Co-op student of the year works towards sustainable waste management in Waterloo

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Estimated reading time: 1:48

Avery Sudsbury, a fourth-year Environment and Business student is one of six winners of the 2023 University of Waterloo Co-op Students of the Year award.

During her work term at the Region of Waterloo, Avery Sudsbury focused on saving money, materials and the environment.

In winter and spring of 2023, the fourth-year Environment and Business student researched waste collection, waste diversion and various waste processes across Ontario to find a sustainable model for Waterloo. This research included a major study on the Region’s organic food waste program where she analyzed data and customer service cases and conducted waste audits to record contamination levels.

To gain a perspective on practices the Region could implement, Sudsbury’s supervisors had her visit the City of Guelph to analyze their compost process. Here she liaised with waste professionals, influencing her to conduct a report on the processing of Waterloo’s organic waste. The report considered how contaminants impact homes and the waste facility, concluding that citizens should prioritize reducing waste through recycling and organic composting.

“When I'm doing my research into what other municipalities are doing and how we can find the best practices for Waterloo, it's really important to get that first-hand experience in those other municipalities,” says Sudsbury.

On top of weekly landfill gas monitoring and reporting duties, Sudsbury also worked on a project to address accessibility concerns with the Region’s waste collection calendar. Her goal was to make the calendar accessible to the largest demographics using only one medium.

“Personally, if I get it (the waste collection calendar) in the mail, I'm using my Google calendar, and it ends up in my recycling,” says Sudsbury. “I wanted to see, is this common for a lot of people? What are the accessibility concerns? How do we best reach the people who want those calendars without creating mass waste?”

Sudsbury’s project influenced the Region to account for other forms of distribution, like an online calendar, and consider printing fewer calendars, a solution that would create less waste and be more cost efficient.

Her co-op experience gave Sudsbury the opportunity to develop a forward-thinking perspective on waste education and expertise on improving our environment.

Congratulations, Avery!

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