The Resource Recovery branch manages our Zero Waste Program and is responsible for the efficient reuse and redistribution of campus resources. It also supports the campus in the implementation of programs to achieve UT Austin’s Zero Waste Goal as stated in the Sustainability Master Plan (PDF).
Zero Waste is the reduction of waste being sent to the landfill through both upstream (pre-consumer) and downstream (post-consumer) efforts. Achieving Zero Waste upstream can mean reducing the amount of disposable products purchased or changing packaging, while achieving Zero Waste downstream can mean diverting materials to the recycling facility instead of the landfill.
The university has a goal to demonstrate leadership in both the reduction and diversion of waste with anticipated outcomes including achieving Zero Waste by 2020 and reducing per capita waste generation.
The Sustainability Master Plan (PDF) has outlined UT Austin’s commitment to Resource Recovery and Zero Waste through the following strategies and outcomes:
Resource Recovery student interns make a direct and tangible impact on our campus, providing valuable insight to zero waste initiatives. Watch the video below to learn more.
Learn about what we're doing across campus:
We have recently completed a project throughout campus to ensure that the recycling and landfill trash bin infrastructure reflects UT Austin’s commitment to Zero Waste.
To do this, we removed the outdated separated recycling bins and replaced them with paired and labeled landfill trash and recycling bins. We also updated bin locations to ensure that bins were placed where they were needed most.
By pairing bins, our aim is to make it as easy to throw an item into the recycling as it is into the landfill trash. By labeling and color-coding the bins, we reduce confusion regarding what and how to recycle and make it quick and easy to identify recycling opportunities. See the pictures below for a before and after of our bin optimization work.
Paper towels are a significant part of UT Austin’s waste stream. In fact, on an annual basis, UT Austin generates more than 100 tons of paper towel waste in restrooms alone! This material, while not recyclable, is a valuable source of carbon in composting. We are currently rolling out restroom paper towel composting in the Student Services Building, with other buildings to follow.
The Zero Waste Workplace program has received Green Fee funding to pilot the program in campus buildings. As a program member, a building will receive comprehensive guidance in recommissioning building infrastructure and enhancing occupant education to improve all aspects of material management throughout the building.
Surplus Property properly handles and diverts outdated university electronics. Resource Recovery student interns have pioneered the testing and organization of material to increase return to reuse opportunities.
Observation of campus events reveals opportunities for major and smaller events to be held under Zero Waste practices. The Campus Environmental Center's Green Events team provides free event consultation services for student organizations. Visit Green Events for more information.
Custodial Services and Recycling & Solid Waste teams utilize specific procedures to ensure that, from bin to truck, materials get to the right place. Watch the video below to see how the procedures are followed.