Zero Waste

For every person alive in the U.S., an estimated average of 1,600 pounds of garbage is generated each year and more than half of it is landfilled (EPA 2016), resulting in a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions from methane.  At the national level, the largest components of discarded waste are food (21%), plastics (18%), and paper products (15%) (EPA 2016). In regards to plastics, production has increased exponentially, from 2.3 million tons in 1950, to 162 million in 1993 to 448 million by 2015.  (National Geographic, 2018) Much of this plastic makes its way into waterways and ultimately, the ocean, harming aquatic ecosystems.

UNH, as part of its broader sustainability efforts, had instituted many initiatives aimed at reducing what we are sending to the landfill. The waste problem is multi-faceted, and the solutions complex and multi-disciplinary.  There are economic, logistical, educational, communications, advocacy, and management aspects involved, among others. UNH’s Zero Waste Task Force and Sustainability Institute are working to mobilize a rapid acceleration and increase of both standardization and education efforts, working with student groups, staff members and administrators from across campus, faculty and partners like Waste Management and the Post Landfill Action Nertwork. We need more information to support more strategic and effective interventions to support the zero waste goal.

The primary objective of this project will be to help paint a clearer picture of UNH’s recycling successes and continued challenges, by providing quantitative data about exactly what kinds of materials UNH community members are attempting to recycle currently, and the degree to which UNH’s single-stream recycling is contaminated; and qualitative data about UNH community members’ current understanding of whether, how and why to recycle on campus.

Student team members: Emily Bean, Jodi Bezanson, Tim Readdean, Casey Shea, & Dan Sheldon

Zero Waste URC Poster845 KB
Zero Waste Final Report416 KB