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Powhatan Apartments Waste Audit Reveals Increase in Recycling

The Old Dominion University campus has enthusiastically tackled the issue of sustainability, organizing riverbank cleanups and making plans to collect and sort recyclables during football tailgates this season.

The latest effort at improving ODU sustainability efforts involves looking at the things we throw away.

On April 19, Facilities Management employees and student volunteers collected waste bags from the four dumpsters located at Powhatan I and II Apartments. It was the second time such a collection had occurred; the first collection was in early February.

An analysis of the contents of the dumpsters found that more than 30 percent of the material was actually recyclable. But that's down significantly from February's waste audit, where almost 50 percent of the material analyzed was found to be recyclable.

"We are proud to acknowledge that we had positive changes throughout all our target goals," said Harvey Logan, manager of support services and recycling for ODU Facilities Management.

The analysis process was quite detailed. Bags of waste from the dumpsters were weighed individually and their components were separated into nine categories: glass, paper, cardboard, plastic, batteries, aerosol cans, metal, food waste and non-recyclables. Then, each of the individual components was weighed to determine the composition percentage for each category.

Of the discarded materials, the most common recyclable items were made up mostly of plastic, cardboard and glass.

Overall, there was a 35 percent reduction in the amount of recyclable materials disposed. In addition to the dumpsters, recycling materials were also collected from designated recycling stations at the Powhatan Apartments. Eleven percent of the total weight of the material analyzed by Facilities Management was retrieved from the recycling stations.

The results of the audit are intended to identify lost recycling opportunities - recyclable items being thrown away - and opportunities to strengthen the current waste and recycling program.

In 2011, ODU was recognized for its sustainability efforts with a STARS "charter participant" designation from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, signifying the university's efforts to set and meet sustainability goals, while fostering collaboration and information-sharing across campus. Among the initiatives launched in the past year is a partnership with Glad, the maker of storage containers and trash bags, to sort and track waste generated in tailgate parking lots at ODU football games this fall.