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The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal on Responsible Consumption and Production outlines the issues involved with the global production and consumption systems, and also addresses the need for the reduction and proper management of global waste. A specific target for this goal is to “achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle” (UN SDGs). At Skidmore, our overall waste goal is to divert 60% of our waste to recycling and compost by 2025, so we only send 40% of our material to the landfill. “Dive Deep” into the issue of waste and its impacts and learn how to properly manage your waste!

In 2019, Skidmore handled 832 tons of waste- that's about 594 cars! While Skidmore also diverted 299.54 tons to recycling and composting, 532.46 tons were still sent to the landfill. In 2016, around 2.01 billion metric tons of waste was produced globally (World Bank). Single use plastics, like plastic bags, to-go cups, bottles, containers, etc, contribute an astonishing volume to the global waste stream. Basically, the world produces a crazy amount of waste and it has to go somewhere. So what are the issues? (Click image below for PDF.)
242 million tons of plastic waste was produced in 2016- that's 1,376 Empire State Buildings

Waste lasts a long time, is managed improperly, and contributes to global warming. A glass bottle can stick around for 1 million years and a plastic water bottle can for 450 years. Your trash will likely outlive you! In 2016, 242 million tons of plastic waste was produced. HOwever of that plastic waste produced, only 8.7% is actually recycled, meaning that the large majority of plastic waste is dumped into either landfills or the environment.

Waste is also an environmental justice issue, because landfills and other waste facilities tend to be placed in low income and minority communities. This is because these communities are seen as being the path of least resistance, with fewer resources and less political power than wealthy white neighborhoods or suburbs. BIPOC and low income communities are then exposed to the hazardous chemicals and pollutants from these landfills and hazardous waste sites, leading to increased rates of chronic health conditions (American Progress). This is yet another example of how BIPOC and low income communities have been systematically targeted and oppressed. 

One type of waste that requires some special consideration is electronic waste or e-waste for short. This term is used to describe electronics that are reaching the end of their period of use and will be disposed of (EPA). E-waste can include things like cords, phones, computers, circuit boards, and so on. Annually, America produces 10 million tons of e-waste or 26 pounds per person (NPR). A lot of this waste is then shipped to other countries, typically developing, to manage. One of the main issues with e-waste is how to recycle it- a lot of electronic devices contain valuable metals like copper and gold and thus there is a demand to repurpose them. However, it is a difficult process and not many places can afford to do it (NPR). Therefore, in developing countries, people use acid washes to remove the metals and then dump the acid into the environment and/or water supply (NPR). The plastic coating of cords can also be burned to harvest the copper inside, causing serious health issues to those who do it, but many still continue as it is their only source of income (NPR). To resolve these issues, we need to better manage our e-waste by giving it to the proper facilities here in the US, which will also decrease the burden that many developing countries carry by dealing with our waste.





America produces 10 million tons of e-waste annually and most of it is not recycled!

Moving forward, it is important to remember that the waste you produce has to go somewhere: a landfill in someone’s backyard or across the world in a developing country. If you can’t reduce the amount of waste you are producing, do your best to properly manage it and divert your waste from landfills! Sorting landfill-bound items and recycling is straightforward. Here are two key tips: First, know what your waste hauler accepts, because haulers set rules and regulations on what items they can recycle and it can vary county-by-county and state-by-state. For example, you may not be able to recycle plastics #3-7 at home, but we can indeed recycle those plastics at Skidmore. Second, all recyclables should be dry and clean. Make sure bottled drinks are empty, and give containers with food waste a rinse. If food waste or liquids are mixed into the recycling, it is considered contaminated and will be landfilled. In addition, cleaning out your containers will decrease smells around your recycling bin.Plastic #1 is PET, polyethylene terephthalate. #2 is PE-HD polyethelene (high density). #3 is PVC polyvinyl chloride. #4 is PE-L polyethylene (low density). #5 is polypropoylene.

Diversion of food waste: Since 2011, the Skidmore compost program in the apartments has diverted over 100,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill.

Diversion of special wastes: Electronics (printers, cables, computers, etc) can be recycled by visiting campus safety to request access to the Electronics Recycling area in the Wait Basement. Contact the Sustainability Office to inquire about the date for the annual electronics recycling collection. Batteries (except alkaline) can be recycled at the Post Office in Case Center.

General Tips

  • Be considerate of your hallmates and housekeepers!
    • Break down your cardboard boxes
    • Do not leave your trash on the floor or outside of the dumpsters 
    • Do not dump liquids in either the recycling or landfill bins
  • Don’t be lazy! Sometimes it might seem like an extra step to thoughtfully manage your waste, but it's super important that we all do our part, as this is the world that we live in and we need to treat it with respect! 

Tips for Living In Dorms

  • Different dorm buildings have different waste receptacles and by knowing your dorms methods, it will be easier to manage your waste! All dorms have zero-sort recycling and landfill bins.
  • South Quad dorms (Wilmarth, Wiecking, Kimball, McClellan, and Penfield) have a centrally located waste station in the kitchen of each floor along with a separate closet for cardboard recycling.
  • North Quad dorms (Howe, Rounds, Wait, and JoTo) have communal waste stations and additional trash closets located in some of the suites.
One combined unit for landfill and recycling in the middle, a recycling bin on the left and another landfill bin on the right.
5 bins lined up next to each other in a hall kitchen space. 1 gray bin for batteries, 2 tall bins labelled recycling and 2 tall bins labelled landfill.
South Quad Bins
North Quad Bins

Tips for On-Campus Apartments 

  • All apartments have communal externally located dumpsters- one for zero-sort recycling and one for landfill, located in the parking lots.
  • All apartments have compost bins given to them by our Skidmore Compost Managers! Check here to see how to compost at Skidmore.
Two blue dumpsters side by side, one labelled landfill and the other recycling
Apartment Dumpsters

Tips for Living Off-Campus

Sustainable Saratoga is a local non-profit organization "that promotes sustainable practices and the protection of natural resources through education, advocacy, and action." Their website has a bunch of cool resources and articles, and you can volunteer to help out. In October, they host Saratoga Recycles Day, where they recycle and responsibly dispose of everything and anything from paint and bikes, to clothes and homegoods.

Green Guide Homepage