So you’ve just finished your cup of coffee and you’re standing in front of the recycling bins wondering what goes where?
It might seem like a straightforward task but campus waste audits show that the Queen’s community could use some help to get the job done right.
Coffee cups are just one part of the waste diversion equation but it is perhaps the most noticeable issue.
As a result, a collaboration between the Queen’s Sustainability Office and the Alma Mater Society is taking aim at promoting and improving campus recycling practices
It’s a multi-pronged approach which includes a series of five videos to clear up any questions as well as highlight some important facts, including that Queen’s sent 1,800 metric tons to the landfill last year, or the equivalent of 360 adult African elephants.
“The Sustainability Office was excited to collaborate with the AMS on this initiative and hopes the videos inspire campus users to take a more active role in improving campus waste diversion rate,” says Llynwen Osborne, Waste Coordinator, Sustainability Office.
There’s a lot that can be done to reduce that amount of items going to landfill.
“The waste we generate on campus 90 per cent of it can be diverted, either to recycling – plastic, metals, glass, paper – or to compost,” says Leah Kelley, the AMS’ Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainability. “In our buildings now, we have the ability for students to divert that waste. It’s just about knowing what goes into which bin and taking those extra few seconds to properly sort it rather than toss it in the garbage.”
Proper sorting is key as any contamination, particularly for organics, results in the bin going to landfill rather than being diverted. To help with this, new, simpler signage has been introduced in the Queen’s Centre and JDUC to show people what goes where.
Back to the coffee cup conundrum then.
“Coffee cups actually go in plastics/metals/glass, the blue bin, because it has a wax lining that makes it plastic by the perspective of our (contracted) waste company,” Ms. Kelley (Artsci’16) explains. “So approximately 1.1 million coffee cups were used last year and when you have more than 75 per cent of people not knowing how to properly get rid of them a lot of garbage is being generated. We did want to emphasize the proper way to deal with a coffee cup because sadly it is not as straightforward as we would like it to be.”
The wax-lined cup and plastic lid go in the blue bin. The sleeve, which is paper only, goes in the grey bin.
The videos are also being used to shine a light on some of the positives that have already been accomplished such as the increased organics programs involving campus locations like Queen’s Pub, and Common Ground. While some of the problems for recycling may seem complex, the solutions are rather simple.
“People generally want to do the right thing, we all want to increase our waste diversion,” says Ms. Kelley. “We are at a 42 per cent waste diversion rate when we have 90 per cent of waste that can be diverted. So we really want to emphasize this as much as possible and increase that 42 per cent diversion rate.”
There are five videos in the series covering the following topics:
- Waste Diversion
- Common Ground Sustainability Efforts
- QP Sustainability Efforts
- What you can do to improve campus waste diversion
For further information go to the Queen's Sustainability Office website or the website for the AMS' Commission of the Environment and Sustainability.