November 30, 2016

From 2005 to 2015, Emory has made great strides in reducing waste on campus, most notably diverting 95% of construction waste from landfills and currently diverting about 50% of non-construction and non-hazardous waste from the university. As a new page for sustainability at Emory turns, concrete goals were revised by the Sustainability Vision Committee, a group of staff, faculty and students, in consultation with the wider Emory community, resulting in Emory’s 2015-2025 Sustainability Vision and Strategic Plan. Goals regarding waste reduction include:

  • All university events will be zero municipal landfill waste by 2020;
  • Divert 95% of non-construction university waste from landfills;
  • Eliminate all desk-side trashcans by 2020;
  • Meet or exceed leading healthcare industry rates of waste reduction/reuse/recycling to 37%; and
  • Compost, recycle, or reuse at least 95% of food waste, non-hazardous animal bedding, and construction materials.

    In an effort to work toward these goals, in 2014, Emory’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives, Planning, Design & Construction, Emory Recycles, and Building & Residential Services came together to form a Waste Think Tank. The group dissected the flow of materials through the University, beginning with a prospective recycler looking for the proper bin and ending with the bins’ contents reaching the composting and recycling vendors.

    Each step was analyzed in detail to understand current practices and what challenges are present in matching this step with future goals, culminating in a suite of recommendations for improving education to the Emory community and increasing landfill diversion rates. Foremost of these recommendations was the development of a Materials Management Master Plan (MMMP) by an outside consulting team.

    After a competitive call for proposals, Emory’s Campus Services hired a consulting team made up of Seattle-based Cascadia Consulting Group and Kansas City-based Burns & McDonnell. Both of these firms have a breadth of experience developing MMMPs and employing new technology for evaluation. Past clients include the Los Angeles World Airports, Port of Seattle, and universities such as the University of California Berkeley and the University of Georgia. Burns & McDonnell, additionally, has experience working with local waste management stakeholders, including the Georgia Recycling Coalition, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the DeKalb County Government.

    In October, the consulting team spent a week on Emory’s campus meeting with over 100 campus students, faculty and staff to discuss and observe different waste streams; conducting over 50 visual audits of the recycling, composting and landfill bins in different locations around campus; walking through administration, classroom, residential, research, and dining buildings; and visiting current recycling and composting vendors hired by Emory. Upon reviewing the data and the expected performance metrics, the consulting team will evaluate materials management strategies to deliver a full-fledged master plan by March 2017.

    Emory is hopeful that this MMMP will enhance the ability of individuals, departments, academic units and the institution to meet its commitment to a future for waste management that aligns with the 2015-2025 Sustainability Vision and Strategic Plan.

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