Where does UVA's waste go? A breakdown of UVA's waste.
Virginia Harris, Office for Sustainability Student Employee

If you’ve ever recycled a peanut butter jar, you probably have had the same thought as me: by the time I have scrubbed it clean, rid the jar of all the oil, and diligently sorted it into its paper grocery bag to recycle, is this jar even going to make a difference? Where will it even go?

Luckily for you, if you recycle on grounds, you can guarantee that pesky peanut butter jar will be hand sorted, delivered to Sonoco Recycling, and then sent to mills in Raleigh, North Carolina where it can be then recycled into bottles, lumber, piping, plastic mold filling, or packaging thanks to the UVA Facilities Management team. Therefore, make sure that you do take the time to rinse that jar when recycling to make sure once they are collected, they can be properly hand-sorted. If you recycle on Grounds, UVA actually accepts all plastics 1-7, which includes plastic bags and plastic wrap. The latest Where Does UVA’s Waste Go? Guide is now available if you are interested in learning where each thing you recycle or compost ends up when disposing of waste on Grounds. If you live off grounds, check out this helpful guide to local recycling in Charlottesville.

While recycling glass, cans, cardboard, paper, plastic, and aluminum has become pretty commonplace, UVA offers recycling of many more products. If students, faculty, and staff have old CDs, ink cartridges, batteries, cell phones, or other e-cyclables, UVA will  hand sort each of these and send them to different companies that recycle them for their components. You can drop off these electronic-type materials at E-cycling bins in O’Hill, Runk, Brown Library, Clemons Library, Alderman Library, Fisk Library, and the Darden School. 

Food waste is another large waste stream that UVA is working to minimize. Each dining hall at UVA composts food scraps and certain residential colleges and workplaces also offer compost collection. All of the compost is handled by Black Bear Composting who then sells the compost back to regional farms. If you live off Grounds, Black Bear also offers compost drop off at the Charlottesville City Market each Saturday beginning later this Spring. In the past students have had the opportunity to participate in this collection process by working at the compost booth at the market. Black Bear is currently hiring students for this paid part-time position. If interested in joining their team, click here.

Black Bear employees tabling at the farmers' market
Black Bear employees tabling at the Charlottesville City Market. Photo from Black Bear Composting.
OFS Student Employee, Yuki, manages a zero waste station at a UVA farmers market.
Sustainability Student Employee manning a zero-waste station. Photo from UVA Office for Sustainability.

Zero waste events at UVA are another way UVA is working to reduce food waste.Additionally, all zero waste events benefit from Black Bear’s services and UVA’s Student Council Sustainability Committee provides a free compostable wares for any student organization hosting an event involving food. The next time you host a club potluck, make sure to make it zero waste.

Lastly, while we settle in back on grounds and begin purchasing new school supplies and apartment essentials, don’t forget about the R.O.S.E. Program and the ReUse Store. The R.O.S.E. program (Reusable Office Supply Exchange) started with the mission to both collect and provide gently or never used office supplies across UVA to make available to the community. They collect everything from binders, folders, pens, pencils, clips, and other office miscellaneous items and organize it for students, faculty, and staff to drop off or pick up for free. The R.O.S.E. Program is located in the Recycling Building at the end of Leake Drive off of Alderman Road. They are open Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 3:00pm. Ensure you have all the supplies you need for this semester and don’t forget to come back in May and return anything you didn’t use!

Students shopping at the free Reusable Office Supply Exchange store in the Recycling building
Recycling warehouse, where the R.O.S.E. program can be found. Photo from UVA Office for Sustainability.

As the end of the semester approaches, UVA will begin Hoos ReUse, a program designed to donate gently used clothing, furniture, appliances, and other household items that students no longer want to keep and can be donated to nonprofits in the Charlottesville region. Hoos ReUse operates both on grounds and off grounds, collecting over 50,000 pounds last year. Not only is that 50,000 pounds of household items diverted from the landfill, but it is also 50,000 pounds of household items donated to nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, Goodwill, Loaves and Fishes food pantry, and the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA.

UVA Recycling makes a diligent effort to hand sort all of the waste on grounds. Whether recycling your paper in the library, composting at a zero waste event, or donating household items at the end of the semester during move-out, UVA Recycling takes the time to make sure UVA diverts as much waste as possible from the landfill. On February 3rd, UVA’s annual Recyclemania will begin. Recyclemania is an 8-week long competition across colleges and universities to see who can increase their recycling the most on a per capita basis. Make sure to look out for updates on the competition and see how you can make a difference by following @sustainableuva on Instagram and thinking twice before you throw something that can be recycled in the trash!