UBC Undergraduate Research

An investigation into organic waste management : bin liners Kubik, Michael; Leigh, Robert; Rahimi-Nejad, Farbod; Sergeyeva, Ellina


Organic waste management is an important aspect of promoting sustainability policies at the University of British Columbia (UBC). This report investigates options for keeping compost bins clean, and supports its findings by the Triple Bottom Line analysis. Products assessments, literature reviews, as well as primary data collection are conducted in order to assess economic, environmental, and social aspects of the problem. Given a broad range of bins currently in use indoors and outdoors on campus, the project scope focuses on small pails used in residences. To determine UBC residents’ opinions and habits, as well as to identify and evaluate solutions applicable to residences, a survey on residence composting has been prepared and distributed to current UBC residents. From the economic point of view, existing and proposed bin liner products have been assessed for economic feasibility. For the environmental aspect of the investigation, paper based bin liners as well as an option to wash the bins have been examined for materials compostability, safety, and resource consumption. The survey has shown that the majority of residents are willing to compost, but would spend 10¢ or less per bin liner, whereas compostable paper bags cost two to four times more. Most survey respondents do not use any liners; others use plastic bags, which are formally not accepted by the UBC composting facility. This investigation has also found that the current composting system is less convenient than disposing garbage. This issue should be addressed with a set of comprehensive measures to make composting more convenient than throwing things away. For Walter Gage residences, a recommendation is to launch a pilot project to transform garbage chutes into compost only chutes. To address an issue of odours and flies, it is important to encourage frequent emptying of compost bins, which would also aid with keeping the bins cleaner. Due to the fact that no kind of plastic bags is accepted by the composting facility, it is recommended that either no bin liners are used, or UBC Housing supplies bin liners, since residents are unlikely to purchase compostable bags. To ensure that students do not dispose unacceptable plastic bags in their compost, it is necessary to educate residents on compost friendly items, as well as raise overall awareness of composting as means to reduce campus ecological footprint by each and every resident. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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