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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

UF composting paper towels in quest for zero waste

In an effort to produce zero waste, UF’s Office of Sustainability and Physical Plant Division are working together to recycle paper towels from bathrooms around campus into compost.

Compost is a natural form of recycling where paper, vegetable scraps and other organic material are decomposed and used as  natural plant fertilizers.  

This is the second pilot program created to study the type of waste put into bathroom trash bins, said Liz Storn, program coordinator for the UF Office of Sustainability. The first pilot program was launched on March 16 and 19, Storn said, but it was unannounced to test the garbage produced from Library West, Matherly Hall and the Emerging Pathogens Institute.

Coffee cups, plastic wraps and other trash were found in Library West’s bathroom trash bins, Storn said. She said the library has a lot of student traffic, so it’s expected for the trash to contain those materials.

The Emerging Pathogens Institute had only paper towels in the bathroom trash bins, and Matherly had a mix of paper towels and plastic bottles.

Storn said an option for Library West is to have two separate containers: One for paper towels, and one for other trash.

The three buildings produce five tons of trash a year and UF produces about 8,000 tons of trash a year, she said.

The second pilot program was launched to see if signs made a difference using the same three buildings. 

Signs in the bathroom read “UF is Composting Paper Towels!” and asked students and faculty to throw only paper towels in the trash.

“The goal is to roll this out into buildings in (the) Summer or Fall term,” Storn said.

Waste Corporation of America transports all the organic waste from UF where it is composted by Watson C&D. 

WCA also collects compost from the Reitz Union, Gator Corner Dining Center and Broward Dining Center.

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WCA is the official sustainability partner for UF, said Taylor Cremo, WCA account executive and sustainability coordinator.

Cremo said compost is a natural source of recycling.

“It’s all mixed in with everything else,” she said.

Storn said the Office of Sustainability and physical plant will sift through the trash on Friday afternoon to study its contents and work toward making UF more sustainable.

[A version of this story ran on page 1 - 4 on 4/15/2015 under the headline “UF composting more”]

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