Sustainability Spotlight – Waste and its place

by: Emily Funke

Emily is the Environmental Coordinator working with BEST Service Pros to manage the waste systems at Humber. She has a background in Environmental Science and Sustainable Agriculture and is interested in minimizing food waste across campus.

As a new member of the Sustainability/ BEST Service Pros team at Humber College, I had the wonderful opportunity to partake in Waste Auditor training! Even with my environmental science education, I was not too sure what a waste auditor did, but now after my training I have a much better understanding of waste systems.  

The program was taught by Circular Innovation Council and held over 4 days. Most of the time was spent going over the Ontario regulations for waste auditing. We all know the 3-Rs from elementary school, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The Ontario regulation also follows these, with an emphasis on reduction. Reduction is the main goal since the less we produce, the less needs to be sorted which results in overall less material sent to the landfill. At Humber, when we reduce our waste, we are reducing our impact on the environment.   

Once we reduce waste, the facility has less recycling and less waste to landfill, which saves on disposal cost.  Reuse is the hardest step in my opinion, since every institution is different, and some waste just cannot be reused. At Humber, there are several ways the college is trying to avoid waste sent to landfill through reuse. One is by redistributing minimally used office furniture around the college after renovations to avoid buying new products. Another way Humber reduces waste is by using reusable containers and working on #reusehumber. Both North and Lakeshore campus use reusable containers, and just by eating 2 meals a week in a reusable container, one individual can keep about 50 containers from going to landfill in a school year!  

Friendlier reusable container.

A waste audit is mandatory for many workplaces and organizations. Waste audits focus on how well the facility diverts waste and provides recommendations for how to better manage their waste. Audits look for problem areas and try to reduce first where possible. Reducing waste is crucial for the environment, but from a business perspective, reducing waste also saves money. Obtaining a waste audit can really help a business finically.  

Waste audit set-up.

During the course we were able to go to a waste facility and randomly select residential waste. The randomly selected bags are important to the audit to obtain as true of a sample possible. Since we cannot audit every garbage bag, it is important to try to have variety in the sample size. This will give us as good of an idea as possible. Our class sorted through a few garbage bags and sorted the waste into individual streams. The streams consisted of corrugated cardboard, several types of plastic, paper, etc. After the tedious sorting, we needed to weigh every stream individually and from there we could calculate the percentage of waste that was properly sorted. It was sad to see that almost half of the waste found in our audit was food waste, which could have been composted.  

Overall, I learned a lot and will be using my skills learned from this training at Humber when I do the annual waste audit! I am looking forward to seeing areas where we can improve in our waste diversion!  

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