It’s easy to image the trash bin as being the end of an items life, but it’s really just the beginning of a new chapter. Depending on the item, that journey can be quite different—food scraps and other organic materials are taken to a composting facility to be transformed into nutrient-rich fertilizer; plastics, glass, metal and clean paper are taken to recycling facilities where they are broken down and shaped into entirely new items; and the items that cannot undergo either of these processes are unfortunately taken to the landfill.
The most surprising thing that many people aren’t aware of is that up to 90% of the waste we produce can be recycled or composted, which is why the University of Alberta has set this number as our waste diversion target for 2020.
Learn how to sort recycling, organics and waste
Sometimes it only takes a village, but UAlberta is a small city of over 55,000 students and staff—that’s a lot of waste production. 1,605 MT in 2017, to be exact with 58 per cent diverted from the landfill. Waste disposal sites across campus are separated into multiple streams, making it easier to send material to the composting, recycling or landfill facilities.
There are certain items that cause confusion as to which bin they belong in which often leads to contamination when placed in the wrong one. Does a disposable coffee cup go in Organics or Landfill? Do used napkins go into Mixed Paper or Organics? We call these commonly misplaced items The Misfits, and we want to make sure they enter the correct streams to live out their full potential.