Fairmont State University, WV Waste Stream Cost Analysis Project

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Fairmont State University, WV, US

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Type: Program

Status: Initiated in 2008

Source File: http://it.fairmontstate.edu/fsuwiki/index.php?title=Waste_Stream_Cost_Analysis


The average U.S. citizen uses eight times the natural resources of the average world citizen. In the U.S. we produce between 12 and 14 billion tons of waste a year. All this trash ends up somewhere, and landfills are filling up and closing down all over the nation.

There are ways to help. Harvard University recently celebrated cutting their waste stream by 50%, half way to their goal of Zero Waste. When a university or any establishment halves their waste output, it not only diverts that trash from landfills, but it can also save that establishment a considerable amount of money.

The Fairmont State campus has two open-top and two compacting dumpsters which require special accommodations to transport. Along with these costly accomodations is a dumping fee which is determined by the tonage of trash brought to the landfill. Luckily, there is a cost-effective, environmentally friendly solution.

As members of the campus’ environmental group STAND (Students Taking Action in Nature's Defense) and avid environmentalists, we understand the need for us to take action to reduce waste. The obvious route is to separate what is trash from what is treasure, the recyclable material. Through a partnership with Marion County Solid Waste Authority, Fairmont State has been granted use of two recycling trailers for a period of 2.5 years starting in January 2008. The activities of this grant proposal will help to initiate a campus-wide recycling program using these two trailers.

The long-term goals of this research are to cut the costs of trash hauling (by 50% in ten years), increase awareness of recycling in general, and ultimately make FSU a greener campus. The short-term goals of this research are to

  • establish baseline information on campus' attitudes and practices on recycling,
  • determine waste stream composition and progress in recycling,and
  • reduce man-hours associated with recycling to a minimum.

Allied Waste takes approximately fifteen dumpster loads of trash from the Fairmont State campus per month. In October 2007, the main campus of FSU generated approximately 70 tons of waste and required 13 hauling trips (personal communication, Jennifer Okin, FSU Physical Plant). With a landfill disposal fee of $45/ton, we spent $3150 on the weight of our trash and $2730 for hauling. If, through recycling, we were able to reduce by half the weight of materials requiring landfill disposal, we could have saved $1575 in October alone. We aren't sure yet how this extrapolates to a full year, but the savings should easily be $10,000 per year through a 50% waste stream reduction.

To measure current campus attitudes toward recycling, a short survey will be conducted in February 2008. The survey will be a short, multiple choice/short answer poll completed online. The goal for this survey is to get the opinions of at least 15% of students, faculty, and staff on their recycling practices and attitudes.

Waste stream composition and disposal costs (landfill and recycled materials) will be tracked throughout the initiation period in Spring 2008 in collaboration with Physical Plant, using receipt slips from the dropoff sites to create a spreadsheet for data analysis. Funds awarded through this proposal will also be used to purchase more recycling bins. The Fairmont State campus currently has paper recycling bins in each of the buildings (bins maintained by the physical plant)and 13 recycling bins for plastic materials (maintained by STAND). However, bins are needed in more areas of campus for convenience. Bins will also need to be placed in food service and the bookstore to facilitate their output of cardboard and steel cans.

To ensure that the campus-wide recycling program is implemented sustainably, we will also work closely with Physical Plant and Op Shop administrators to track and help minimize the time and procedural changes required to implement the program (from initial disposal of materials by users, removal from building by Op Shop custodial employees, pick-up and sorting into recycling trailers by Physical Plant employees, to removal from campus). Student researchers will study the current processes and write an analysis at the end of each month to share with Physical Plant and Op Shop supervisors.