Annual Campus Waste Audits
Understanding what we throw away where and in what volumes is an essential first step to reducing the amount of waste we produce as a community. To this end, the Sustainability Office conducts an annual campus waste audit together with Earth Science professor Dr. Christelle Not and her cohorts of over a hundred undergraduate environmental science students.
The projects aims to discover what types of waste are most prevalent and how much of it is recyclable—information that can help the community to reduce the amount of waste generated and determine what types of waste to focus future campaigns on.
This past year the audit looked at six of the busiest public spaces across campus: Chi Wah Learning Commons, Haking Wong Podium, Upper University Street, Lower University Street, Sun Yat-sen Place and Composite Building. Waste from both rubbish and recycling bins was collected over a 24-hour period and sorted to provide a picture of the waste created at these sites in a single day and compare what was being recycling with what could be recycled.
The most rubbish—nearly 35 kilograms—was collected at Chi Wah Learning Commons whilst the most recycling—over 15 kilograms—was collected at Upper University Street.
With a campus plastic water bottle ban having come into effect in 2017 and a plastic straw ban coming up on September 3rd, 2018, the amount of waste produced on campus is expected to keep dropping, and the campus waste audit will be able to continue verifying that progress and pointing to new areas where policy and practice can be refined.
The waste audits are not just a data gathering exercise, however; they are an opportunity for students to take what they learn in the classroom and see how it applies on their very own campus. They see where the waste that they and their peers produce ends up and are hopefully encouraged to make changes to reduce waste in their daily lives.