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Compost bins celebrate first birthday

The majority of SAIT’s trash does not end up in the landfill, with around 60 per cent transported off campus to be recycled and composted.

Rolled out a year ago, the green compost bins have offered another stream for waste to avoid the landfill.

“It has been very successful, in terms of getting things away from the landfill to places were it needs to go,” said Delisa Daniel, manager of operations for SAIT’s facilities department.

Although the diversion rate fluctuates throughout the year, the average sits around 60 per cent.

“We’ve done really well as an organization in terms of getting on board and people are using the bins,” said Daniel, who has worked at SAIT for 18 years.

“There is some cross-contamination, so there is still some education we need to do in terms of making sure people know what bins they need to use.”

Along with the large green bins throughout common areas and in SAIT’s commercial and hospitality program food outlets, there are over 200 countertop containers in staff kitchens.

SAIT’s recycling and organic waste does not remain in Calgary, but rather is transported to Cochrane for processing.

The diversion rate is calculated by measuring the weight of organic waste,  bottles and cans, recycling  and paper.

The facilities department has set a goal of diverting 80 per cent of all waste, a target that is comparable to other organizations in Calgary.

Both the University of Calgary and the City of Calgary are seeking an 80 per cent diversion rate by 2020.

The hospitality program has achieved a notable diversion rate, with around 80 per cent of their waste diverted.

With more bins, there are more chances for cross-contamination (such as throwing recycling into the compost bins).

To mitigate the contamination, SAIT’s custodial staff assist collecting and sorting waste.

According to Daniel, when waste ends up in the wrong bins, “the rest just ends up getting processed in the system,” after it is transported off campus.

In 2013, a waste audit was completed at SAIT, where all the waste from five buildings over 24 hours was collected, sorted, and analyzed. The diversion rate at that time was 18 per cent.

Daniel said her department intends to complete another audit to better understand the effectiveness of SAIT’s waste management program.

“My next step is more bins, making sure the bins are in the right place, and working with SAITSA.”

Through joint education campaigns, Daniel said her department and SAITSA can improve awareness and proper use of the various waste bins on campus.

“Youth today are probably more aware than they have been in the past.”

“I think the desire is there and the knowledge is there.”

Connor Goodfellow is the chair of the environmental sustainability committee for SAIT’s Students’ Association (SAITSA).

Goodfellow initially ran to be on SAITSA’s board of director in 2014 (before the compost bins were introduced on campus) after seeing “disappointing bins” with unclear labels and scattered locations.

Now that SAIT has green bins, Goodfellow said there are still a few challenges that the institution needs to overcome to make the waste management program more effective.

The green bins are unevenly distributed, not placed in consistent locations, and bins can lack clarity of what goes in them.

And some students do not even know there are compost bins on campus, he said.

Despite the challenges, Goodfellow said the green bins are a big step in the right direction.

“A lot of people are pretty conscious that our waste is terrible.”

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