Dalhousie is working towards a 75% diversion rate of materials from the landfill. This means that contamination in the waste stream must be kept to a minimum. Contamination happens when items, such as pop cans, are put in the wrong bin, like the garbage bin.
On October 19th, 2010 the Office of Sustainability, in collaboration with Facilities Management, ran a campus-wide waste audit for Dalhousie University as part of Waste Reduction Week 2010. All garbage produced over a 24-hr period was collected and weighed. Ten percent of that was further examined for contamination in the garbage stream. General contamination was measured for all bags, but every 5th bag had its contamination broken down into specific groupings: paper, organics, recyclables, etc.
Donned in white coveralls Facilities Management staff, Office of Sustainability staff, and several dedicated (and highly appreciated) volunteers ripped into garbage bags for three hours that afternoon. Once bags were sorted and weighed, we properly disposed of the materials to make sure the contaminants did not end up back in the refuse stream. The data from this audit is currently being analyzed, with many people awaiting the results. An audit of the other streams (paper, organics and recyclables) is scheduled for mid-November. This will give us a more complete picture of the amount of waste resources and the amount of contamination occurring at Dalhousie.
It is important to understand what is going on in our waste resource streams. This knowledge helps focus education and research efforts. For example, a lot of boxboard in the paper stream indicates that people do not know that boxboard is actually compost and not paper. Then attempts can be made to highlight this point in future educational mediums. Also, different bin types and placement of bins likely have an effect on contamination rates. We are excited to be moving forward with this initiative and are confident that the data collected from these audits will help us reach our 75% diversion goal!