Organics and recycling contamination in public spaces: Case study at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby campus

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Universities are important sites of consumption and waste generation. To minimize waste, universities have adopted several policies including the reduction of waste generation and the recycling of waste. Recycling of waste can be impeded by improper sorting of waste (waste contamination), which may lead to operational problems for recycling processing facilities, waste disposal surcharges, and landfilling of the recyclable waste. To study the issue of waste contamination, visual waste audits of six sorting stations were conducted at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby campus. The visual audits were performed to review the overall contents and contaminants in three waste streams: organics, paper, and containers. The major findings were that the average contamination rate was 44% and that the paper and containers streams were often most contaminated with organics and landfill items. This study evaluated SFU’s waste management practices against best practice guidelines for reducing waste contamination and recommends that SFU holds more formal and informal educational events; continues switching disposable food containers to compostable paper products; and encourages the use of reusable containers and cutlery through financial incentives and regulations to ultimately eliminate the use of single use items.
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