BioCycle World

BioCycle December 2012, Vol. 53, No. 12, p. 6

Community-Based Outreach Strategies And Off-Campus Recycling

Off-campus student housing can be a potentially good target to raise municipal recycling rates. In Burlington, Vermont, home to the University of Vermont (UVM) and Champlain College, students comprise a large portion (close to 30%) of residents in the city’s downtown region. During the 2011 fiscal year, contamination in recyclables collected curbside in Chittenden County, where Burlington is located, reached an all-time high, according to the Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD), which oversees waste management in the county. In Burlington, the city provides residential recycling pick up, and drivers had noted both a reduced recycling participation rate in student neighborhoods, along with greater contamination of recycling bins with items that are not accepted.

To address this situation, CSWD worked with Nathan Clark, a student in UVM’s Rubenstein School of Natural Resources, to conduct a research study on use of community-based outreach strategies targeting off-campus college students and their recycling habits. The study was designed to test the effectiveness of the pledge, a commitment to change a behavior, which comes from the field of community-based social marketing. A survey was conducted to assess recycling behaviors of off-campus college students enrolled at UVM. Three experimental groups were established and outreach strategies designed. Clark gathered baseline data on curbside recycling participation for each experimental group, and then implemented the outreach strategies. Group One received the “Vermonter’s Guide to Recycling” with recycling and collection day information; no face-to-face interaction occurred. Group Two received door-to-door attention. Residents in Group Two received the same guide and were asked to sign a pledge to learn what materials can be recycled in the county, their collection day and to ensure the household properly recycles materials. Group Three received no outreach strategy and thus was the control.

Average weekly recycling volume for Group One was 1.13 cy before the outreach, and 1.50 cy after the outreach. For Group Two, it was 0.89 cy and 1.50 cy, respectively. Clark concluded that distribution of the recycling pamphlet did not yield statistically significant results, but that in a larger experimental group, the statistical significance could be present. The results of the Group Two outreach did show statistical significance, meaning that the pledge strategy combined with the pamphlet strategy is effective in increasing recycling volume in the off-campus student population. The quantity of contamination in the bins was not significantly affected. The majority of contamination is plastic bags, where were present before and after the outreach. The report, “Education Beyond The Classroom: A Study On Effective Outreach Strategies To Get Off-Campus College Students To Recycle,” was authored by Clark. For more information, contact CSWD at info@cswd.net.

Ohio State Hits 98.2% Diversion At November Football Game

Ohio State University achieves its goal of going zero waste at its stadium

Ohio State University achieves its goal of going zero waste at its stadium

Ohio State University achieved its goal of going zero waste at its Ohio Stadium —diverting a record 98.2 percent of its total generated waste from the landfill during a November 3, 2012 matchup against the University of Illinois. That includes everything from food scraps to compostable packaging to recyclables. Total attendance was 105,311. Only 447 pounds (0.004 lbs per person) were sent to the landfill. The previous home game on October 20 against Purdue University had a 94.4 percent diversion rate.

The first home game of the 2012 season diverted 81.9 percent of materials from landfill. In mid-season, notes a report on the university’s sustainability web page (http://sustainability.osu.edu/zerowaste), “Zero Waste At Ohio Stadium, November 2012,” Ohio State was approached by representatives from the Vera Institute and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) about helping Ohio Stadium achieve its goals. The partnership between Ohio State and ODRC is in development but the sorting and reporting that ODRC has provided had a direct impact on diversion at the stadium during the second half of the season. Refinements were made between the Nebraska game on October 6, which had the largest attendance at Ohio Stadium of 106,102 (diversion rate of 87 percent) and the Purdue game, which also marked the first time that food diversion surpassed recycling, and disposal was less than one ton of materials.

Positive Diversion Trends In Portland

The Portland, Oregon Bureau of Planning and Sustainability issued a report in early December on the first year performance of its 3-stream curbside collection service, launched on October 31, 2011. The service, available to single family homes and small multiplexes with two to four units, includes weekly collection of all food scraps along with yard trimmings, and every other week garbage collection. No changes were made to weekly recycling collection.

Comparing the first 12 months of the new program (Nov. 2011 to Oct. 2012) with the same time period the previous year (Nov. 2010 to Oct 2011), the amount of residential garbage collected curbside has decreased by an estimated 38 percent (from 94,100 tons to 58,300 tons). The amount of yard trimmings and food scraps collected in the first year of the program (85,400 tons) is nearly triple the amount of yard trimmings only collected during the prior year (30,600 tons). About nine out of ten composting roll carts at the curb contain food scraps, according to a field study conducted this fall. Assuming that customers whose carts were not at the curb during the study are not participating in the program, the results indicate that at least 78 percent of customers are placing food scraps in their green Portland Composts! roll cart.

According to waste composition studies conducted during September and October 2012, Portland residents are recycling 85 percent of the materials that can be recycled curbside (with 15% found in the garbage can). Most customers have adapted to the new program without changing the size of their garbage container. The annual Community Survey report released by the City Auditor in October 2012 revealed a very positive public perception of the curbside collection service, showing that 66 percent of respondents felt good or very good about the service. An additional 20 percent of respondents felt neutral about the quality of service. The first year results show the new curbside collection service will likely increase Portland’s residential recovery rate from 51 percent in 2010 to about 70 percent in 2012, helping the city to achieve its near-term goal of 75 percent by 2015. Download the December 5, 2012 report at www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/423510.

“Turn Down The Heat”

“Turn Down The Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided” is a new report issued by the World Bank and conducted by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics. Released in November 2012, the message in the Foreword by Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, is compelling: “It is my hope that this report shocks us into action. Even for those of us already committed to fighting climate change, I hope it causes us to work with much more urgency. This report spells out what the world would be like if it warmed by 4°C, which is what scientists are nearly unanimously predicting by the end of the century, without serious policy changes. The 4°C scenarios are devastating: the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics; substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions; increased frequency of high-intensity tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems.”

“Turn Down The Heat” focuses primarily on the impacts of a 4°C warmer world on developing countries, and especially the poor. But it also recognizes that developed countries are vulnerable and at serious risk of major damages from climate change. The report strongly advocates for action, noting that “a 4°C world can be avoided and we can likely hold warming below 2°C.” The authors acknowledge that uncertainties remain in projecting the extent of both climate change and its impacts, which is why they utilized a risk-based approach “in which risk is defined as impact multiplied by probability: an event with low probability can still pose a high risk if it implies serious consequences.”

In an interview on National Public Radio in early December, Kim noted that a compelling motivator to address manmade climate change is the “overwhelming convergence around the science” — with about 97 percent of climate scientists agreeing on the reality. “I’m a scientist. I’m trained in medicine. They are very few things in all of science around which 97 percent of scientists agree. And then if you take that reality and project out to what a 4°C or over 7°F world would look like, the images that we now are hearing about, the way the world is going to look, is very frightening. One estimate suggests that if we don’t meet our emission targets, a 7.2°F world could happen as early as 2060.”

When asked how the World Bank is addressing the dangers, Kim noted its growing focus on renewable energy projects. “Very recently, in 2007, some 22 percent of our projects in energy were focused on renewables,” he said. “And by 2012, that number is 44 percent, so we doubled in a five-year period, and that number will only grow over time. But we are focused on poverty. And in places like Africa, where the need for electricity is just desperate, you cannot lift people out of poverty without energy. We have to balance our responsibility to help countries improve their energy supply with this absolute need to do more around renewables.” To obtain a copy of “Turn Down The Heat,” go to http://climatechange.world bank.org/.

One-Click Access With International Research Tool

The UK Department of Energy, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has created an interesting portal to Waste and Resources research from around the world. Wastenet [http://wastenet.defra.gov.uk/Home.aspx] is a free, online “search and discovery” resource funded by DEFRA’s Collaborative Waste, Resources and Sustainable Consumption Evidence Program to support open access to research findings more generally and disseminate lost and hard-to-find documentation in the field. The website notes that “each Wastenet search investigates 23 Internet databases, over 600,000 indexed documents, and an archive of rescued ‘grey’ documents, all regularly updated, and chosen for their relevance to the topic.” A quick search on the word “BioCycle” brings up 251 results, including references where BioCycle articles have been cited in reports and research papers around the world.

Oregon Reports 52 Percent Recovery Rate

Oregonians recovered 2.3 million tons, or 52.3 percent, of the municipal postconsumer waste generated in Oregon in 2011 — the highest recovery rate since this survey began in 1992. Most of the increase was due to higher scrap metal recovery. Recovery of electronics, food waste, glass and plastics also increased, while paper recovery decreased. Per capita disposal decreased 3.9 percent to 1,264 lbs/person, the lowest per capita disposal rate ever recorded since tracking began. Waste generation in 2011 totaled 4.7 million tons, a one percent increase over 2010. The per capita waste generation rate for 2009-2011 is lower than it has been in Oregon any time since 1996.

Other highlights from the 2011 solid waste management report include: Of the material recovered, 65 percent was recycled, 19 percent composted, and 16 percent burned for energy recovery; After scrap metal (25% by weight), the next largest major category of materials recovered are yard trimmings (18%), wood waste (16%), cardboard (14%), food waste (2%); Energy savings in 2011 from recycling and energy recovery totaled approximately 32 trillion BTU, roughly 3.2 percent of total energy used (2011) by all sectors of Oregon’s economy; Greenhouse gas reductions in 2011 from recycling, composting and energy recovery totaled approximately 2.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, equal to tailpipe emissions from 580,000 “average” passenger cars, or roughly 4.0 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions statewide. www.deq.state.or.us/lq/pubs/docs/sw/2011MRWGRatesReport.pdf 

Recycling Food Waste Saved Irish Businesses $1.3 Million

A recent survey by Cré, the Composting and Anaerobic Digestion Association of Ireland, has shown that businesses avoided up to $1.3 million (€1 million) of the Landfill Levy in 2011 by recycling food waste in accordance with the Food Waste Regulations. Percy Foster, director of Cré, offered congratulations to all the businesses across the country whom are complying with the regulations. “Not only are they helping Ireland meet its obligation under the EU Landfill Directive, they saved themselves nearly €1 million in the process.” The Food Waste Regulations SI 509 of 2009 require all major sources of food waste to place it into a dedicated bin and ensure that it is not mixed with other waste. A brown bin collection service must be used so that the collected food waste is subsequently recycled by composting or by other approved recycling process. Alternatively, businesses affected by this legislation can transport the food waste directly to a recycling plant or can treat it themselves by installing a composting unit on the premises where the waste is generated. www.cre.ie

Sustainable Backyards In Chicago

With an established green infrastructure program under its belt for larger scale urban storm water management, including green roofs and green alleys, the City of Chicago wanted to pursue ways to foster stewardship and action among its 2.8 million residents. It began the Chicago Sustainable Backyard Program (SusBy) in 2011, an educational initiative that provides incentives so that Chicago residents can create more environmentally-friendly landscapes utilizing green infrastructure in their own yards. SusBy was built off of a rain barrel rebate program in 2010, and expanded to include rebates for purchase of compost bins, native plants and trees. Residents can receive up to 50 percent back on these purchases. Periodic workshops are offered to residents who want to learn more about the program or the basics of installing and maintaining rain barrels, compost bins, native plants and trees. In August, the City of Chicago selected the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), a nonprofit sustainability organization in the city (www.cnt.org), to manage SusBy. CNT is running SusBy as part of its “Smart Water for Smart Regions” initiative, which complements its wet weather retrofitting program called “Wetrofit.” To learn more about the backyard program, visit www.cityofchicago.org/rainbarrel.

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