Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 67.06
Liaison Allie Schwartz
Submission Date April 14, 2015
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Columbia University
OP-23: Waste Diversion

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 0.44 / 3.00 Helen Bielak
Operations Manager
Environmental Stewardship, Columbia University Facilities and Operations
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Materials diverted from the solid waste landfill or incinerator:
8,381 Tons

Materials disposed in a solid waste landfill or incinerator :
49,384.50 Tons

A brief description of programs, policies, infrastructure investments, outreach efforts, and/or other factors that contributed to the diversion rate, including efforts made during the previous three years:

Paper Recycling
-All newspapers, magazines, catalogs
-white and colored paper (lined, copier, computer, staples OK)
-mail and envelopes (any color, window envelopes OK)
-paper bags
-wrapping paper
-soft-cover books, telephone books (paperbacks, comics, etc.; no spiral bindings)
-cardboard egg cartons and trays
-smooth cardboard (food and shoes boxes, tubes, file folders, cardboard from product packaging)
-corrugated cardboard boxes

Metal, Glass, and Plastic Recycling
-milk cartons & juice boxes (or any such cartons and aseptic packaging for drinks: ice tea, soy milk, soup, etc.)
-plastic with narrow necks only (neck has to be smaller than the body) only
-glass bottles & jars only
-metal cans (soup, pet food, empty aerosol cans, dried-out paint cans, etc.)
-aluminum foil wrap & trays
-household metal (wire hangers, pots, tools, curtain rods, knives, small appliances that are mostly metal, certain vehicle license plates, etc.)
-bulk metal (large metal items, such as furniture, cabinets, large appliances, etc.)

-grass and vegetative clippings, leaves, and woody debris
-fruit and vegetable scraps and pits
-non-greasy food scraps (rice, pasta, bread, cereal etc.)
-coffee grounds & filters
-tea bags
-egg and nut shells
-cut or dried flowers, houseplants and potting soil.

Other Recyclables:
-polystyrene/styrofoam shipper boxes: http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/StyroformBoxes.html

Surplus Reuse or Donation
-Desk Chairs
-Stackable Chairs
-Side Chairs
-Lobby Chairs
-Folding Chairs
-Dentist Chairs
-Side/End Tables
-Conference Tables
-Commercial Kitchen Tables
-Lab Tables
-Office Tables
-Computer Tables
-Working Computers less than three years old
-Computer peripherals
-Blank recordable CDs
-Working Hand-held computer devices (i.e. Garmin, PDA, etc.)
-Working Printers
-Working Cell Phones
-Unused Full Printer Cartridges
-File Cabinets
-2 drawer cabinets
-Wood cabinets
-Computer cabinets
-Book cases
-Wooden shelving
-Metal shelving
-Brackets and shelf boards (must have all the pieces)
-Display cases with shelves
-Working kitchen appliances
-Working household appliances
-Office Supplies
-Mystery Items
-Kitchen pots & pans
-Restaurant china
-Restaurant equipment

Waste prevention and recycling are important initiatives because they can help mitigate climate change. Landfills release greenhouse gases over time, and any form of source reduction or waste diversion mitigates the magnitude of greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling is a particularly effective method of waste disposal because material reprocessing requires less energy use than original processing.

Collection Methods
The New York City Department of Sanitation (DOS) picks up the majority of Columbia’s waste and recycling through a collection system on the Morningside Campus. All buildings within the Morningside Campus enclosure bring waste, plastic, glass, metal, paper, and some cardboard to a centralized location where the DOS picks it up for free. The City does not measure the amount that they pick up, so Columbia University only has records of private collection for waste and recycling on campus.

In 2009, the University changed the way in which ‘sharps’ waste was collected, replacing single-use containers with re-usable containers. When full, these containers are robotically emptied, sanitized and reused. A single container may be used as many as 500 times.

In fiscal year 2013, about 15,725* lbs. of glassware, over 174,828 lbs. of electronics, 8,237 lbs. of batteries, 487 gallons of solvents, and 20,926 lbs. of light bulbs/lamps were recycled. Surplus Reuse when possible is used on campus or alternatively, items no longer needed or in use are given to schools or local non-profit organizations with priority to organizations affiliated with Columbia Community Service. Whatever remains unclaimed goes to the Build It Green, NYC Waste Match program, which includes non-profits in the other four boroughs. Columbia also partners with the Institutional Recycling Network (IRN) where changed out dorm furniture and used equipment – like kitchen equipment is given. In the past equipment has gone to several countries in the Caribbean and to disaster relief in Haiti. More information is on the housing, dining and environment.columbia.edu website.

Additionally, the Work/Life bulletin board, similar to an internal Craigslist, allows Columbia staff, faculty, and students to post personal household and office items to buy, sell, swap or reuse. http://worklife.columbia.edu/forum

The undergraduate EcoRep program partners with Facilities and Housing for Give and Go Green and Facilities hosts Clean and Go Green.

(*This is the amount that Columbia Environmental Health and Safety sends out through the Chemtracker program. This number does not reflect lab glass sent to the Department of Sanitation NY).

A brief description of any food donation programs employed by the institution:

John Jay Dining Hall, Ferris Booth Commons, Faculty House, and Catering Services donate excess food and leftovers to City Harvest, the city supplier for food banks. Typically Columbia donates about 300 pounds a week of starches, vegetables, and sometimes meat. Smaller quantities are donated to a local homeless shelter, Broadway Community. In addition to food, Dining Services and University Events donate surplus kitchen equipment, including pots, pans, China, and larger restaurant equipment through the Institutional Recycling Network (IRN).

Columbia Dining also works with Columbia Community Impact Food Pantry. Every Friday, volunteers cook a meal for 75-100 homeless and low-income guests. Columbia Dining donates packaged items so that people who visit can go “grocery shopping.”

Lastly, the spring move-out donation drive, Give + Go Green, accepts canned goods which it also donates to food banks and local charities. Various food drives are conducted through the year, particularly in the holiday season.

Additional URLs regarding Columbia Food Donation:

A brief description of any pre-consumer food waste composting program employed by the institution:

Columbia Dining is contributing pre-consumer food scraps to an in-vessel composter the Rocket, that has been installed in Ruggles Hall. It is expected to produce about 160 gallons of compost in each two-week cycle based on an estimate of 400-lbs. of food scraps. Additionally, Columbia Dining recovers and recycles about 4,000 gallons of frying oil annually through The Doe Fund’s Ready, Willing, and Able resource recovery program. All oil collected is recycled into biodiesel.

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory campus hosts a “backyard compost project”. The project got under way with more than $400 in donations from scientists and staffers. The three-bin system, built of wood, chicken wire and fiberglass, receives from 60 to 100 gallon containers of food scraps each week from cafeteria food preparation and lunch scraps from two campus buildings.

Additional URLS regarding Cooking Oil Recycling:

Additional information about the Rocket composter:

A brief description of any post-consumer food waste composting program employed by the institution:

Members of the student-run Food Sustainability Project sometimes run a composting initiative where they compost post-consumer food waste. The group then uses the soil produced from their compost to fertilize their community garden.

Columbia Dining also recycles all used trans fat-free cooking oil. They have partnered with The Doe Fund, through their Ready, Willing, and Able resource recovery program. Columbia Dining recycles about 4,000 gallons annually and all oil collected is recycled into biodiesel.

Additional URLs with information about Columbia composting: http://gosustainable.blogspot.com/

An in-vessel composter has also been installed in Ruggles Hall. Operated by the undergraduate EcoReps, students can drop-off compost at designated times.

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory campus hosts a “backyard compost project”. The project got under way with more than $400 in donations from scientists and staffers. The three-bin system, built of wood, chicken wire and fiberglass, receives from 60 to 100 gallon containers of food scraps each week from cafeteria food preparation and lunch scraps from two campus buildings.

Lastly, Columbia hosts a NYC Greenmarket farmer’s market that has compost collection. Every Sunday, from 8am-1pm, Columbia community members can drop-off fruit and vegetable scraps, non-greasy food scraps (rice, pasta, bread, cereal etc.), coffee grounds & filters, tea bags, egg and nut shells, pits, cut or dried flowers, houseplants and potting soil that will be transported to one of several NYC compost sites. The food scraps are transformed into a fertile compost for use on local urban farming and gardening projects.

Does the institution include the following materials in its waste diversion efforts?:
Yes or No
Paper, plastics, glass, metals, and other recyclable containers Yes
Food donations Yes
Food for animals No
Food composting Yes
Cooking oil Yes
Plant materials composting Yes
Animal bedding composting No
Batteries Yes
Light bulbs Yes
Toner/ink-jet cartridges Yes
White goods (i.e. appliances) Yes
Laboratory equipment Yes
Furniture Yes
Residence hall move-in/move-out waste Yes
Scrap metal Yes
Pallets No
Motor oil Yes
Tires Yes

Other materials that the institution includes in its waste diversion efforts:

*Waste totals were calculated using the NYC Open Data Recycling & Diversion data set from the Department of Sanitation. Recycling totals were calculated by adding up Columbia's total recycling, compost and reuse tonnage for the DSNY district.

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.