During the Week of October 16th – October 20th, the University of Waterloo partnered with the Sustainability Office and participated in its first ever Zero Waste Week as part of the national Waste Reduction Week campaign. This event aimed to increase the awareness and literacy of how to recycle on campus, as well as to encourage individual efforts to reduce waste.
Throughout the week, multiple activities and challenges were available for the UW community to participate in. These included a Green Office Challenge that was available for staff and faculty, as well as an online Waste Reduction quiz and a Sort-A-Thon, which both tested waste knowledge and facts in Waterloo Region. Our main event called the Zero Waste Challenge also took place which encouraged people to try to reduce and collect their garbage for one week so it would fit inside a 500ml mason jar.
Garbage bags were also collected from one building for the duration of the week and were piled on the Davis Centre green. The accumulation of garbage was called Waste Mountain and was erected for the simple purpose of truly allowing the UW community to visualize how much waste we collect but are never able to see. Needless to say, it was a big eye opener for all those that witnessed it grow over the week!
Upon analyzing the results from the challenges, it was clear that a need for better education on waste management and diversion is necessary. In fact, the average score on the Waste Reduction quiz was only 58%, and of the 302 people that completed the quiz, only 26% were able to achieve a score above 70%.
The results from the Sort-A-Thon yielded similar result as 0% of participants were able to sort all the items correctly, and the majority of participants struggled to place half of the items in the right bin.
The Zero Waste Challenge was by far the hardest challenge to do as it required a complete change in lifestyle. However, as we were able to give out just under 290 jars, it was clear that the UW community was happy to attempt it so they could learn about reducing their personal contribution to the landfill.
Though work is still to be done, it is clear from this event that members of the UW community are interested in doing better and are looking for support from the University to make it easier to reduce waste and sort recyclable items.
To see how you can continue to support waste reduction on campus, visit our waste page.