UI waste audit reveals increase in recycling

BY MICHELLE KIM | APRIL 05, 2013 5:00 AM

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Despite the unpleasant scent diffusing throughout the Carnival Room, University of Iowa students and officials worked together on Thursday to audit different types of waste collected from Burge and Daum Residence Halls.

UI officials say the three waste audits occurring this month will contribute to the university’s goal of 60 percent waste diversion by 2020, which means they are tracking the amount of trash that ends up in the landfill.

The previous waste audit was conducted at Burge on Nov. 11, 2011, which resulted in 361.4 pounds of waste. This year, UI officials said results decreased to 208.2 pounds of waste.

“We have a lot of room for improvement,” said Eric Holthaus, the UI’s recycling coordinator. “Doing waste audits let us learn where the potential is for diverting more of what’s in the trash for actually recycling and composting.”

Holthaus said that in the Big Ten, Purdue University is performing well in recycling. However, the UI is not falling behind, because it has single-stream recycling that makes recycling consistent across campus.

Based on the day’s results, the recycling single-stream decreased from 118.3 pounds in 2011 to 50.8 pounds in 2013, recycling not single-stream 31.7 to 25.2 pounds, organic waste 82.1 to 62.6 pounds, and trash from 129.3 to 69.6 pounds.

Jennifer Jordan, the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center’s recycling coordinator, said the landfill takes in about 125,000 tons of trash each year.

In fiscal 2011, the landfill took in 119,778 tons of materials. Among the materials that are transported into the landfill, roughly 80 percent of the materials could have been either recycled or composted.

“The university has done a great job of starting out with these projects,” Jordan said. “However, it’s just as important for students to use those programs because the programs are there, they’re being properly funded, and they’re being properly dealt with the materials.”

George McCrory, a communications director for the UI Office of Sustainability, said the goal of the audits is to get an idea of what can be recycled, redeemed, and what can become trash by comparing the data from 2011 and observe how recycling has progressed in the last two years.

Generating jobs in the state is also a significant result brought through the community’s consistent recycling contribution.

According to the report from Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the recycling industry has created and retains higher-wage jobs, which generates $2.4 billion in annual industrial output and supports more than 11,400 jobs.

Holthaus said the auditing process is to not only keep waste out of the landfill but also to save energy.

“We want to keep those efforts moving forward,” he said. “These efforts let us know where the opportunities are.”

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