Below you will find the results and data from past waste assessments. To be involved in future waste assessments and outreach, please contact OWRR at 919-962-1442 or email us. You may also download a safety checklist on our Safety page.
Purpose and Use: Orange County contracted Kessler Consulting, Inc. to conduct a waste composition study (WCS). The purpose of the study was to understand the percentages of various materials, including recyclable materials, currently being landfilled within the County. UNC Chapel Hill was invited to participate in the study. The results of samples taken from five areas of the campus have been compiled in this report. Use of these results in major planning decisions is cautioned, due to the limited number and size of samples analyzed.
Sampling Summary: Samples of approximately 100 pounds each were chosen from five generator areas. These included:
1. Residence Halls (traditional residence halls) such as Morrison, Hinton James, Craige, Koury, Avery, Connor, Joyner, McIver, Spencer, etc.
2. Apartment-style Residence Halls such as Baity Hill, Ram Village, Taylor Hall, etc.
3. Academic/Administration/Library Buildings such as Davis Library, Steele/Bynum, Carr/Caldwell, Phillips, Peabody, Administrative Office Building, 1700 Airport Rd., etc.
4. Research Areas such as Genome Sciences, Dental School, Thurston Bowles, Genetic Medicine, Taylor, MBRB, etc.
5. Event Space and Multi-Use Areas which include event spaces and multi-use buildings that host events such as Student Union, Stone Center, Friday Center, McColl, Loudermilk, Knapp-Sanders, etc.
Kessler conducted a sorting event in the fall and in the spring to account for seasonal variability. The first sorting event occurred during the week of October 24-28, 2016. The second sorting event occurred the week of April 3-7, 2017.
All samples were hand-sorted into the previously defined material categories. After the entire sample was sorted, one of the KCI supervisors weighed and recorded the net weights of each material category on a data recording form. Two samples from each UNC generator sector, one from each season, were sorted during the two-season study.
Note: Dining halls were not included in the sampling. While sampling the waste from our dining halls would have been interesting, we were limited to five sample areas. We know that as of FY17, our dining halls are diverting 68-73% of their waste through recycling and composting activities.
The results were varied, given the diversity of the buildings studied. In Morrison, where the students are responsible for taking their trash and recycling outdoors themselves, a high percentage (47%) of traditional recyclables were found in the trash, highlighting the need for further education and outreach to this population. At the Smith Center, almost half of the trash (49%) was compostable, showcasing the strong potential for waste reduction in this area. At Mary Ellen Jones, when recyclables and compostable material were taken together, the potential for waste reduction was over 50%.
What did we find? A lot of food waste—about 46% was compostable. 25% of the materials could be recycled in the current recycling programs in the building. Of the currently recyclable items, mixed paper was most commonly thrown in the trash. We also found 1.6 pounds of reusable office supplies, such as staplers, pens, and rulers.
So, what’s in our trash? Only 17% of materials thrown away were “true trash.” About 46% of the materials could have been recycled through the current indoor recycling program. This demonstrates that there is enormous potential for growth for recyclable material on campus, just by putting it in the bin! Bottle-shaped plastics and mixed paper made up the majority of this category.
Compostables, including food waste, bio-plastics and food-soiled paper products accounted for 33% of the waste. These are not accepted through our current program, but provide a picture of where growth is possible.
OWRR has plans to continue waste audits on a building- by-building basis. If you are interested in having your trash analyzed, please let us know!
Thanks to Anna Langley and Chelsea Woodfin for volunteering and Ashley Mui for her coordination of the waste audit!
During Fall 2010, an Environmental Capstone class conducted waste assessments at three campus sites: the Business School, the Law School, and the Student Union. John Allen, Emma Anderson, Carly Buch, Cori Fowler, Ellie Kuhn, and Julian March interviewed students, staff and faculty about waste behaviors in these buildings. They also collected, sorted and weighed waste from various areas within the buildings including classrooms, offices, and public areas such as libraries, dining areas, and lounges.
The results of the waste assessments showed that 20% of the materials in the trash, such as bottles, cans and paper of all types, could have been recycled in existing programs. Another finding was that 55% of the materials in the garbage in these buildings were compostable times such as food waste and wet paper.
This data will be used to target recycling programs specific to these buildings. Also, we hope to create an on-going waste assessment program to look at waste composition and behaviors for specific buildings. Customized action steps for the population of each area studied will follow. To be involved in future waste assessments and outreach, please contact OWRR at 919-962-1442 or email us.