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 Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Trash cans increasingly get the boot at CU-Boulder
by Elizabeth Lock, University Communications

Trash cans in the offices of the University of Colorado at Boulder Student Union (UCSU) and the Environmental Center display contents in a way that make users think twice before destining discards to landfills.

The round metal trash cans are purposely cut in half and walled on one side with a clear window to allow a view into exactly what and how much is being tossed. The highly visible receptacles are part of a zero-waste challenge initiated by the two offices for a fall semester competition.

Desk-side trash cans were eliminated and central sorting stations that also include recycling and compost bins were set up in both the UCSU office and the Environmental Center. Each week, the contents of all the containers are weighed. Results have shown a 72.4 to 96.3 percent rate of diverting trash from landfills. Instead, the majority of materials are recycled or composted. The Environmental Center had a higher average diversion rate of over 90 percent but UCSU had lower trash weights, said Dave Newport, director of the Environmental Center.

“This is a fun and easy way to do a lot of good,” said Newport. “It’s surprising how easy it is to cut an office’s waste stream to nearly nothing.”

Also in the University Memorial Center, special bins have been placed throughout the restrooms to receive paper towels for post-consumer composting, as well as in dining areas to receive food scraps and packaging.

All Styrofoam has been eliminated from UMC catering and the Alferd Packer Grill, and a convenient reusable containers program called Al’s Exchangeables has been launched. Polypropylene carryout boxes may be purchased for a one-time fee of $5 dollars each, and users then return boxes to the Alfered Packer Grill in exchange for a clean container when placing subsequent orders.

One of the leading examples of zero-waste operations on campus is the Department of Athletics’ efforts at Folsom Field dating to 2008 when all trash cans were removed and zero-waste sorting stations were installed. The stations collect recyclables and compostables during home games. Folsom Field is the first major sports venue in the nation to transition to zero-waste, and now scores of campuses and professional sports venues are following CU-Boulder’s lead, said Newport.

These are among a few of the early innovations being tested and implemented as CU-Boulder moves toward a campuswide zero-waste approach, and campus community members can expect to see more innovations and changes as CU-Boulder continues to lead the nation toward a zero waste future.

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