Georgetown's Major Milestones
Georgetown has made significant strides in recycling in the past several years. In FY 2010, we achieved an average recycling rate of 45%, our highest rate to date and a three-fold increase from only three years earlier. Additionally, several years ago, members of the university administration informally challenged themselves to move toward a zero-landfill policy. To date, the Main Campus has achieved an approximate 85% diversion rate, meaning only about 15% of all campus waste ends up in a landfill.
These successes are largely attributable to recycling initiatives begun in FY 08 and continued and expanded through FY 10, including hiring a new recycling manager, investing in support staff devoted specifically to recycling, the development of an on-campus recycling collection center at Harbin Hall, efforts to harmonize recycling and trash bins across campus, and the University's now-annual participation in the national Recyclemania competition. These efforts have dovetailed with increased enthusiasm and awareness around environmental sustainability by students, staff and faculty.
Archived Recycling Information
Solid waste and recycling metrics are among the significant indicators of an institution's general impact on the environment, and trash can be a particularly visible environmental concern. While perhaps most evident to people when they see litter around their communities, trash has other impacts on the environment, too. For example, solid waste often contains toxins that can leach into our soil and water supplies. (Even the best-run landfills aren't perfect.) Landfills require large areas of land, which can both infringe on natural ecosystems and also create lower property values for surrounding landowners.
Additionally, solid waste has implications for climate change. Objects made from virgin materials often use more energy in production than those from recycled materials, which can contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Landfills become GHG sources, too, as discarded materials decompose and give off methane.
Two primary ways to reduce the negative impacts associated with solid waste disposal include source reduction and recycling. In the past several years, Georgetown has made major advances in both of these areas, helping to reduce our overall environmental footprint and decreasing our GHG emissions.
Total Waste - Over the past three years, the amount of total waste generated by Georgetown's Main Campus and Medical Center have notably decreased (see Figure 1). Excluding construction debris, total waste output has decreased by approximately one-third from about 3,653 tons in FY 2008 to about 2,457 tons in FY 2010.
A breakdown of the major sources of waste over time is shown in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1. Annual tonnage of waste by category.
* "Trash" as shown here includes non-recyclable solid waste, the majority of which is sent to a waste-for-energy facility.
Food Waste - Food waste generated by our food service operations has decreased annually over the past three years, from about 1104 tons in 2008 to about 739 tons in 2010. This decrease is in part thanks to significant composting efforts adopted in 2008 by Leo's Dining Hall.
Landscape Waste - Beginning in the spring of 2010, all landscape and yard waste is now composted at a certified compost facility. Click to read more about sustainable grounds practices.
Construction Debris - The amount of construction debris varies depending on the amount of major construction in progress at a given time. During FY 2010, Georgetown had begun work on the site of the new Science Center. The university recycled 98.3% of the 822.5 tons of construction debris created during that time.
Solid Waste and Recyclables - The remaining components of Georgetown's solid waste - 1719 tons in FY 2010, or 70 percent of the total -- is composed of general residential and office waste, as well as recyclable items including paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, plastic bottles, scrap metal, electronics, clothing, furniture and other waste. From 2008 to 2010, an improvement in both recycling and in source reduction have led to a higher overall performance.
It is estimated that only about 15% of Georgetown's solid waste actually ends up in a landfill. In addition to the waste that is directly recycled, the vast majority of Georgetown's non-recyclable solid waste and non-composted food waste is taken to a certified "Energy from Waste" facility, where it is incinerated and converted into electricity. Only ash from the incinerator, some non-recyclable construction waste, and small quantities of landscape waste and bulk items are actually deposited in landfills.
Recycling: Results and Initiatives
In FY 2010, Georgetown saw its highest recycling rates yet - over 45% of solid waste by weight.
For a breakdown of recycled materials by type, see Figure 2, below. The pie chart on the right shows categories of recycled materials as percentages of total non-C&D waste.
Figure 2. Waste and Recycling by material, FY 2010.
This new record is attributed in part to the installation of new recycling facilities, the Big Belly trio systems, across campus in the fall of 2009. Additionally, the University distributed personal recycling bins to numerous staff offices throughout campus and the recycling manager worked with students to increase visibility for Recyclemania.
For the first time, Georgetown also sponsored a campus-wide electronics recycling drive on Earth Day 2010, collecting about 200 old computers and nearly three times the amount of electronics normally recycled in a month.
These improvements built upon efforts in FY 2008 and FY 2009, including hiring new leadership, creating space for a recycling center adjacent to the maintenance shops at Harbin Hall, and expanding the types of materials being recycled.
What Materials Does Georgetown Recycle?
Currently, Georgetown recycles a broad range of items, including:
- Mixed paper
- Bottles and cans
- Scrap metal
- Surplus food staples and school supplies
- And additional items
Construction Debris and Recycling - Georgetown University requires contractors to recycle their construction debris to the extent possible. See above for information on C&D waste during FY 2010.
RecycleMania is a national, friendly competition and benchmarking tool for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities. Over a 10-week period, schools report recycling and trash data and are then ranked according to various categories such as most tons of recycling per capita, largest amount of total recyclables, least trash per capita, and highest recycling rate as a percent of overall waste. Additional rankings are awarded for specific categories of recycling such as paper and cardboard.
Georgetown's Recyclemania rankings have consistently increased over our three years as a participant, indicating our continued commitment to outstanding waste management and performance.
2010 Results - In 2010, Georgetown improved our standing in every category in which we competed. The final results in each category were:
- "Grand Champion" for overall recycling rate - 37th of of 267 schools (top 15%)
- Recycling Per Capita - 137th out of 346 schools (top 40%)
- Waste Minimization - 37th out of 199 schools (top 20%)
- "Gorilla Prize" for gross weight of recycling - 80th out of 346 (top 25%)
Georgetown also ranked in the top 25% for most cardboard recycling per capita and in the top 50% for paper, and bottles and cans.
2009 Results - This year, for the first time, Georgetown was a full participant in the "Grand Champion" category of the Competition Division. Georgetown ranked in roughly the middle of the "Recycling per Capita" competition - 178th out of 293 participating colleges and universities. On the other hand, Georgetown was ranked in the top 15% (22nd out of 148 schools) in the "Waste Minimization" category. Overall, Georgetown was ranked in the top 25% (48th out of 206 schools) in the "Grand Champion" category.
2008 Results - Georgetown competed in six categories. Our best performance was in the "Waste Minimization" category, 7th out of 95 schools. Our rankings were around the 50th percentile in the other categories.