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Waste “Every week, the average New Yorker throws out nearly 15 pounds of waste at home and another nine pounds of waste at work and in commercial establishments. Altogether, in New York City this adds up to more than three million tons of residential waste and three million tons of commercial waste generated per year. To manage all of this waste, the City has developed a complex system to collect, transport, and dispose of waste. It is a system with an enormous impact on our neighborhoods, our environment, and our economy.” (OneCity Plan, p. 176)

The historic rise of waste generation in New York City has forced the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY) to reevaluate waste management in the city and continually look for new opportunities to minimize and recycle, as well as divert, waste. In 2012–2013, DSNY launched an organics pilot program for curbside collection of food scraps, food-soiled paper, and yard waste. Also, 2013 saw the expansion of plastic recycling collection to include all rigid plastics. Columbia University has been working to align its waste management efforts with those of New York City. The University acknowledges that waste reduction and diversion not only contribute to the preservation of resources, but also have cascading benefits both upstream and downstream through the local material management systems. Reducing or diverting material will save time, money, and other resources for Columbia, as well as eliminate many GHGs. The University is aware that reducing material quantity is only one dimension of a broader matrix. Accordingly, Columbia put forth a goal and outlined strategies to develop guidelines for socially responsible and environmentally preferable procurement that will empower members of the campus community to make purchasing decisions that are more aligned with the University’s Sustainability Principles. The disposal and treatment of waste generated from Columbia operations results in GHG emissions at facilities not owned or operated by Columbia. Such emissions are accounted for as Scope 3 indirect emissions, and will be included within Columbia’s GHG inventory starting in CY 2018.

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PROGRESS TO DATE Columbia has made great strides to introduce many waste reduction and diversion initiatives on campus. Diverting Recycling and Organics via Partnership with New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) Waste management is a unique impact area in that so many department operations have a role. In a fruitful collaboration between Columbia Facilities and Operations and the DSNY, Columbia recycles all metal, glass, plastic, and paper products through receptacles placed throughout campus, including in laboratories. Columbia Undergraduate Housing and University Apartment Housing play a significant role in educating and engaging students and tenants to support these practices. Universal and Chemical Waste Diversion The Environmental Health and Safety Department (EHS) ensures that electronic waste and batteries are reclaimed and diverted from landfill, and proactively educates labs about ways to reduce environmental impact by both improving recycling and managing closely their chemical waste. EHS also manages an award-winning solvent recycling program that reduces chemical waste and annual expenses.

Columbia University Sustainability Plan  

The Columbia University Sustainability Plan is the University’s first formalized document bringing together sustainability efforts from myri...

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