NYU Abu Dhabi’s Waste Reduction Plan is provisioned to reuse, reduce and recycle 50 percent of the waste generated on campus. This may sound impressive, but according to the Sustainable Campus Initiative Eco-Audit Report
, only 2.77 percent of paper and 0.72 percent of metal, glass and plastics were recycled from June 2014 to June 2015. This shows that a lot of effort is required for recycling, not only from management but also from the student body.
The Waste Reduction Plan hasn’t been effective in NYUAD partly because of one major limitation: Refuse rooms around campus only have two bins — one for recyclable waste and another for general waste. For general waste bins, all the trash ends up in waste, even if it’s recyclable. For trash in recyclable bins, this trash has to be further sorted into plastic, paper and scrap metal. NYUAD has only four people sorting recyclable trash, a process that takes place in the basement. The process requires a gigantic amount of manual effort and time, and there is a need to make the process more efficient.
Serco and university management have addressed the fact that the campus does not have enough dustbins; they are, however, working on providing more. Having a sufficient number of dustbins will help students sort trash more easily from their independent rooms.
Although trash is also collected from individual floor trash cans, which are sorted out into three types of waste already, the management and Serco have agreed that the trash cans on each floor are too small and cannot contain a large amount of garbage. They will be working on finding a solution to that as well.
Once the trash is collected in the basement, it is compiled at a pick-up point where Veet garbage trucks collect the trash. Veet is an environmental solutions company that collects waste from NYUAD and sends it to various processing plants. For example, Veet handles the chemical waste from laboratories and the Health and Wellness Center by shipping it to Germany for incineration. Veet collects general waste every morning and collects recyclable waste on call depending on how much waste has been compiled.
Another problem is that currently, there are no glass recycling plants in the UAE, so glass can’t be recycled on our campus. As a result, the university is putting in extra effort to recycle its glass waste. For instance, NYUAD is planning on ordering a bulb crusher in order to help Serco deal with all the used light bulbs that are stored in one of the refuse rooms. In addition, NYUAD is also saving air conditioning filters collected after maintenances in order to ship them once enough are collected.
The trash management system at NYUAD is large and complex: Every step is well thought out and planned. The management has identified ways of improving the trash management system and has even understood, through our perspective, what is needed to improve the system. Dedicated workers collect and transport trash from one place to another, making sure everything in recyclable trash gets recycled. In such a setting, it is our responsibility to at least sort our trash so that NYUAD can recycle its waste and use its waste-management system efficiently.
Raunak Shrestha is a contributing writer. Email him at email@example.com.