Achieving Zero Waste one scrap at a time


Zero Waste team

ASU's Zero Waste team educates the campus community about what can be recycled. Their efforts have helped divert 30 percent of ASU waste way from landfills. Photo by Elaine Rettger

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Thirty percent of the waste created on ASU’s campuses is no longer going to a landfill thanks to the efforts of ASU’s Zero Waste team.

Instead, that waste has been diverted through recycling, composting and reusing.

It is a big accomplishment toward the university’s goal of reducing its landfill waste by 90 percent. But there’s more work to be done, so the team has various initiatives and events lined up throughout the next year to help ASU along its path toward zero waste.  

They're not alone though. The team has help from Bin Ambassadors — student volunteers who fundraise through the Zero Waste program for their student organization. The ambassadors can be found “bin guarding” or advising others about throwing their waste into the proper bins at various campus events.

The Bin Ambassadors will be at ASU's homecoming game on Nov. 14, as well as the Nov. 21 game against the University of Arizona. There will not be a landfill bin option for throwing out waste inside the stadium during the games, so the ambassadors will be on hand to help attendees make informed decisions about disposing of their waste.

According to Katherine Schumacher, program coordinator senior with the Zero Waste Department, approximately 20 to 30 student volunteers come to events as ambassadors. They continue to work toward the Zero Waste goal not only by attending games but also by volunteering at a table set up at the ASU Farmers Market and through additional marketing initiatives.

One such initiative is a recycling education video, which will inform viewers about what can and cannot be recycled. The minute-long video will be released in the spring and aired in high-profile buildings like the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus, as well as on social media.  

Another university initiative, Ditch the Dumpster, encourages students to recycle their belongings during fall move-in and spring move-out. Instead of throwing their dorm room accessories and accumulated belongings into the dumpster, students can recycle and donate items to Big Brothers Big Sisters, Goodwill and the Tempe Methodist Church. During last spring’s move-out ASU students donated, recycled and repurposed 157,594 pounds of material, according to the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

The team is also implementing a Zero Waste station in the Memorial Union at ASU’s Tempe campus. This station will provide users with hands-on recycling education about their food scraps, according to Schumacher. Staff will be present during the busiest lunch hours to help people better understand the processes.

There are also plans for a Net Zero building, which Alana Levine, assistant director of the Zero Waste Department, says will be the shining example of a zero waste building for other buildings on campus, other universities and even other businesses in the area.

To learn more about the Zero Waste initiative, visit https://cfo.asu.edu/zw.

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