Waste Reduction Program
Waste Reduction and Recycling operates within Campus Operations. The UNC Asheville recycling program was started in 1989 with the collection of cardboard and quickly expanded. The campus recycling program now includes collection of paper, metal, plastics, oil, batteries, light bulbs, electronics and more. Recycling and composting efforts have been combined with material reuse programs to minimize landfill waste across campus. By engaging students, faculty, and staff in waste reduction practices, UNC Asheville has demonstrated a commitment to honoring the environment while creating additional learning opportunities and reducing waste disposal costs.
Waste prevention through product reuse and reduced consumption can help prevent emissions of greenhouse gases, reduce pollutants, save energy, conserve resources, create jobs, and stimulate the development of green technologies. By considering the life-cycle of products and materials and applying this consciousness to daily decision making, the UNC Asheville community can maximize practical benefits from products and generate the minimum amount of waste. Waste prevention programs include “All in the Hall,” in which trashcans are removed from classrooms and replaced with signs directing classroom users to a central sorting location in the hall; “Tiny Trash Can,” in which trashcans located in faculty and staff offices are voluntarily removed and replaced with tiny trashcans; and “Reduce and Reuse” programs.
Recycling on Campus
In the fall of 2012, UNC Asheville began combining paper, bottles, and cans together into a single container. Recyclables are picked-up from campus and taken to a sorting facility. Single stream recycling simplifies the recycling process which increases participation and minimizes waste sent to the landfill. In the 2015-2016 school year, over 134 tons of material were diverted from the landfill through this program. UNC Asheville also hosts special recycling programs for bulbs, batteries, electronics, ink cartridges, and more.
Every spring, since 2012, UNC Asheville has been participating in the 8-week long RecycleMania contest. RecycleMania is “a friendly competition and benchmarking tool for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities.” Schools across the United States and Canada report the amount of recycling and trash collected each week and are in turn ranked in various categories based on who recycles the most and landfills the least. With each week’s updated ranking, participating schools follow their performance against other colleges and use the results to rally their campus to reduce and recycle more.
Composting on Campus
Compostables make up the highest percentage (by weight) of divertible waste at UNC Asheville. Before the office compost program was introduced in 2014, a waste stream analysis of campus buildings showed that an average of 42% (by weight) of the waste stream could be composted rather than landfilled. Within 8 months of implementation, there was a 48% improvement in diverting office compostables from the landfill!
Food waste is collected at all campus dining facilities. Many of the plates and utensils are reusable or made with biodegradable materials. Dining services offers compostable serveware and china as options for catered events on campus. Pre-consumer and post-consumer food waste is collected by Danny’s Dumpster and composted at their local processing facility. In the 2015-2016 school-year, over 90 tons of food waste was diverted from the landfill through the composting program.
A student run composting pilot in selected residence halls was started in late 2014 by the Student Environmental Center. Students are responsible for collecting food waste in their rooms and emptying personal containers into larger, central composting stations (map of compost drop-off locations).
UNC Asheville Grounds Department maintains over 400 acres of campus property. Thousands of trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials, and groundcovers contribute to the campus organics waste stream. All brush generated from campus is collected into a brush pile and is ground periodically by a tub grinder into mulch. This mulch is reused on campus. In the 2014-2015 school year, over 43 tons of yard waste was composted or ground for mulch. This saved landfill space equivalent to 9.5 school buses!
Design and Construction Recycling
Construction and demolition (C&D) materials contain bulky, heavy materials, such as concrete, wood, metals, glass, and salvaged building components. Building-related C&D debris totals more than 136 million tons per year or nearly 40% of municipal solid waste stream (U.S. EPA). Reducing and recycling these materials conserves landfill space, decreases the environmental impact of producing new materials, can ease overall building project expenses through avoided purchase and disposal costs, and is an important step towards achieving zero waste. A well-developed strategy is essential to a successful C&D waste reduction plan. UNC Asheville Campus Operations staff will work with designers and contractors to minimize construction waste.
Over the past several years at UNC Asheville, hundreds of pollinator-friendly native plants have been planted, beginning beekeeping classes and workshops have been offered, beehives have been installed and maintained, and a bee hotel has been constructed. As part of its multi-dimensional commitment to sustainability, UNC Asheville is committed to maintaining educational, demonstration pollinator meadows and gardens in highly visible locations throughout the campus, including along the portions of the City’s greenways that the University maintains along Reed Creek and Glenn’s Creek Greenways.
UNC Asheville’s recent designation as a Bee Campus recognizes all of the hard work that has already been done on campus while serving as a public commitment to enhance these efforts in the future.
Campus as an Urban Forest
UNC Asheville is committed to the care and management of single trees and naturally occurring woodlands. The UNC Asheville Grounds department currently employs three certified arborists trained and tested in the art and science of planting, caring for, and maintaining individual trees.
As an urban forest, UNC Asheville’s campus provides the community with environmental, economic and social benefits. Forested parts of campus like Chestnut Ridge and The Big Meadow providing hiking and biking trails, habitat for wildlife, and cleaner air. Additionally, trees on campus intercept stormwater runoff, prevent erosion, and provide shade to minimize urban heat island effects. Thus, campus trees are a critical part of the green infrastructure that makes up the city ecosystem.