Great collaborations often spring from the most random conversations. Take, for instance, a conversation between University of Regina's Dean of Science Douglas Farenick and staff when he casually expressed frustration that he had to take his single-use yogurt containers home for recycling. URegina had a limited campus recycling program and as a result the majority of their trash ended up in local landfills.
Farenick turned to two of his staff — Lee Aument, faculty administrator and Vincent Ignatiuk, science operations co-ordinator — to look into setting up a more robust recycling process on campus. Aument and Ignatiuk had already been looking into ways to improve their university's sustainability initiatives.
According to Aument, "As an institution, I feel the University of Regina should be a community leader and example for others. We wanted to significantly increase a recycling presence on campus."
With the dean's support and renewed energy, he and Ignatiuk were encouraged to reach out to peer institutions and explore tangible recycling options.
In search of: Forever home for recycling and waste bins
At the same time, University of Calgary recycling and solid waste co-ordinator Ana Pazmino was looking to find a permanent home for approximately 2,500 waste and recycling bins.
In 2018, the university had moved to a four-stream, standard-sized bin diversion process for trash, mixed recycling, refundable containers and compost. The university required new bins to comply with a City of Calgary initiative that would impose fines on organizations that did not properly process and divert recycling and compost from the landfill. Further, the four-stream bin process helps propel the university toward its 2020 target of averting 80 per cent of waste from landfills and its aspirational goal of being a zero-waste community.
Says Pazmino, "When Vincent reached out, he was simply interested in learning how a bigger university was able to standardize all waste bins and I was happy to answer his questions."
She explains that during their conversation, "[I] mentioned 'hey by the way the old bins need a home' and he jumped at the opportunity."
Flash forward to early April, Aument and Ignatiuk flew out to Calgary to check out the university's old bin stock. They were delighted with what they saw and immediately agreed to take all remaining bins —approximately 2,500 of varying sizes, plus 50-plus outdoor covers.
"The only change," Aument jokes, "the bins would need a URegina sticker to cover the existing UCalgary logo."
"The ability to bring recycling to the University of Regina is something in everyone’s interest," he adds seriously. "The environmental capital and additional savings will help us streamline our processes and offer both indoor and outdoor recycling and trash collection. Gaining the bins was a very large win for the University of Regina."
For Pazmino, finding a suitable home and reuse for the bins was great, but "helping other universities attain their waste diversion goals is an even bigger win for us."