USC recovery increase 66 percent

The Client

The University of South Carolina’s (USC) flagship campus is located in Columbia, South Carolina. USC is home to more than 31,000 students studying in 324 degree programs. The University is committed to developing and maintaining an environment that enhances human health and fosters a transition toward sustainability.

The Challenge

USC’s recycling program began in 1989 with the organization of a Recycling Task Force. Since that time, USC’s recycling has expanded to include the majority of campus with USC’s Environmental Services Department providing a wide range of recycling opportunities.

The Office of Sustainability oversees campus sustainability at USC. They not only provide a mission and vision for the campus, they also develop goals, campaigns and green teams to make sustainability actionable.

The Environmental Services Department is committed to continuous improvement in demonstrating institutional practices that promote sustainability, including increasing efficiency and use of renewable resources, and decreasing production of solid waste and hazardous materials. As a part of these goals, the Environmental Services Department was tasked to partner with the Office of Sustainability to work on the following long-term goals.

  • Increase overall recycling rate to 40% by 2015,
  • Divert 75% of construction and demolition waste by 2015,
  • Become a zero waste campus by 2050,
  • Change campus culture to improve campus cleanliness and recycling,
  • Reduce the hours to clean classroom litter by 20% by 2012.

USC study timelineThe Solution

In an effort to fulfill their institutional commitment, promote sustainability, and increase their efficiency and effectiveness, USC hired RRS at the end of 2010 to help bring best practices and program recommendations to the Environmental Services Department for their waste reduction, recycling services and general waste collection operation.

RRS spent significant time on campus to research and compare the existing program against best practices, understand regional capabilities, and prepare an analysis in a financial framework to provide solid and actionable recommendations for USC to capitalize upon.

The study and its components serve as a benchmarking resource and program development roadmap for USC. Flow charts detailing waste stream management and financial modeling spreadsheets are great tools that enhance accountability within the sustainability program. RRS provided USC with actionable items and documents to help expand the reach of current waste reduction and sustainability efforts.

  • Comprehensive solid waste audit and report
  • Comprehensive waste management services financial audit
  • Future campus and student trend analysis affecting solid waste services/operation
  • Campus-wide waste reduction and recycling recommendations
  • Comprehensive waste reduction and recycling implementation plan
  • Comprehensive list of regionally available recycling and landfill facilities
  • Best practices from other universities
  • Description of waste reduction programs at Southeastern Conference schools

The Result

Campus recovery has increased by 66% from 2011. USC has gone from a 9% recycling rate to 15% recycling rate in 2013.

Based on RRS’ roadmap, USC has since started a pilot program for single stream recycling in a number of select high-profile buildings on campus. One of those is the Thomas Cooper library. USC is adding new single stream sites strategically and is limited by their ability to purchase new bins and therefore favor taking a methodical approach to full program roll-out.

The single stream program works well inside the buildings, and has allowed the Environmental Services Department to transfer the labor required for recycling collection from recycling services staff to the custodial staff that were already assigned to each building. In the pilot buildings USC applied RRS’ recommendations to create a new paired bin system. This matches a single stream recycling bin in all locations where there is a trash bin. This process has also allowed for the implementation of standardized bin design in the common areas, and allows the custodial staff to follow the same pathway to service trash and recycling sites, thereby creating a labor cost savings for USC.