Waste not: UR scores sustainability wins

June 20, 2022


You could say the University’s Rethink Waste team achieved a ton of accomplishments in 2022.

Thanks to the efforts of the office, the University placed first in Virginia and first in the A-10 in the national 2022 Campus Race to Zero Waste Competition.

The University achieved a diversion rate of just over 45 percent, placing it in the top 10 of medium-sized campuses in the diversion category.

The University diverted nearly 70 tons of waste from landfills by recycling, reusing, or composting on campus. The waste included 42 tons of comingled/mixed recyclables and 27 tons of organic products from food service and other collection sites on campus.

“This shows that the University recognizes that waste is a huge problem and that we want to make sure we are being responsible,” said Rethink Waste Manager David Donaldson. “We’re setting an example for the community, the faculty and staff and, most importantly, the students.”

An initiative of the National Wildlife Federation and RecycleMania Inc., the annual contest bills itself as the nation’s premier waste recycling competition among colleges and universities. It seeks to help campuses minimize waste and improve their recycling programs.

The Rethink Waste team reflects UR’s commitment to environmental stewardship.

Donaldson’s office includes three other full-time staff members — Mauricio Lopez, Damyan Damyanov, and Slavi Milev, and 12 to 14 students — who led much of the campus outreach over the year. To promote awareness, students manned trash bins at dining halls to explain the different containers for waste, whether for the landfill, composting, or recyclables.

“We’re trying to make it as easy as possible,” Donaldson said.

However, that’s not all that is being done at the University to promote sustainability and reduce waste.

Other collected materials include wood, metal, yard waste, soft plastic bags, batteries, and ink cartridges. The University is considering holding electronic waste recycling events again this summer and will collect food that might not otherwise be used from dining locations.

Additionally, what used to be the office supply exchange is now the Spider Exchange, housed in a former fraternity house where faculty, staff, and students can donate or pick up for free a variety of items, from staplers to clothing to novels and holiday decorations.

“The odds are that otherwise, they would have gone to the landfill,” Donaldson said. “Now, these goods have a new opportunity for use.”