GOAL: Net zero waste. Increase diversion rate to 90%.
2018 Update: 27%
Cumulative savings: 11 million pounds of waste diverted from the landfill.
The Medical Center is a complex organization that produces many waste streams including certain products required for patient care. These constraints make the 90 percent diversion rate an especially ambitious goal for the Medical Center. Below are several ongoing and new initiatives working to meet this goal.
Writing implement recycling.
Over 6,000 pens (totaling 102 pounds) were collected and mailed to TerraCycle for recycling.
The Medical Center hosted its annual barbecue, the first ever zero-waste event. At least 918 meals were served and an impressive 96% of materials were diverted from the landfill, resulting in 289 pounds of compost, 136 pounds of recycling, and only 17 pounds of landfill waste.
Recycling bins were installed in Medical Center locations that did not previously have bins. Costs were covered through a grant awarded by the Nebraska Recycling Council and funded by the Nebraska Environmental Trust.
Waste Characterization Study.
To assess the Medical Center waste stream, a waste characterization study was performed in late 2017, and the results were analyzed in 2018. This study helped to inform the RFP for a recycling/waste hauler and will help inform future strategies to reduce waste and improve the diversion rate.
Single-use battery recycling.
Single-use battery recycling began in 2013. Since then, over 24,400 pounds of batteries have been recycled. Currently, the Medical Center recycles nearly 7,000 pounds a year. More information about battery recycling can be found on the LiveGreen website.
Recycle Right Campaign.
In response to China’s crackdown on recycling contamination, the Medical Center is working to prevent contamination in recycling. Unacceptable contamination rates result in recyclable materials being sent to the landfill. The Recycle Right campaign provided information about how to ensure that landfilled waste does not get mixed in with recycling.
In April 2019, a waste audit was conducted. Weight data was collected by type and will be analyzed to provide insight into next steps for waste management and reduction at the Medical Center.
Planning is underway to begin piloting compost at select dining locations.
In 2016, the UNMC student senate voted to move to styrofoam-free food services by 2020. The Medical Center is actively reducing and replacing Styrofoam with environmentally-friendly alternatives.