When a student at the University of Georgia throws away a piece of trash, they contribute a small portion to the large amount of waste that leaves campus each day for an Athens-Clarke County landfill. According to the UGA Office of Sustainability, UGA generated 4,774 tons of waste during the 2013 fiscal year, compared to 1,923 tons of recycled materials.
Andrew Lentini, program coordinator in the UGA Office of Sustainability, said part of the problem with sustainability initiatives in the Athens area can be attributed to cheap tipping fees at ACC landfills. He said fees for dumping trash are relatively inexpensive, coming in at $47 per ton. “You don’t have a whole lot of financial incentive other than to throw it away,” he said. “You’re not going to save a whole lot of money by choosing to recycle over throwing it away on a personal level.” Lentini said the biggest source of waste on campus is paper. “About 30 percent of the trash is office paper that could’ve been recycled. That’s a pretty good amount,” he said. Lentini said in addition to limiting use of paper products such as office paper and paper towels, his department is working to expand on the existing recycling facilities on campus.
“We’ve been mapping buildings, meeting with building supervisors to put in those new bins,” he said. “To me, that’s the best use of our time to increase recycling at UGA and reduce waste. Without bins in the right spots, you’ve got ten times as many opportunities to throw it away as you do to recycle it.” Lentini said Perry Siniard, an intern in the Office of Sustainability, will be working on adding new and relocating existing recycling bins on campus this summer. Additionally, Lentini said Siniard and his department are working on creating a composting program for dining halls on campus to alternatively dispose of excess food. “We are now composting all of the food waste that comes from the dining hall,” he said. All the food that isn’t fit to be donated to organizations such as Full Plate is being composted, Lentini said. A portion of the compost goes to UGArden, according to an email sent by Siniard to The Red & Black.
Tyler Faby, the former sustainability chair of the UGA Student Government Association policy board, said he has found environmentally-friendly efforts on campus such as composting to be largely successful. “I think it’s a pretty big accomplishment that they’ve been able to institutionalize composting within dining halls,” he said. “On the composting front, they’re doing a fantastic job.” But Faby said there could be room for improvement, namely in recycling efforts. “The portion of our waste that is recycled right now hovers around 33 percent,” he said. “Our peer and aspirational schools are pulling around 65 percent so there’s plenty of room to improve on that front.” Raising the green fee was cited by Faby as a potential solution to UGA’s sustainability problems. Faby said he is working with Ryan Nesbit, UGA vice president for finance and administration, to re-evaluate the fee in order to better allocate resources. “Hopefully in the coming year or so we’ll revise some of the green fee expenditures to help expand recycling around campus and make sure composting is doing a great job,” he said. “Our end objective is to increase the amount of sustainability that is credited to students and the university.”