College’s waste diversion rate increases by 10 percent


Areas on campus such as the Dining Center, the Lions Den, and the Max Cafe have colored-coded bins to help students separate their waste correctly. Caroline Gomes / Beacon Staff

By Anna Brenner

The college’s amount of recycled, composted, or donated on-campus waste increased to 30 percent this year from 20 percent in 2018. However, Emerson’s diversion rate is still low compared to national averages, according to a college official.

College officials and student organization leaders stressed a need for faculty and students to be more mindful of what they throw away. The college’s recycling rate was ranked No. 141 out of 150 colleges and universities in the nation in 2018, according to the Emerson Sustainability Facebook page. 

Boston currently diverts 25 percent of its waste, with the goal of reaching a diversion rate of 80 to 90 percent by 2030, according to the city’s Environment Department. 

“If you look at the fact that 80 percent could be diverted, versus our 30 percent … We’ve got some work to do,” Campus Sustainability Manager Catherine Liebowitz said, referring to the data.  

Bon Appétit General Manager Dawn Sajdyk said if one piece of trash goes into the compost bin, the compost will be considered contaminated and may be rejected by the composting facility. 

Raven Devanney, Earth Emerson’s Campus Sustainability Chair, also said the recycling facility may reject heavily contaminated recycling. 

Emerson and Bon Appétit, the college’s food service provider, partner with local recycling and composting facilities managed by Waste Management, the leading provider of comprehensive waste management in North America, according to WM’s website. In the single-stream recycling facility, machines sort through 95 percent of incoming waste, and employees go through the remaining 5 percent manually. 

Sadjyk said there are two full-staff meetings every year where Bon Appétit staff members are reminded of the company’s sustainability efforts.

“They’re informed, they’re educated,” Sajdyk said.  “If I see something going in the wrong bin when I’m in the kitchen, it’s a full stop and we have a discussion.”  

The Dining Center, The Lions Den, The Max, and common areas at the college such as the Iwasaki Library have color-coded signs and bins to help students separate their waste effectively. Jordan Mackenzie, the Customer Experience Coordinator for Bon Appétit, said this is a reflection of the efforts of administrators to encourage students to separate their waste properly.

Bon Appétit Senior Marketing Specialist Christina Solazzo said the signage helps busy students who often feel as if they have no time to separate their waste. Color-coding and clear labeling color-coding help ensure clarity and simplicity, she said. 

“[Students] just have to slow down, especially because the signs are all there to guide you along,” Solazzo said. 

Devanney also pointed out the challenge that every year there is a new wave of students coming in.  

“I have friends who, where they come from, they don’t have compost, they don’t have recycling. It takes work to get everyone to the same playing field,” Devanny said.  

Liebowitz and Devanney said the community would have to collectively work together to raise Emerson’s diversion rate, while the Bon Appétit staff voiced the need for more student action.

Earth Emerson President Isabelle Zacharia said students either do not know how to recycle and compost, or they simply do not care. 

“We are willing to do everything that needs to be done, but we need the help and support of everyone who says they want to help save the world,” Zacharia said.