Comprehensive Waste Management Plan outlines pathways for achieving university waste management, recycling goals
In commitment to implementing the most stringent recycling and waste management standards, the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities published a new Comprehensive Waste Management Plan that chronicles how Virginia Tech will manage its waste streams most efficiently, safely, and sustainably.
The plan outlines pathways for how the university will achieve zero-waste campus status by 2030. This ambitious goal is among the critical sustainability tenets included in proposed revisions to the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment.
Zero-waste is defined by the waste management industry as keeping 90 percent of solid waste out of the landfill.
Virginia Tech handles roughly 6,000 tons of materials from various waste streams each year. To give perspective, that’s the equivalent weight of 150 fully loaded semitrucks or 30 blue whales — the largest known mammal on earth.
Recycling and waste diversion are among the major sustainability milestones emphasized throughout Virginia Tech’s 2019-20 Sustainability Annual Report.
The university has a goal of achieving a 50 percent recycle rate by 2020. Virginia Tech continues to progress toward this goal with current recycling rates of 38-to-43 percent.
Waste streams include municipal solid waste, construction and demolition waste, recyclable materials, compostable materials, reusable materials, electronic waste, universal waste, hazardous waste, and more.
The new waste management plan highlights:
- The current state of university waste management.
- Goals of the waste management program.
- Documented waste handling policies and procedures.
- Campus waste management contacts.
The plan was developed to help ensure Virginia Tech maintains and exceeds compliance with all commonwealth waste management regulations. It also delivers on a charge to create a campuswide waste management plan under Policy 5505: Campus Energy, Water, and Waste Reduction.
The Virginia Tech Office of Sustainability has monitored recycling rates for over 15 years, also producing an annual recycle rate report. The report provides details on what specific materials make up the recyclable materials collected on campus, what types of materials were diverted from the landfill (for reuse purposes), and the details of special materials collected on campus (for example, waste oil, asphalt, or window glass).
Further, the Comprehensive Waste Management Plan aims to help departments and units improve their environmental stewardship efforts and build upon their own waste management activities.
The Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities continues to partner closely with Dining Services and Housing and Residence Life to advance waste management efforts on the Blacksburg campus.
For example, recycling containers found throughout academic, residential, dining, and administrative buildings, and parking lots across campus are products of this ongoing collaboration. The quantity of containers continues to grow through the award-winning Green Request for Proposals program, which puts student-requested sustainability projects into action on campus.
Dining Services is working toward offering more sustainable packaging options at campus dining facilities. Compostable to-go boxes, green reusable to-go containers, and reusable water bottles have been strong contributors to efforts to reduce waste. Dining Services’ recycling initiatives, as part of broader campus efforts, kept 2,000 tons of glass, aluminum, and plastics out of landfills in 2019.
Virginia Tech also continues to make strides in reducing food waste. In 2019, 566 tons of food waste were collected from campus dining facilities. Over 5,000 tons of organic compost have been deployed for composting into soil from 11 university dining facilities since 2009.
Since fall 2015, more than 185,000 pounds of unserved food have been donated from campus dining facilities to six area hunger relief agencies through the Campus Kitchen program.
Throughout the year, the Office of Sustainability, its student internship program, Dining Services, and Housing and Residence Life host public awareness events and marketing campaigns around recycling.
Visit the Office of Sustainability Waste Management page to view the Comprehensive Waste Management Plan and learn more about the university’s waste management efforts and ways to get engaged.
Written by Christy Myers and Alexa Briehl