Campus News

UGA sees waste in the right place

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia Office of Sustainability has been partnering with students, faculty and staff to reduce waste and increase recycling on campus.

On April 19, during Earth Week, the Office of Sustainability performed a waste audit of the Miller Learning Center to evaluate the effectiveness of a new waste reduction pilot program.

Research by Will Grant, a UGA environmental engineering student and intern in the Office of Sustainability, found that the MLC building contained 10 times more trash cans than recycling bins. In an attempt to make it equally as convenient to recycle as it is to throw something away, the Office of Sustainability partnered with Physical Plant Support Services and the UGA Libraries to install a new waste reduction pilot program in the building. Now, students, faculty and staff find “waste reduction stations” located throughout the building, with bottles and cans and paper recycling bins next to each of the building’s trash containers, which have been aptly labeled “landfill.”

The MLC waste bins were emptied on the north lawn of the Tate Student Center and sorted to determine the effectiveness of the pilot program and the amount of recyclables that were thrown in the landfill bins.

In 2008, a similar waste audit demonstrated that the MLC produced 580 pounds of trash in one day and that 50 percent of the trash could have been recycled. The waste audit conducted on April 19 showed that the MLC produced 260 pounds of trash and that eight percent of the trash could have been recycled. The waste audit demonstrated the success of the waste reduction pilot program with a 56 percent decrease in materials going to the landfill. According to the Office of Sustainability, the pilot program is anticipated to save over $2,400 each year in landfill tipping fees associated with waste from the MLC as well as to generate additional income through the sale of recyclable materials.

The Waste Audit also serves as an educational tool to inform students about waste options other than the garbage can.

UGA consistently recycles almost 50 percent of its waste production, which is higher than the national household average of 72 percent landfill and 28 percent recycled. The question that the Office of Sustainability hopes to answer with the waste audit is, “What could those percentages look like if the UGA recycled and composted as much as possible?”

UGA also competed in RecycleMania-a nationwide competition between universities to reduce waste, increase recycling and educate students-Feb. 6through April 2. UGA has participated in the competition before, but this is the first year that the Office of Sustainability has lead the effort.

Highlights of the RecycleMania competition include:

* UGA recycled 255 tons of waste, 65 tons more than last year.

* UGA diverted 29 percent of paper, bottles and cans from going into the landfill, recycling 12.2 pounds per person.

* By recycling campus waste during RecycleMania, UGA generated $34,594 in revenue and avoided $10,728 in landfill tipping fees.

* UGA Placed second in the Southeastern Conference for RecycleMania.

The UGA Office of Sustainability coordinates, communicates and advances sustainability initiatives in academics, research, public service and outreach, student engagement and campus operations at the University of Georgia. For more information on sustainability initiatives at UGA, see