UO’s solid waste management encompasses materials that are recycled, composted, repurposed, and landfilled. The university has longstanding programs to handle waste, as well as a campus population passionate about and committed to waste reduction. For many, recycling is a gateway to sustainability generally and provides daily opportunities to participate directly in campus sustainability efforts.
UO has been recycling glass, plastics, and paper since the late 1980s when a group of passionate students launched one of the country’s first campus recycling programs. They started to receive funding from the student government in the early 1990s. By 2011, the program was diverting more than half of solid waste for the first time. In 2012, it was renamed the Zero Waste Program. Over the years, Zero Waste increased composting and, in 2015, began tracking waste from Construction and Demolition (C&D) projects. The first graphic shows UO’s overall waste management trajectory over the past nearly 30 years.
In this second graph, landfilled materials appear below the 0 line and materials recycled, composted, reused, or otherwise diverted from the landfill are above the 0 line. The "peaks and valleys" show the relative amounts and changes over time.
This visualization reveals some interesting information. For one, the recently-tracked Construction and Demolition (C&D) data shows the tremendous impact from this area of waste diversion. The data also show that we are recycling less paper but, perhaps surprisingly, that’s a good thing! We recycle less paper because we use less of it as more and more school and work activities become digital. Food diverted to composting is another area of growth in the past decade, although we see a drop in 2019 due to changes in what the local hauler will accept due to contamination issues. This issue and others like it emphasize the importance of UO’s waste education initiatives and overall community responsibility in how we handle our waste. Hover over both graphs to see more specific information for each year.