Early results of waste audit encouraging

Last three years show downward trend in how much goes to landfill from TRU

Last three years shows downward trend in how much goes to landfill from TRU (Nada Alsalahi/The Omega)

In 2014, TRU set the goal of becoming a zero waste campus by putting into place a system to collect and divert different types of waste materials. From summer 2016 through winter 2017, the TRU sustainability office worked on a waste audit project to estimate the amount of waste generated on campus on an annual and per capita basis.

Over the last three years, the TRU sustainability and facilities departments worked together to develop a waste management plan to improve the recycling and recovery rates while reducing the amount of material going to the landfill. TRU says its overall waste tonnage has been reduced by about 500 tons per year in the last three years.

This year’s waste audit aims to measure the university’s current waste diversion performance, compare to performance in 2016, to determine the composition of waste going to landfill. It will help identify the types and sources of waste generated on campus and identify waste diversion and reduction opportunities within the operations of the university.

“Over the past three years, we’ve gone from roughly 60 per cent of our waste going to the landfill to now roughly 35 per cent going to the landfill. So we’ve reduced by 25 per cent, and we also reduced the amount of waste coming on campus,” said Jim Gudjonson, director of the TRU Sustainability Office.

“We recycle papers quite a bit, but there is still a lot of paper that goes to the waste stream. We’ve gone from 22 million sheets of paper per year down to nine million. So if 20 per cent of those go into the waste stream, that’s 20 per cent of the nine million sheets.” Gudjonson said.

The key part of the audit is to identify areas to improve. Every year they look at the numbers: how much overall tonnage, and the diversion rates. After that, they see if the systems are working, and how to improve them.

“For example, last year we looked at our construction waste, where we hadn’t put a lot of effort, and we realized that we need to have giant bins in the place of all the construction projects and renovations, and once those systems are in place, then it’s easy to divert that stuff,” Gudjonson said.

About his expectation for this year, Gudjonson said, “It looks like our overall tonnage is down again. It looks like our recycling rates are higher than last year, and our composting looks pretty much the same, but we haven’t changed much this year so we didn’t expect too much. We are moving to make some improvements this year around composting then we’ll have a look at next year. Overall, the trend is encouraging.”

James Gordon, who is the environmental programs and research coordinator with TRU’s sustainability office, said that, “In 2015, 41 per cent of the material was diverted. And then in 2016 last year, 55 per cent percent was converted. We want that number to keep going up, the diversion rate, but we don’t know the figures of that yet.”

Auditors finished work this weekend, and it’ll be about two weeks until the final audit is ready to be published.

“Our hope is to keep having that number increasing.” Gordon said.