Recent initiatives to embrace sustainability at the University of Southern California include installing 120 new bins with separate waste and recycling sections in academic and administration buildings on the University Park Campus. An additional 60 recycling bins have been installed at USC Village and outdoors across campus. USC also is composting more of its food scraps in residential dining facilities and encouraging football fans to recycle while tailgating on campus during game days.

Leading the charge is Ellen Dux, programs manager in the USC Office of Sustainability, alongside other sustainability colleagues like Gina Whisenant from USC Facilities Management Services and Nichelle Mitchell-Huizar from USC Auxiliary Services. Together, they are pushing green initiatives to ensure that USC meets the ambitious goals of its Sustainability 2020 Plan. Among the targets: USC will divert 75 percent of its waste from local landfills by 2020. Even if the university achieves the milestone, it will need to keep improving. The city of Los Angeles has mandated 90 percent diversion by 2025. “Right now, we are at about 44 percent,” Dux said. “So we are going to have to take some really aggressive steps in the next few years to get to that level.”

A small increase in recycling and composting can have a big impact, by virtue of the staggering amount of garbage produced on the University Park Campus, including USC Village. Between August and November 2018, USC disposed of 1,276 tons of solid waste, 714 tons of recycling and 218 tons of compost. The university also recovered 54 tons of food waste during the same period. “Last year, Trojans generated over 12,000 tons of waste on campus, and about half of that amount ended up in local landfills,” Dux said. “We can definitely do better in terms of reducing and diverting more of that waste, and it’s something the university is making a major priority.”

As critical as those efforts are to pull recyclable and compostable material out of the waste stream, university leaders are also emphasizing a broader focus on minimizing trash. “We need to increase our opportunities to reduce and reuse whenever possible,” said Whisenant, USC’s waste and recycling supervisor. “Eliminating the waste before having to dispose of it is the key to protecting our environment and reaching our goals.”

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