A study of waste bins at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus revealed that 88 percent of the contents in trash bins could have been recycled or composted. Most – 72 percent – of what didn’t belong in trash bins turned out to be compostable items, such as food, carry-out containers and paper coffee cups.
“Plastics Unwrapped,” Dec. 20-May 27, 2013. Humans existed without plastics for centuries, but now we rely on them to meet our basic needs. They help us stay healthy, yet they linger, in landfills for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture takes a look at our relationship with plastics, past and present. “In order to counter the impact of plastic waste, we need to rethink our relationship with plastics,” advance notes for the exhibit say. “Discover how, at ‘Plastics Unwrapped.’”
It’s a late Sunday night in the U-District and sophomore Cassie Halls and a group of cyclist friends are biking home. Their feet strain against the bike pedals, fighting the weight of panniers over-flowing with food from the night’s haul.
This is a typical weekend grocery trip for Halls; she’s part of a subculture of “dumpster divers” or “dumpsterers” — students who make a habit of eating what the rest of the United States has discarded.
Where others see piles of rubber, Ricky Holm eyes a heap of opportunity. Mountains of used tires once littered his favorite drag race entryways and rimmed the tracks at his motocross competitions. But with encouragement from his father, Ricky developed a way to recycle old tires into a new technology.
“Innovation is in our blood – I knew I could solve this huge environmental problem,” says Ricky, a senior in the Foster School of Business. “The UW gave me the resources and the motivation to really flesh out my idea.”
The University of Washington has become the first university nationally to sign the e-Stewards Enterprise Commitment, a pledge to be globally responsible in recycling electronic equipment.
The UW, which collects and recycles more than 90 tons of used electronic equipment a year, already uses a recycler that is e-Stewards certified. Signing the agreement formalizes the university’s commitment to that practice, according to Emily Newcomer, UW recycling manager.
A team of UW researchers recently developed a new method of recycling wood waste, utilizing the technology as the basis for a company. The startup, entitled Carbon Cultures, generates charcoal from recycling wood waste and sells it to farmers, gardeners, or any other customer looking to improve their soil.
“We needed to get some value from the forest and thought of wood waste,” said Jenny Knoth, CEO of Carbon Cultures and Ph.D. candidate in environmental and forest sciences. “So why not do the disposal on-site?”