on campus machines in common areas, by widening margins, and through increased awareness and more conscious printing;
  • initiating a new electronic waste recycling program for small personal electronic devices;
  • encouraging the use of refillable drinking containers during various campus events.

Colgate also experienced a significant reduction in emissions in FY 2010 associated with our landfill waste because the county landfill installed a methane capture and electric generation system that has much lower greenhouse gas emissions per ton:
  • No methane recovery: emissions factor = 1.0842857 MTeCO2/short ton
  • Methane recovery and electric generation: emissions factor = 0.160634921 MTeCO2/short ton

Colgate landfill waste, 2008–2010.

4.8.1 On-Site Composting Project 
Colgate University currently pays $62.50 per ton of landfill waste.  In 2009, Colgate paid nearly $50,000 to landfill over 800 tons of garbage.  This contributed 881 tons to Colgate’s greenhouse gas footprint.  Separating organic waste for composting would reduce Colgate’s landfill tipping fees and greenhouse gas footprint.  If we composted both pre- and post-consumer non-meat and non-dairy organic waste from Frank, Merrill House, Coop, The Edge, and catered events, we would reduce our annual landfill waste by approximately 130 tons per year.  This would save $8,125 annually and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 20.9 tons.

By 2013, we will have implemented a pre- and post-consumer composting program at Colgate University. This project will be implemented in two phases:
  • FY 2012: Phase 1 – Pre-consumer composting is implemented in Frank, Merrill House, Coop, and The Edge.
  • FY 2013: Phase 2 – Post-consumer composting is implemented in Frank, Merrill House, Coop, and The Edge.

Metrics and Timeline:
By 2013, we will be composting approximately 130 tons of organic food waste annually.

Recommended Action:
  • Procure designated compost containers and coordinate activities between Dining Services and B&G staff.
  • Consider putting in a curing pad at the compost site.
  • Hire and train student interns to help maintain the composting site.
On-site composting with estimated cost savings and greenhouse gas reductions.

4.8.2 Reuse and redistribution of used office equipment and supplies (office swap program)
Create an online office swap database for community members to post items they either need or want to get rid of.  This would encourage reuse and potentially prevent the order of new items and the disposal of items that are still functional and could be of use to another employee/office. By keeping office items (binders, notebooks, paper clips, lamps, envelopes, etc.) out of the waste stream, we can have a modest-to-significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.  We conservatively estimate a 2% reduction in annual landfill waste due to this strategy.  This would amount to a 16-ton reduction of our landfill waste total from our 2009 baseline year.  This initiative is incorporated into the Green Office Program.

By 2013, we will have over 100 postings of items to be swapped through the program.

4.8.3 Establish 0.5" paper margins as campus guideline
By increasing the margins from the standard 1” setting to 0.5” would save paper.  We estimate that this would be a modest savings of about a 1% reduction in overall paper use.  This would reduce our overall paper use by 56,917 sheets of paper, saving the university $371 in paper costs while reducing our greenhouse gas footprint by 0.65 MTeCO2. This initiative is incorporated into the Green Office Program.

In 2012, we promote 0.5" margins by informing employees how to set this as a default at their workstations. 

4.8.4 Reduce the use of one-time use cups during campus events
Colgate would avoid spending money in purchasing one-time use cups while saving money in landfill tipping fees.  Additionally, time and labor would be saved in cleanup and disposal if we encouraged attendees to bring their own refillable water containers or provided reusable containers to campus events.  Avoiding the use of one-time use disposable beverage containers also results in fewer containers taking up space in the landfill while avoiding the harmful release of emissions and chemicals into the environment during manufacture, transportation, and disposal.

During 2012, we continue to encourage event planners/organizers to encourage attendees to bring their own cups/mugs instead of providing one-time use disposable cups.

Annual Savings:
Colgate would realize immediate savings in the cost of landfill tipping fees.  Depending on the type of alternative, we could also eliminate (or reduce) the cost of purchasing disposable cups.

Annual Greenhouse Gas Reduction Potential:
This strategy would likely result in a modest reduction (1 to 10%) in the amount of greenhouse gases Colgate emits.  Since disposable cups are generally light weight (we measure emissions by the ton of waste) and the emissions factor for the Madison County landfill is low, the overall emissions reduction associated with this strategy could be low.  On the other hand, people often throw their cups with liquid still in them in the trash and the sheer volume of cups could add up to large totals. 

4.8.5 Reduce junk mail coming to campus
Reducing junk mail would reduce the number of trees harvested, energy to process wood into paper, color inks and other chemicals used to prepare and treat that mail and finally the transportation emissions needed to deliver junk mail.  This strategy would result in less unsolicited mail coming to campus.  Even though junk mail can be recycled, often it is not.  Paper weight is heavy and this could result in a modest reduction (1 to 10%) in the amount of landfill waste and associated tipping fees and emissions. This initiative is incorporated into the Green Office Program.

Continue to encourage and help administrative assistants and department managers to reduce unsolicited mail coming to campus.

4.8.6 Encourage paperless courses
An estimated 45% of all print-outs are disposed of by the end of the day.  Distributing class readings, assignments, and final reports encourage printing behavior throughout Colgate’s academic programs.  Paperless courses can reduce paper consumption resulting in a modest to significant reduction (up to 10%) in landfill tipping fees and greenhouse gas emissions.   Encouraging paperless courses would make a good recommendation or best practice for faculty willing to try this on a voluntary basis.  Colgate utilizes Blackboard and Moodle which makes paperless courses possible.

Continue to encourage and help professors and educators  reduce unnecessary paper use in the classroom.

4.8.7 Tour the Madison County landfill, volunteer for the end of the year Salvage program, or spend one shift working with the B&G crew on their recycling run 
By creating opportunities for students and employees to learn more about our waste management and recycling practices on campus, we would increase awareness and potentially improve recycling rates. Not only would this help to create better environmental stewards, but could result in a modest to significant reduction (up to 10%) in landfill tipping fees and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.  One way to implement this would be to make these options part of our Green Living and Green Office Programs.  Students and employees can be given points/credits for participating in any sustainability tour that we offer. 

Offer annual trips for employees and students to learn about our waste management and recycling practices on campus and in our county. 

4.8.8 Reduce bottled water consumption on campus
Americans use about 50 billion plastic water bottles each year. However, the U.S.'s recycling rate for plastic is only 23%, which means 38 billion plastic water bottles - more than $1 billion worth of plastic - are contaminating our environment each year.   Additionally, water in bottles is much more expensive than water out of tap and there is little proof that bottled water is cleaner or safer .  At Colgate, Environmental Health and Safety perform domestic water supply samples on campus several times a month and the results are sent to the Madison County Department of Health on a monthly basis.  There have been no samples that exceeded regulatory threshold quantities for any monitored criteria established by the EPA or NYS DEC.  From a greenhouse gas perspective, reducing the consumption of bottled water on campus would likely have a small-to-modest reduction (1 to 10%) in landfill waste by weight and associated greenhouse gas emissions.  However, reducing the purchase of bottled water on campus could save the university money while avoiding environmental contamination.  Perhaps the best approach to encouraging a reduction in the purchase of bottled water on campus would be to undertake an educational campaign while beginning to put infrastructure (e.g. gooseneck refillable water stations) in place to accommodate reusable bottles. 

During 2012, we continue to encourage community members and event planners/organizers to look for other options besides purchasing or providing bottled water.