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Audits & Assessments

Students weigh containers of sorted trash and recyclables during a waste audit on February 15, 2018

Measuring our progress toward waste reduction efforts

Waste Audit Results

The ultimate goal of the waste audit is to understand what items are headed for the landfill and how much of the material in a trash bag is actually trash. Since  2016, the Office of Sustainability and teams of student volunteers have sorted through 933 pounds of trash to better understand if people are sorting their items correctly and what items might need better education/signage. 

Of the 933 pounds of trash sorted to date: 

  • 45% was actually Trash
  • 18% was Recyclable
  • 32% was Compostable
  • 6% was liquid (empty your beverages before disposal or recycling!)

This data, although somewhat depressing, presents an AMAZING OPPORTUNITY to improve our campus waste diversion efforts by over 50%! 

Pie chart of estimated materials in our trash: 18% Recyclables, 32% compost, 6% liquids

The above pie chart extrapolates our waste audit percentages and applies it to UMD's total landfill tonnage for 2018 (691.99 Tons). If we're sending 692 tons to the landfill, and we know that about 50% of that is either compostable or recyclable (based on waste audit results), then we know we can increase our diversion rate by 50%, simply by making sure people sort their materials properly. And therefore decrease what we're sending to the landfill by 50% at the SAME TIME. SIMPLE. Join us in making this a reality. Sort your waste! 

Classroom Bin Removal: Pilot Project in LSBE

In January 2019, Facilities Management removed all trash bins from classrooms in the Labovitz School of Business and Economics. The bins were replaced with signage, letting classroom users know that the nearest bins would be located in the hallway. The hallway bins were set up as sorting stations, each with trash, compost, and recycling bin with the hope that compost and recycling rates would improve based on better sorting through better bin access.

Results include classrooms are being left clean and there are less bins to service. And compared to 2017, there are 15% less recyclables in the trash than before! Actual trash in the trash remains static at about 40%. Areas of opportunity are compostable items & food (43%) and liquids (9%) from half-empty bottles, cans, and coffee cups. Education of campus users will continue to be the focus of outreach and this pilot will be used as a model to make changes to classrooms across campus in the coming semesters. 

Read the short report of the findings here.

Waste Bin Assessment 

In November 2017, a team of students undertook a comprehensive assessment of campus academic buildings to: 

  • Analyze, document, and map the current UMD recycling and waste system
  • Identify issues, challenges, and concerns
  • Provide detailed recommendations for how to reduce waste, improve usage, and save money

To access the results of the assessment, use the links below: 

Executive Summary

Waste Assessment Recommendations (Full)

This assessment was repeated in December 2018 to monitor progress and make continual improvements. Initial progress shows a decrease in the number of trash bins across campus, an increase in bin consistency (type, color, lids), signs accompanying nearly all bins to help people sort their items, and increased awareness of bin placement among users.