Initiative aims to raise awareness, reduce TRU’s landfill waste production
Nearly all of what TRU students placed in standard garbage bins could have been recycled instead, according to TRU’s sustainability department.
The university, which said that 87 per cent of the trash it found in standard bins is actually recyclable, hopes to turn things around with the purchase of 86 new zero-waste stations, which are expected to arrive in late February or early March. The stations, which will cost about $54,000, will consist of four to five colour-coded bins that allow people to separate their mixed recycling, compost, plastic bags and refundable containers from landfill-bound waste.
“The basic thinking is that when you have to discard something, if you go to a zero-waste station and you’re faced with four or five options in front of you, there’s a better chance you’re going to put the right thing in the right bin,” according to James Gordon.
Gordon is TRU’s environmental programs and research co-ordinator, and he said that the results of a previous pilot study were strong enough to warrant a ramped-up zero-waste initiative.
Last year, the department saw success with its pilot project.
“We did a pilot project, starting over a year ago, where we purchased four zero-waste stations from a company in Ontario called Busch Systems,” Gordon said.
TRU also created some additional makeshift stations by applying the same colour-coded labelling system to stand-alone bins they already had on-hand. Between the purchased and makeshift variations, TRU was able to install zero-waste stations in Old Main, the Arts and Education building, the International Building and Campus Activity Centre.
“We’re not the first institution to go down this zero-waste station road. UBC and SFU are the first two that come to mind, and they’re basically doing the same thing with really positive results. So, unless people from TRU are a lot different than people from these other places, we anticipate similar results moving forward.”
Both UBC and SFU were consulted when TRU first developed its zero-waste initiative.
“There have just been so many comments from people saying that they love them, they use them all the time, and they appreciate that they are there. This led us to believe there’s a real demand for doing these types of things. It just makes sense,” Gordon said.
New stations and awareness campaigns are in the works.
The department’s new $54,000 purchase will include 70 indoor stations, 10 outdoor stations, and six stations specially designed for coffee shops. The indoor stations will have separate bins for recycling, composting, refundable containers, plastic bags and landfill waste. The outdoor stations will be similar, but without a bin for plastic bags. The “coffee stations” will add a spot for excess liquids to be disposed of.
“Eighty-six stations will come close [to blanketing the whole campus],” he said. “That’s all we had budget for this year. The plan is to cover the entire campus with zero-waste stations as the budget to do so becomes available.”
Looking ahead, Gordon said the zero-waste stations will play a vital role in reducing the amount of waste produced at TRU. According to a 2010 baseline, the university generates 1,640 tonnes of waste annually. On the same 2010 baseline, 65 per cent of disposed items are annually sent to the landfill, while 25 per cent are recycled and 10 per cent are composted. By 2019, the department hopes to move the ratio to 40 per cent landfill waste, 35 per cent recycled material, and 25 per cent compostable organics, respectively.
“I feel confident we can do a lot better than that, but [these numbers are] a realistic goal,” Gordon said.
In addition to being environmentally sustainable, Gordon argued that the zero-waste system could also yield economic benefits.
“We pay the City of Kamloops to pick up both our garbage and our mixed recycling,” he explained, “and we pay per bin that they tip into their truck. It’s cheaper to have them pick up recycling than it is to pick up garbage.”
The savings will also be put towards a charitable cause.
“About 80 per cent of the cans, boxes and bottles that are collected on campus are done by staff and students from Beattie Secondary to fund an autism program that benefits students who have autism. If you just take an extra second to put your bottle or can in the right bin, those students will benefit from that.
“From an individual’s view [reducing waste] might only make a small difference, but collectively, for the institution, you could save thousands upon thousands of dollars,” Gordon said. “Then all of a sudden you have tens of thousands of dollars that can be put towards other useful programs, as opposed to having more garbage trucks on campus.” Gordon said.