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About 350 pounds of compost collected at Bicentennial launch with new ‘Zero Waste’ initiative

New initiative is part of Office for Sustainability’s efforts to decrease waste on Grounds

<p>Roughly 350 pounds of compost was collected during the Bicentennial Launch event.</p>

Roughly 350 pounds of compost was collected during the Bicentennial Launch event.

Amidst all the festivities and celebrations at Friday’s Bicentennial launch event, numerous volunteers stood diligently at their posts near various waste stations across the Lawn. Each of these waste stations were complete with bins for compost, recyclables and other trash and served as part of the Office for Sustainability’s “Zero Waste” initiative, which seeks to reduce the University's environmental footprint by reducing the amount of trash sent to landfills.

The role of the Office for Sustainability volunteers was to to help Bicentennial guests understand what of their waste was compostable or recyclable, and sort it accordingly into the appropriate receptacle. The Office for Sustainability does not know exactly how much waste they were able to divert, but has estimates that 350 pounds of compost were gathered.

Anna Cerf , a second-year Engineering student who works at the Office for Sustainability, was one of those volunteers during the event and said they were there to be a source of knowledge.

“There’s a big problem with composting and recycling in that people have really good intentions when they’re trying to sort, but there are lots of confusing things within our recycling system and our composting system of what is acceptable and what is not,” Cerf said. “That’s why the volunteers were there to help — just because we are knowledgeable on what can go where.”

Sam Hunt, a third-year College student who also works at the Office for Sustainability, said they were happy to see people interested in learning about how to best dispose of their waste.

“It was about education too,” Hunt said. “We were excited about how much the guests were interested and curious about what materials went where. They were wondering how they knew which ones were compostable and which were not.”

The Office for Sustainability was involved not just in waste collection at the Bicentennial event, but had also worked with organizers and vendors to find as many opportunities to compost, recycle and terracycle. For example, the water cups used at the event were made to be completely compostable.

“It was really encouraging to see how positive U.Va. and Charlottesville was responding to the Zero Waste initiatives,” Hunt said. “We got tons of people thanking us for being there and thanking us for explaining it and just thought it was a great and positive thing to bring into the Bicentennial event.”

In addition to the waste reduction itself, the Office for Sustainability also wanted to raise awareness about this Zero Waste initiative and what students and organizations on Grounds can do to help.

“Our maintenance staff is really helpful with setting up compost and recycling, which is where the problem is right now,” Hunt said. “It’s just that people don’t really know that they can have Zero Waste events or that there are resources available to help them do that.”

Sustainability and Engagement Manager Nina Morris said education is the key to increasing composting efforts.

“The more students understand what is compostable the better chances we have of increasing our opportunities to compost,” Morris said. “It’s all about educating our students and faculty and staff so that they know what is compostable, what is recyclable, to help us meet our goal.”

In addition to the Bicentennial Launch Event, the Office for Sustainability has several other events planned to help reduce waste and raise awareness.

One such event will take place Oct. 21 at the Homecomings football game. Termed the “Game Day Challenge,” colleges across the country will compete to have the most waste diversion at a single home football game. 

“We go through all the tailgating locations and teach people how to sort their waste,” Hunt said. “Then we also work in the stadium to help divert as much waste as possible.”

Last year, the Office for Sustainability saw approximately 54 percent of all waste diverted.