What: Improved single stream recycling and added organics recycling.
Why: To reduce overall waste and educate their students and staff on the importance of environmental stewardship.
How: Worked with Waste Wise to obtain grant funding for free bins signs, and a six month supply of compostable products
Results: Diverting 52,800 pounds of compostable material every year.
Victoria Downey is the Sustainability Co-Chair at Anoka Ramsey Community College, and in early 2017 she reached out to Anoka County and the Minnesota Waste Wise Foundation to identify funding opportunities for recycling improvements on campus. Waste Wise was able to meet with Director of Facilities, Ken Karr, to develop a comprehensive plan for the roll-out of recycling improvements and ensure that all pertinent parties would be on board with the new recycling initiatives including the custodial team and food service providers.
With all parties engaged in the project, Waste Wise was able to walk the campus and identify bins that would be available to Anoka Ramsey Community College through an Anoka County grant program that provides businesses with the funding they need to begin or improve recycling activities. Anoka Ramsey Community College’s grant was ultimately approved to provide bins (both indoor and out), high quality signage, bin liners, and a six month supply of certified compostable products at absolutely no cost to the school.
Tools in hand, it was time for Victoria Downey and Head Custodian David Madden to get to work placing bins and labels, and ensuring all of the compostable service ware got dispersed to the food service providers throughout campus. Victoria’s Green Team was able to lead the charge as the organics recycling program launched in the Spring of 2017, educating students near the waste stations during lunch and creating various other educational campaigns to alert students and staff to the changes they would be experiencing in regards to waste and recycling.
The new efforts are already paying off, with an estimated 52,800 pounds of compostable material being diverted from the trash stream on an annual basis. The renewed focus on single stream recycling and addition of color coded bins is also expected to increase the single stream recycling volumes on campus significantly. “We’re very pleased with our progress,” commented Downey, adding “students seem to understand what to do, but more importantly why they are doing it!” Anoka Ramsey is continuing to look into strategies for improved collection and identify areas where recyclable or compostable waste is being missed. “We’ve already expanded our program to collect plastic film like shopping bags and shrinkwrap in certain locations, and found out that some lab areas could benefit from organics recycling since they go through so many paper towels,” said Downey.
All told, the program is a great success and one Anoka Ramsey hopes to replicate at Anoka Technical College in the coming year. “This was not as difficult as I thought it would be and I’m glad everything seems to be working out well,” commented Ken Karr, Director of Facilities. Waste Wise will continue to work hand in hand with Anoka Ramsey Community College to ensure this program maintains its momentum into the coming school year and continues to divert large amounts of recyclable and compostable waste from the landfill.