Minimizing the amount of potential waste that we are generating as a campus community and sending it to the landfill is a huge challenge and an integral part of UNH’s sustainability efforts. It’s important not only from an environmental perspective, but also from a standpoint of public health, justice and equity and sound financial management. While departments and champions across campus have been working for decades to bring UNH closer to being a “Zero Waste” place, we know we still have much to do. That’s why the development of a Zero Waste Plan for the whole campus is one of the “Initiatives” focused on “Building Financial Strength” for the Future of UNH!
The best way to tackle waste is not to create it in the first place. That’s why departments and organizations across campus are focusing on finding ways to reduce waste. Learn some of the ways they're doing this below, and how you can be part of the solution!
UNH students are leading the way to a zero waste world! Check out the Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN), a campus leadership organization that has a line-up of amazing trainings and an annual Students for Zero Waste Conference; and Scrapp, a free-to-download, gamified, smartphone app that educates and rewards individuals and institutions for recycling correctly. Both of these organizations were started by UNH student changemakers!
Trash 2 Treasure
T2T is a student-run leadership program that collects massive amounts of furniture and dorm items from students at the end of each school year and recycles or resells them at discounted prices at a huge campus yard sale the following fall. Since its inception, T2T has saved students over half a million dollars in back-to-school expenses and diverted nearly 200 tons of waste from entering landfills.
Food Repurposing Project
UNH is working with Gather, a local community organization dedicated to ending hunger, in a cool new partnership to repurpose rescued wholesome excess food produced at UNH dining halls. his collaboration takes extra food from UNH dining halls, Gather, local farmers and other food that would otherwise go to waste, and repurposes it into nutritious meals that are available to those in the community in need of food.
Donations & Surplus
UNH donates tons of used mattresses and other furniture to charitable organizations like IRN Surplus – The Reuse Network each year. It also has surplus policies that require that used items that are still good (i.e. furniture, vehicles, electronics, etc) need to be offered to community members before they are otherwise disposed of.
Waste “Diversion” Through Recycling and Composting
UNH has a long history of recycling and composting. We recycle bulk cardboard from move-in and move-out, scrap metal, and waste grease from our kitchens. In 2013 the university shifted to a “single-stream” system, and efforts to standardize bins and signage to educate the campus community about have been ongoing.
Recycling at UNH
Plastics #1, #2 and #5, glass, aluminum and tin cans, cardboard and paper are the ONLY items that should go in UNH recycle bins across campus.
Composting at UNH
UNH's longstanding compost program takes campus food waste to Kingman Farm to be composted. We also work with Agricycle to turn food waste from campus restaurants and the WildCat Stadium into renewable energy.
UNH departments educate the community to keep plastic bags, food, liquids and non-recyclables OUT of recycling bins and dumpsters; and to put only food waste, paper products, or Dining's compostable service ware into compost bins.
Zero Waste Stadium & Events
More on Composting at UNH
During the academic year, UNH dining halls serve almost 70,000 meals per week. UNH takes pride in providing contemporary food service by offering diners a wide selection of choices and flavors. Food disposed of at the end of a meal (post-consumer waste) coupled with organic waste generated in the preparation of meals (pre-consumer) leads to a tremendous amount of food waste.
To deal with this in a sustainable manner, this waste and other organic materials are gathered from sites on and near the campus.
- Dining staff load buckets of waste onto their compost truck and take them out to Kingman Farm to the windrows (long compost piles composed of manure, sawdust, plant materials and organic waste collected at UNH).
- Windrows that are lighter and coarser are newer and have not yet broken down into dark, crumbly and more uniform compost.
- A tractor is used to dig a hole in the windrow into which the waste is poured and then covered.
- Once the waste is poured out and covered, the waste buckets are washed and returned to their original sites.
- The food waste breaks down into nutrient-rich compost, and is applied to fields at Kingman Farm.
- Food waste from all UNH dining halls (Stillings, Philbrook, Holloway), as well as the UNH Memorial Union Building (MUB) and some residence halls/apartments, is brought to Kingman Farm.
- Approximately 25,000 to 40,000 pounds of food waste are collected per month during the academic year. More than 200,000 pounds per year are composted.
- Since summer 2006, UNH Dining staff have been collecting food waste and bringing it to Kingman Farm. Prior to that, Sustainability Institute compost interns collected the food waste. Five interns were hired during the academic year, and two were hired during the summer.
- In spring 2021, UNH Hospitality offered students who want to compost their own personal food waste (from outside the dining halls) a way to do so. UNH provided 3-gallon collection containers and participating students would bring their food waste to the nearest dining hall and put it into a designated compost bucket. There were two ground rules: 1) Don’t bring already-rotted food. 2) Bring it to a drop-off location a couple of times a week, if not more.