Landfill Diversion Through Nomenclature and Education

The goal of Zero Waste can seem like a daunting task that is not worth the effort. In all reality, decreasing our waste is one of the most sustainable practices that our civilization could undertake. Landfills in the United States continue to fill up at incredible rates as we continue to become more consumptive with new single-use products, packaging and materials.

The initial steps in any waste plan should be focused toward education and convenience. If opportunities for compost and recycling are not as readily available as ‘trash’, how can we expect for these to decrease the rate in which we feed our landfills?

When waste receptacles are available, receptacles for recycling should also be present. When this happens, more often than not, the recycling receptacle(s) will fill up faster than the waste receptacle. Add a metal pail for compostable items and very little landfill material will be collected.

After the landfill diversion program has been in place for a duration of six months, greater capacities will be necessary for the compost and recycling receptacles compared to the landfill receptacle.

Last week, Sustainable Fort Carson hosted an event on waste that included a screening of “Bag It” along with multiple speakers regarding waste. A representative from Whole Foods was available to discuss their successes and obstacles in removing the single-use plastic bag from the waste stream. In the discussion, the representative noted the awareness in how containers are labeled. It was stated that in Whole Foods, the waste receptacle is not labeled “trash”, but it is labeled “Landfill”. The nomenclature of “Landfill” requires the user to think about the disposal of the item before getting rid of it.

One common problem with starting a recycling program occurs when a recycling receptacle is provided without an adjacent waste receptacle. The convenience in this case becomes counterproductive because the user may choose to dispose of their non-recyclable items in the recycling containers. This becomes a problem for those who must maintain the waste program. Signage that tells the users what can and cannot be recycled is an important factor for the same reasons.

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