Waste Stream Cost Analysis

Thu, 06/06/2013 - 14:01 -- sewm02

Waste Stream Cost Analysis

An Undergraduate Research Program proposal by members of Students Taking Action in Nature's Defense (STAND)

Student Researchers

Kylie M. Jones
Freshman - Chemistry/Pre-Pharmacy
Address, Fairmont
(304) Phone Number

Larisa D. Lynch
Freshman - Chemistry/Pre-Medicine
Address, Bristol
(304) Phone Number

Christopher A. Warnick
Sophomore - Occupational Safety
Address, Barrackville
(304) Phone Number

Faculty Mentors

Dr. Erica Harvey
Professor of Chemistry
Fairmont State University
(304) 367-4498

Dr. Donald E. Trisel
Professor of Biology
Fairmont State University
(304) 367-4308

Project Description

The average U.S. citizen uses eight times the natural resources of the average world citizen. In the U.S. we produce between 12 and 14 billion tons of waste a year. All this trash ends up somewhere, and landfills are filling up and closing down all over the nation.

There are ways to help. Harvard University recently celebrated cutting their waste stream by 50%, half way to their goal of Zero Waste. When a university or any establishment halves their waste output, it not only diverts that trash from landfills, but it can also save that establishment a considerable amount of money.

The Fairmont State campus has two open-top and two compacting dumpsters which require special accommodations to transport. Along with these costly accommodations is a dumping fee which is determined by the tonnage of trash brought to the landfill. Luckily, there is a cost-effective, environmentally friendly solution.

As members of the campus’ environmental group STAND (Students Taking Action in Nature's Defense) and avid environmentalists, we understand the need for us to take action to reduce waste. The obvious route is to separate what is trash from what is treasure, the recyclable material. Through a partnership with Marion County Solid Waste Authority, Fairmont State has been granted use of two recycling trailers for a period of 2.5 years starting in January 2008. The activities of this grant proposal will help to initiate a campus-wide recycling program using these two trailers.

The long-term goals of this research are to cut the costs of trash hauling (by 50% in ten years), increase awareness of recycling in general, and ultimately make FSU a greener campus. The short-term goals of this research are to

  • establish baseline information on campus' attitudes and practices on recycling,
  • determine waste stream composition and progress in recycling,and
  • reduce man-hours associated with recycling to a minimum.

Allied Waste takes approximately fifteen dumpster loads of trash from the Fairmont State campus per month. In October 2007, the main campus of FSU generated approximately 70 tons of waste and required 13 hauling trips (personal communication, Jennifer Okin, FSU Physical Plant). With a landfill disposal fee of $45/ton, we spent $3150 on the weight of our trash and $2730 for hauling. If, through recycling, we were able to reduce by half the weight of materials requiring landfill disposal, we could have saved $1575 in October alone. We aren't sure yet how this extrapolates to a full year, but the savings should easily be $10,000 per year through a 50% waste stream reduction.

To measure current campus attitudes toward recycling, a short survey will be conducted in February 2008. The survey will be a short, multiple choice/short answer poll completed online. The goal for this survey is to get the opinions of at least 15% of students, faculty, and staff on their recycling practices and attitudes.

Waste stream composition and disposal costs (landfill and recycled materials) will be tracked throughout the initiation period in Spring 2008 in collaboration with Physical Plant, using receipt slips from the dropoff sites to create a spreadsheet for data analysis. Funds awarded through this proposal will also be used to purchase more recycling bins. The Fairmont State campus currently has paper recycling bins in each of the buildings (bins maintained by the physical plant)and 13 recycling bins for plastic materials (maintained by STAND). However, bins are needed in more areas of campus for convenience. Bins will also need to be placed in food service and the bookstore to facilitate their output of cardboard and steel cans.

To ensure that the campus-wide recycling program is implemented sustainably, we will also work closely with Physical Plant and Op Shop administrators to track and help minimize the time and procedural changes required to implement the program (from initial disposal of materials by users, removal from building by Op Shop custodial employees, pick-up and sorting into recycling trailers by Physical Plant employees, to removal from campus). Student researchers will study the current processes and write an analysis at the end of each month to share with Physical Plant and Op Shop supervisors.

Explanation: Benefits to the Students

My major at Fairmont State is pre-pharmacy. After this semester, I plan on applying to West Virginia School of Pharmacy. Upon graduating from pharmacy school, I hope to work at a local drug store or hospital so I can get to know and serve the local community. I have a strong desire to give back to the community that has given me so much. With the current problems of global warming, pollution of our water and air, and with our landfills filling up, every single person needs to do their part. Of all of the trash that Fairmont State generates in one year, if we could take a portion of the waste and recycle it, the community would be greatly benefited. This recycling project is important to me because I have to live in this world, and I would prefer it to be clean. This recycling project has the potential to benefit not only Fairmont State, but the larger community as well, and should be started as soon as possible.

- Kylie M. Jones

My goals at FSU are to complete my medical school requirements while earning a degree in Chemistry. I hope to become a doctor because I have always wanted to help people. By participating in this research experience, I will be able to help make a difference now and for years to come. I'm hoping that my work with this waste stream analysis project will help improve the recycling habits of the institution and enrich the FSU experience for its students. Hopefully this experience in helping others by improving the FSU campus will provide me with a good foundation on which I can build future endeavors.

- Larisa D. Lynch

I do not just attend Fairmont State. I do not just show up to class five days a week and take a few exams every now and then. For these four, short years, college is a big part of my life. In fact, I often refer to the FSU campus as my second home. While I am here, I feel that I need to make a difference. This research will kick-start a new focus and direction for the campus recycling program. Upon graduation, I hope to look back at what I accomplished and get a sense of fulfillment, not only for saving Fairmont State a respectable amount of money, but also for creating a more sustainable, greener campus for years to come. That is something I, and Fairmont State, can take pride in.

- Christopher A. Warnick

Research Timeline

  • January
  1. Create questions, seek survey design assistance, and finalize the survey in appropriate software
  2. Meet with Jan Smith (Op Shop) about colored bags for separating recyclables
  3. Meet with Physical Plant representatives to set up observations of, and assistance with, trash pick-up and sorting processes and to establish how we will obtain data on weights and compositions of trash and recycling dropoffs
  4. Meet with bookstore and food service representatives about their waste streams and needs.
  5. Order bins and containers
  • February
  1. Make the survey available to students, faculty, and staff
  2. Set bins and containers in place to kick-start collections
  3. Launch an advertising and education campaign
  4. Calculate waste stream costs for 2007 as baseline data for comparison
  5. Shadow Physical Plant and Op Shop employees to analyze time being spent on recycling procedures. Ask for feedback.
  • March
  1. Discuss data collected from survey and read comments made; create summaries and graphs of findings
  2. Track recyclables from user to product made from recycled materials
  3. Continue data collection on waste stream and time spent.
  • April
  1. First reassessment of waste stream costs, percentage recycled, and employee time costs (Apr 1)
  2. Prepare for and present initial results from the survey, the disposal costs, and the work process analysis at the Celebration of Student Scholarship.
  3. Present results to the campus at the Earth Day celebration.
  • May
  1. Work with faculty, staff and Marion County Solid Waste Authority representatives to prepare the background section for a joint grant proposal to the WV DEP to support further recycling efforts. The background will be largely based on the data collected during this Undergraduate Research Project.
  2. Prepare report of suggested changes for Op Shop and Physical Plant, suggest how to reduce man-hours or if a new position is needed, troubleshoot any problems associated with recycling program in general.
  • June
  1. Second reassessment of waste stream costs, percentage recycled, and employee time costs (June 30)
  2. Help finalize the DEP grant proposal.
  3. Submit final report for the Undergraduate Research Project.
  4. Evaluate the potential for a 50% reduction in waste stream (if 50% of waste we create is actually recyclable material)
  • Future goals for the next project: February 2009
  1. Repeat of survey to see what attitudinal changes occured during the first year

Mentors' Statements of Support

All three students are very committed to their studies and also to making Fairmont State a better place. This proposal is an outgrowth of work initiated by the student environmental group STAND (Students Taking Action in Nature’s Defense). The faculty mentors are co-advisors for STAND and also members of the faculty/staff Environmental Awareness/Community Activism learning community. Both groups are working with Physical Plant and the campus administration, as well as the Marion County Solid Waste Authority, to initiate a recycling program on campus.

The proposed work will provide data and data analysis that will strongly support the development of a truly institutionalized recycling program. The survey and subsequent public presentations will raise the consciousness of the members of the FSU community and help us identify likely ways to increase effective participation. The waste stream analysis and the time/process analyses, along with the survey results will provide key background data to support the preparation of a significant grant proposal to the Recycling Assistance Grant Program through the WV Department of Environmental Protection's REAP (Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan) program in the summer of 2008.

The faculty mentors are committed to helping the students manage the project. Dr. Harvey will take the lead on helping with survey implementation and waste stream analysis; Dr. Trisel will take the lead on helping with survey design, materials purchases, and time/process analyses. The students plan to work together on all three aspects of the project. As science and technology majors, all three students have the technical abilities needed for the data collection and data analysis aspects of the proposal. We plan to ask for assistance on survey design and implementation from the office of Institutional Research. Physical Plant has been very helpful in finding sites for the trailers and agreeing to make minor repairs and the Op Shop agreed to pilot a building-wide recycling project in both Jaynes Hall and Hardway Building starting in January, 2008. Both Physical Plant and Op Shop administrators have agreed to provide data and have already asked for feedback on processes and tracking of time involved in the implementation of the campus recycling program. The Marion County Solid Waste Authority Board has been incredibly supportive by loaning the two recycling trailers for 2.5 years, and President Bradley agreed to pay for the hauling costs for those trailers.

This project's time has come. The Waste Stream Cost Analysis project will provide great research experience for the students in data collection and analysis, as well as project management. Fairmont State will benefit from the project immediately through the implementation of a truly institutionalized recycling program, and in the longer term through the strengthening of important community partnerships and support for statewide grant opportunities.

Budget Proposal

Bins / Containers - $ 1400
Printing costs - $ 100
Student Stipends - $ 500 each, total of $ 1500
Total Amount Proposed - $ 3000