In recent years, sustainability has emerged as a priority on campus, so in the lead up to Earth Day, The Oracle has decided to examine how SUNY New Paltz deals its waste material.
According to data estimates provided to The Oracle by Campus Sustainability Coordinator Lisa Mitten, from 2010 to 2015, the College has seen a significant reduction in its waste contribution to landfills. In 2010, 860 tons of waste from SUNY New Paltz were sent to landfills, whereas only 742 tons were sent in 2015, serving as an 11 percent reduction.
During that same period of time, the total waste material stream to recycling centers and compost sites increased by three and seven percent, respectively. In 2015, the College saw 1,132 tons of waste material leave campus, with 35 percent getting composted at Hurd’s Farm in Modena or sent to recycling centers. However, 65 percent of all SUNY New Paltz waste material still ends up in landfills.
Mitten mentioned that garbage bins and recycling bins are supposed to be paired with each other in dorm rooms. However, some students use the recycling bin as a second garbage bin, thus defeating its purpose. Mitten said the goal is to eventually have two garbage bins and two recycling bins in each room to encourage students to recycle. She also stated that some offices don’t require the bins to be paired with each other, but added that efforts are underway to “rebalance” exterior landfill and recycling bins across campus in the hopes of reducing the amount of recyclable waste put in landfill bins.
According to Mitten, the end of semesters are when waste material usually spikes, typically as students are cleaning out their dorms and custodians are cleaning out academic buildings. The spikes are also partly due to the art department disposing of old artwork while utilizing single stream recycling, a method where all waste items are mixed in a collection truck instead of being sorted by material.
Mitten did say that most of the construction waste on campus is recycled properly, adding that some of the newest buildings on campus, like Wooster Hall, are applying for LEED Gold certification. These certifications designate which buildings have been “a participant in the green building movement.” Part of what qualifies Wooster for this designation is the fact that 20 percent of the building materials were made from recycled materials and that after construction, at least 75 percent of the building materials were recycled.
Of all the food waste producers on campus, Hasbrouck Dining Hall is by far the biggest, with an estimated 600 pounds of food waste daily, all of which are composted. The primary cause of this waste are the full plates of food that come through the dishwasher before being thrown away. Another issue has been trying to educate students on wasting less food without reducing satisfaction by investing in smaller plate sizes or removing self-serving stations.
“We donate a lot of pre-waste food to the New Paltz Food Recovery Network,” Ryan Goodwin, General Manager of Hasbrouck Dining Hall, said. “Over 200 pounds so far.”
Goodwin is aiming to inform students of the benefits that come with only taking what they’ll eat, noting that the College recently hit the 2 million pound mark for composting. Aligning with the Food Recovery Hierarchy, a diagram developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency ranking the uses for excess food, Goodwin expressed mixed feelings about composting, wishing more food could be donated instead. On the chart, composting is the second-lowest ranked method, listed just above landfills, whereas donation ranks second highest.
Editor-In-Chief Jack O’Brien contributed reporting.