It Takes a Village ... to Close the Waste Stream Loop

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City Market Waste Station

Have you noticed the new waste station in the City Market café? This project is about more than providing space for our customers to compost their food scraps. Our Facilities Department has been working behind the scenes this winter with the Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD) on waste analysis. These bins are one part of that project with the larger goal of decreasing the total amount that goes from our café directly into the landfill. To that end, the most prominent bin is for composting, the next largest is for recycling and the smallest is for trash that heads to the landfill. We’ve added detailed information and pictures to each bin to make it easy for customers to sort café items.

The early part of this process included measuring what the café waste stream looked like before we installed the new bins. On Wednesday, January 23, CSWD Business Outreach Coordinator Michele Morris oversaw an initial waste sort of trash and recycling generated by patrons at our café. City Market staff collected and held trash and recycling from the café from noon on January 22 until noon on January 23. Since we didn’t want patrons to change the way they disposed of material in the café, we didn’t announce this sorting ahead of time. City Market staff collected and sorted a total of 16.2 pounds of material that patrons had disposed in the trash and an almost equal amount of material, 16.9 pounds, that patrons had put in the bin for recycling.

Of the material café patrons had put in the trash bin, by weight:

Of the material café patrons had put in the recycling bin, by weight:

These numbers certainly show room for improvement; nearly 68% of everything café patrons put in the trash could have been recycled or composted instead of being landfilled. More than a third of the recycling (34.9% by weight) was actually contamination, rendering this material unfit for processing as recycling. 

We’ll be conducting a follow-up sort of café trash, recycling and compost with CSWD within the year to gauge effectiveness of our new bins and to plan any further action needed. In the meantime, please let us know how this new process is working for you!

To read more about our sustainability initiatives in 2012, please see the online copy of our Annual Report.