December 28, 2011
Sometimes we find homeless people in the Weekly's carport, sifting through the trash.
But on a recent rainy Monday, the man sorting through a week's worth of office offal is LEED pointman Levi Jimenez. And he's discovering that we've got a lot of room to improve at recycling.
He's organized the contents of one 96-gallon garbage bin into piles while his BuildingWise co-worker, Max Perelman, takes notes.
Turns out only 48 percent of the trash in this bin, by volume, should actually be sent to the landfill. Another 35 percent belongs with the mixed recyclables, 15 percent is recyclable or compostable paper towels, and 2 percent is compostable food waste.
That's just one of 10 bins Jimenez plans to sort through today—two landfill, seven recycling and one yard waste. The trash collection is shared by all of the building's tenants, including the Weekly, BuildingWise, Paragon Drug & Alcohol Testing Services and Chez Christian Real Estate.
Perelman says the building can cut its garbage fees in half by scaling back to one trash bin. We can also improve our bin labeling, give employees a refresher on what's recyclable, and make our vermicompost box more accessible. Especially since Jimenez, finding our worms lacking, added a few hundred red wrigglers to the mix.
Another tip: We need to separate our CSA boxes for re-use by Serendipity Farms. Since the veggie cartons are waxed, they can't be recycled. But the empty boxes from Weekly's other food ritual, Tuesday night pizza, can.
Clamshell containers made from potato and corn starches are also prevalent in our trash since the city of Seaside phased out expanded polystyrene packaging. Ironically, the biodegradable containers can't be recycled or even composted, except in an industrial facility, so to the landfill they go.
The trash analysis is part of two LEED points: MR-6, a waste audit; and MR-7, an ongoing effort to divert at least 50 percent of the building's waste away from the landfill. Since Waste Management doesn't offer its own audit, Jimenez plans to shuffle through the building's garbage every week for three months.
His biggest shocker to date: Discovering that hundreds of pounds of newspapers per week have been going to the landfill instead of being recycled.
The Weekly fills about three bins with "returns," the old newspapers brought back to the office when the new issue hits the stands, every week. Two of those bins were mistakenly marked as trash. To confirm his suspicions, Jimenez watched one Tuesday morning as a Waste Management hauling truck dumped the two bins full of newspaper into the landfill-bound garbage truck.
In November, Jimenez called Waste Management and had the green landfill bins swapped out for blue recycling ones, re-routing almost 200 gallons of newsprint per week for their proper reincarnation.