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Small actions, big difference

Sustainability programs diverting significant waste from landfill

Campus and Community

By Sandy Woolfrey-Fahey

To mark Earth Day on April 22, the Gazette is featuring a suite of sustainability-themed stories this week. Keep an eye out for more from April 19–21.

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

The three Rs are the driving force for sustainability initiatives.

An illustration that shows the planet Earth with leaves around the edges of the image and the words "Saturday, April 22 Earth Day."

They are also the foundation of two recently launched projects leading waste reduction on Memorial’s St. John’s and Signal Hill campuses.

Recycling at residence

A pilot recycling program in residence has already diverted more than three tonnes of waste from the landfill.

Residents at Burton’s Pond and Signal Hill did not previously have formal recycling services.

Now, with 33 apartments in Guy and Gilbert units at Burton’s Pond and 80 rooms at Signal Hill Campus, the scope of recycling is increasing.

The program collects mixed plastics like food containers, beverage bottles and packaging, as well as paper products, is similar to the City of St. John’s curbside collection.

Nikhilesh Paliath (left), project co-ordinator, Sustainability and Climate Action Office and Madison Malloy (right), participating student at Burton’s Pond who helped with recycling pilot as a MUCEP student with Sustainability and Climate Action Office.
From left at Burton’s Pond are Nikhilesh Paliath, project co-ordinator, Sustainability and Climate Action Office, and MUCEP student Madison Malloy.
Photo: Submitted

A waste audit prior to the launch of the pilot indicated that nearly 50 per cent of garbage generated at the residences is recyclable. The collected amount of recycling since the program’s inception and the reduction in garbage waste is proving the program’s success.

Nikhilesh Paliath, a graduate of the Environmental Systems Engineering and Management Program at Memorial, is the project co-ordinator with the Sustainability and Climate Action Office (SCAO).

“The pilot lays the groundwork to expand and improve the collection of recyclables across campuses,” he said. “This is significant as recycling is not yet mandatory for the industrial, commercial and institutional sector in the province. Memorial is leading the way as a steward.”

He notes this is just one example of the type of projects he is working on through his role in the office.

The work is part of the overall pan-campus waste management strategy underway that will make a sizable impact on the university’s environmental footprint.

Partnering for success

Heave Away is Memorial’s waste collection vendor and partner in the residences project.

“Not only is curbside recycling helping to divert unnecessary waste from going to the landfill, it is also providing important data that will significantly reduce Memorial’s current waste disposal pickups and associated costs in the future,” said Sarah Halliday, business development and sustainability manager, at Heave Away.

The plan is to expand recycling services to the remaining units in Burton’s Pond this fall.

The SCAO is also preparing a new recycling pilot in collaboration with the Main Dining Hall and Aramark staff.

Consolidated garbage and recycling pilot

Greg Vardy, disposes recycling in one of the building's sorting stations.
Greg Vardy recycles a can at a sorting station.
Photo: Submitted

Another waste reduction project on the St. John’s campus provided the recycling bins used in the residences.

Employees with the Chief Risk Office and Facilities Management in the Facilities Management building have consolidated their bins, creating garbage and recycling centres.

Previously, each employee was assigned their own bin.

Custodial staff members suggested creating common sorting stations in the building, with receptacles for beverage containers, paper and garbage, eliminating the need for individual bins.

Consequently, the number of garbage bags used and the amount of plastic entering the waste system has been significantly reduced.

Approximately 100 garbage and 100 recycling bins were removed from Facilities Management offices, eliminating at least 400 plastic bags from reaching the landfill on a monthly basis.

A collection of plastic bins in a storage room.
Facilities Management bins were reused in the residence pilot.
Photo: Submitted

Another benefit?

A reduction in the repetitive movement of emptying individual bins, improving the custodial staff’s work ergonomics and decreasing injuries thanks to approximately 1,600 fewer “stoops.”

As well, employees are increasing their physical activity by walking to the common areas to dispose of waste and fewer bins decrease the number of places that can attract pests.

Custodial staff also say they note an increase in recycling in some areas.

Want to help?

If your unit would like to consider consolidating bins in your area, you are encouraged to contact the Sustainability and Climate Action Office.

Through improved processes and continued partnerships, the SCAO plans to increase opportunities to identify new, significant sources of divertible waste.

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