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Thursday, May 13, 2021

One cup closer to a compostable campus

// Photo by Michaela Vue
Red Square now supplies four compost receptacles referred to as the Bigbelly bins. // Photo by Michaela Vue

The cups are just the beginning. As of Jan 5. all hot and cold coffee cups, lids, straws, and coffee jackets are compostable on Western’s campus, said Stephen Wadsworth, resident district manager for Western dining and Aramark.

Western is one of two colleges in the nation to use Starbucks’ compostable cups; The University of Washington was the first, Wadsworth said in an email. Other schools use their own compostable cups due to supply and distribution struggles, he said.

While the cups have always been compostable, the lids were not, sustainability manager Seth Vidana said.

About half of Western’s total waste from public garbages around campus and the dorms comes from compostable products such as paper towels, cups, food and compostable plastic, Vidana said.

Paper cups in volume account for 10 percent of total trash, Vidana said.

Western is still working to make sure 100 percent of compostable items go into the compost receptacles, Vidana said.

To encourage students to use reusable cups rather than add to what estimates say is 2,500 cups per day, Zero Waste Western is running the annual Coffee Cup Challenge through February, said Zero Waste coordinator Gwen Larned.

“Students, staff and faculty can submit a selfie of them and their travel mug on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter by [using] #CoffeeCupChallenge and tagging us @ZeroWasteWWU to be entered to win super cool prizes from local businesses,” she said.

Although it is preferred that students use reusable cups, Vidana said he wants to provide a portable option that is easy to dispose of.

A Starbucks employee sets down an order utilizing the new completely compostable cups. // Photo by Michaela Vue
A Starbucks employee sets down an order utilizing the new completely compostable cups. // Photo by Michaela Vue

“More people are using the paper cups versus reusable mugs by a long shot,” Vidana said. “It’s literally thousands of cups that are generated every day on campus.”

Emily McCracken, a student, said many people see the three bins, get confused and end up throwing everything in the trash because they don’t want to deal with it.

“I think there needs to be information about what you can put in the composting and what you can put in recycling just so that when you get to the bin, you’re not suddenly flustered,” McCracken said.

Not every building has a compost option, Vidana said.

Red Square had four compostable receptacles that are called the Bigbelly bins installed this quarter, Vidana said.

The goal is to get compost receptacles along the public walkway from north to south campus, Vidana said. Having compost bins along the walkway will allow for easy access both inside or outside any building, Vidana said.

Western needs more funding to get more bins along the walkway next year, Vidana said.

“Any request on campus competes with many other important requests for limited funding,” Vidana said.

If someone throws compostable items in a landfill rather than compost receptacles, it will just sit there like regular trash, Vidana said


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