Spring 2015 Waste Audit Results Report
Waste Audit Conducted: Friday, March 20, 2015: 8:30am – 3:30pm
Background: The Denver Waldorf School (DWS) has maintained a recycling program for many years as the main pillar of its waste diversion scheme. Upon moving into the 2100 S. Pennsylvania St. address in the summer 2014, DWS (per the interest and effort of the Peace Group high school club) began offering a compost diversion option on the high school side of the school in the fall of 2014. In the winter of 2014, it was decided that composting should be considered for integration into the school wide waste diversion program. A waste audit was planned for March 20, 2015 with the intention to clarify our current diversion rate, find our potential diversion rate, examine common current errors in diversion and consider diversion by DWS area (administrative, bathrooms, kindergarten/preschool, lower school and high school). The waste audit can be seen as a ‘snapshot’ of our waste in a typical day and the data gathered will be used to more carefully consider an expanded, comprehensive DWS Waste Diversion Plan.
Waste Audit Process: The audit was conducted Friday, March 20, 2015 from 8:30am to 3:30pm (a typical school day). Waste audit ‘sorters’ were: Peace Group volunteers, building and grounds committee chair and member volunteers and the DWS High School Coordinator. The sorters were stationed near the DWS roll off dumpsters (landfill, recycling, compost) and received waste from both class representatives (that brought their class waste to the waste audit station as would have in a typical day) and runners who gathered waste from areas typically dealt with by evening janitorial staff (e.g. bathrooms). Waste was weighed on a bench type scale in kilograms. Upon receiving a bag of waste, it was noted where the waste came from (high school, lower grade, etc…) and what type it was (landfill, compost or recycling). The total weight of the waste was captured prior to sorting. Waste was then sorted (on tarps) into landfill, recycling and compost content to capture content in each area. Each waste type (landfill, recycling, compost) was then weighed post sort to capture actual diversion rate, potential diversion rate and errors in diversion. The DWS waste hauler, Alpine, was consulted with multiple times during the waste audit to clarify acceptability in compost and recycling streams to ensure proper diversion.
- Notable Audit Items: Key waste audit items of note include:
‘To Go’ cups are landfill trash: Most ‘to go’ cups (for coffee and fountain drinks) are landfill trash. The majority of ‘to go’ coffee and fountain drink cups have an ultra thin plastic liner inside that deems the paper of the cup unrecyclable. A ‘bring your own cup’ campaign (especially for the High School student population) could help reduce this waste stream.
- Consider a quick rinse: Despite the use of a precious resource (water) to rinse recyclable materials (e.g. yogurt cups, etc…) it is vital to rinse out liquids from waste prior to disposal in recycling. Liquid waste can quickly spoil, leading to problems with indoor air quality and pests.
- Biodegradable bags must be considered for compost stream: The content of the compost waste stream requires a biodegradable bag when considering health of the school and the durability of the waste diversion system. Despite recommended use of additional resources (energy intensive bio-bags in compost bins) indoor air quality and pest potential must be considered, as well as use of water to periodically wash soiled compost bins.
- Consider examination of current recycling scheme: Consider the ease of use, clarity of communications and cost of current recycling scheme (e.g. payment for service from both Pedro’s Planet (office paper) and Alpine (mixed stream recycling)). The addition of mixed stream recycling (and composting) bins across school with waste diversion plan has the potential to confuse community (we would have four bins for sorting (Pedro’s Planet for paper, mixed stream recycling, compost and landfill). Consider cost of using both services to clarify best next step.
- Most bathroom waste (e.g. paper towels) is compostable.
- One lower grades class (4th grade, Mrs. Gaillot) has a comprehensive waste diversion plan.
- Fabric is not recyclable or compostable: The compost process at the Alpine compost facility requires that all materials be composted in a relatively short period of time (e.g. three months to completed compost). This means that some materials that will degrade over time (untreated and naturally dyed fabric) may not degrade as quickly as is necessary to include in their compost stream. For this reason fabric is not accepted by Alpine in their compost waste stream.
- Alpine (DWS Waste Hauler) is considering whether or not wool is compostable: The compost process at the Alpine compost facility requires that all materials be composted in a relatively short period of time (e.g. three months to completed compost). This means that some materials that will degrade over time (untreated and naturally dyed wool) may not degrade as quickly as is necessary to include in their compost stream. Alpine is reviewing whether or not naturally dyed or untreated wool can be included in our diversion plan.
- No plastic bags in recycling: plastic bags in lunches (e.g. sandwich bags) are not recyclable. Additionally, plastic shopping bags have very limited recycling potential and need to be recycled in a stream separate from the school’s recycling stream.
- Untreated wood and sawdust is compostable.
- Deconstruct your waste: Take food (compostable) out of plastic containers (usually recyclable) and tin foil (recyclable) and place ‘deconstructed’ waste into appropriate waste stream (landfill, recycling and compost). Combination waste (e.g. a sandwich in a plastic bag) placed in a single bin (e.g. compost) will end up in landfill post sort at compost/recycling facility.
- Class pet clean up is landfill trash: No pet waste allowed in compost.
- Limited participation in Preschool/Kindergarten: Larkspur and parent/tot class participated in waste audit, which means results for preschool/kindergarten are limited to those classes only. Off site nurseries were not included in audit. Consider off site nurseries’ inclusion in school wide waste diversion plan.
Proposed Next Steps:
Building and Grounds Sustainability Subcommittee will meet the summer of 2015 to plan and coordinate proposal for expansion of waste diversion at DWS.
The Sustainability Subcommittee will; create the DWS Waste Diversion Plan (including any pricing information for bins, changes in roll off sizing, bags, etc…) and DWS Waste Diversion Communication Plan (including 2015/2016 kick off strategy and community wide communication scheme).
Ideally, the Sustainability Subcommittee will have draft Waste Diversion and Communication Plans to present to the Building and Grounds Committee by late July/early August 2015 to ensure time for further review and implementation prior to the start of the 2015/2016 academic year.
Waste Audit Results:
Total Waste Sorted:
Figure 1: Breakdown of total waste sorted during DWS waste audit.
Almost 182 pounds of waste were sorted during the waste audit. A slight majority of our waste (45%) is being recycled, while 41% of our waste is going to the landfill. Our current waste diversion rate is 59% (59% of our waste is being diverted from the landfill).
Current and Potential Compost and Recycling (lbs)
Figure 2: Breakdown of current and potential compost and recycling amounts.
We have some gains that came be made in our recycling rate. 82 pounds of recyclable materials are currently diverted from the landfill and 83 pounds of recyclable materials can potentially be recycled in the future. Our largest gains in waste diversion would come from the expansion of composting program across the school. We are currently composting 26 pounds of compostable material and could increase that amount to 66 pounds in the future were we to expand the composting program.
Potential Diversion Rate
Figure 3: Breakdown of total potential waste sorted during DWS waste audit.
According to the data from the March 20, 2015 waste audit we can recycle the majority of our waste (46%) and compost 36% of our waste. A minority of our waste will end up in the landfill (18%). The DWS diversion rate could be increased (from 59%) to 82% (or more) depending on pollution prevention strategies used (e.g. waste free lunch packing, etc…) and participation by DWS administration, faculty, staff, students and community at large.
Conclusion: The DWS community is committed to waste diversion (as can be seen in the exceptional recycling rate) and will benefit from inclusion of a compost diversion option across the school. Some communication is necessary to reduce ‘trashing’ of the recycling and compost streams: common errors include ‘to go’ cups and plastic bags in the recycling stream and fabric and food still in plastic containers in the compost stream. Planning and coordination to expand waste diversion program should consider both off site nurseries and athletic events. Source reduction options (e.g. waste free lunch packing, reusable to go mug use, etc…) could push landfill rate lower than projected 18%. Clear and cohesive school wide bin type, set up and signage, as well as communication on waste diversion goals could increase overall participation.