Sustainability: ASU Zero Waste

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Arizona State University commits to minimizing waste through its Zero Waste Campus Initiative. The initiative covers both liquid and solid wastes. Nick Brown, director of university sustainability practices, will discuss the Zero Waste Campus Initiative.

Ted Simons: Zero waste. A zero waste campus. What are we talking about?

Nick Brown: We're talking about reducing our waste to landfill, which is our municipal solid waste solid waste. ASU sent about 9,000 tons to our landfills about five years ago. We're already down to about 6,000 so we're about one-third of our way toward our goal.

Ted Simons: This means everything from what? Better water management with better fixtures? We just saw Ground for Grounds in terms of not bringing stuff in to fertilize and using stuff already here to fertilize?

Nick Brown: The components really are looking at our solid waste that is inorganic material, materials that could and should be recycled. That's paper, plastic, aluminum, steel, glass, cardboard. Then the organic co-opponents, food scraps, yard scraps, all kinds of material that come from our campus that could and should be composted or used for energy.

Ted Simons: Your goal is zero waste by?

Nick Brown: 2015

Ted Simons: You going to get there?

Nick Brown: Of course we will. We define zero waste as %90 of our solid waste that had gone to landfill in 2008.

Ted Simons: How do you get students to cooperate with something like this?

Nick Brown: Student engagement is of course key. It's fundamental to our success. When we develop renewable energy programs, 30 or 40 or 50 people at ASU can accomplish this for us. People who do engineering and business management and funding and those kinds of things. If all 8,000 of us don't recycle and hit Green bins with our compostable materials, we won't succeed. So literally it's a program that each and every one of us needs to participate in for us to be successful in.

Ted Simons: Are there ways to make it easier for the kids to get on board? For everyone to get on board?

Nick Brown: We have all kinds of public awareness strategies. Beginning January, each of our sun devil athletics events will be zero waste. So the fans will see a blue bin where recyclables go, Green bin where compostable go and no trash bins. We'll have signs, reads in the stadium that will tell our fans what to do. We really think that athletics is a Gateway toward changing behavior in general.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, from the research on this, 15 tons of waste at the ASU-U of A game?

Nick Brown: That's right. But fans did pretty well. We diverted about 30% of the waste at that game. Last spring we did some baseball games in which we diverted 70 to 80% of all the materials that went through that facility there away from landfill.

Ted Simons: As the process continues, what are you learning?

Nick Brown: We're learning that everyone has to do it, everyone has to work on it. It's a very complex process there are really seven or eight programs that we have to put into place to take care of our organic materials. One of them for the food courts, a different one for Catering services, another for kitchenettes, another for athletics and large outdoor events. It's a really complex program. We have about 50 projects that together will do this. A lot of them are for recyclable material, for compostable materials. It's important that we develop strategies for minimizing the kinds of materials that come on to campus initially so that we can minimize waste that would otherwise have come on to campus. Those projects are in the form of paper reduction, package reduction, product take-back, packaging take-back, those kinds of things.

Ted Simons: You wonder how you quantify, how do you know when you hit zero?

Nick Brown: Most of our municipal solid waste is actually weighed.

Ted Simons: There's a measurement then?

Nick Brown: We actually weigh everything. We're not estimating. We're not looking at things in general. We're actually looking at the record of what we have accomplished.

Ted Simons: Only about 30 seconds left. Anything about this enterprise surprise you?

Nick Brown: It surprises me that it is as complex of an endeavor as it is.

Ted Simons: All right. That's a good, quick answer. Thank you. Sounds great. Next time we go to the football game we'll try to figure out which barrel to use and take it from there. Good to have you here.

Nick Brown: Thanks for the opportunity.

Ted Simons: Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon," we hear from the head of the Fiesta Bowl on gel the championship game and efforts to help seniors fight isolation. That's tomorrow at and 10 on the next "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you for joining us. You have a great evening.

Nick Brown:Director, university sustainability practices;

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