Incorporating Trash Disposal in Early Design Strategies and Expanding Education and Certification on Zero Waste and Waste Reduction

By Devina Lee Sheng Tin,
USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter Member

The world around us is constantly shaping our actions and our built environment is no different. Design plays an important part in the future of sustainability and zero waste efforts. The buildings we live and work in have the ability to impact everything from who we come in contact with for the day to the amount of trash we are able to divert from landfills.

Trash disposal is typically an aspect of design that is overlooked when planning the layout of a space. Without a waste plan as part of the early design strategies, money and resources are lost due to the increased labor required to maintain the building.

The Zero Waste Design Guidelines (zerowastedesign.org) is a resource developed to help designers, building operators and planners meet New York City’s ambitious goal to send zero waste to landfills by 2030. Their research includes layouts for commercial and residential buildings, design best practices for trash collection and diversion, and more. In their plans, you can see how the use of chutes and sorting bins in public spaces increases the likelihood of waste being properly sorted. Convenience and ease of access are the most important factors in determining whether a person will prioritize sending an item to landfill or properly recycling, and/or, composting the material.

New York City’s built environment is obviously quite different than the majority of the St. Louis region, the Zero Waste Guidelines reminds us of one message that is true for all – “treating waste as a resource rather than trash depends on our ability to easily separate and manage our waste.”

You may have heard news recently of changes to recycling. Recycling processors have been affected by shifting global markets for recyclables. Locally, recycling processors in the St. Louis Region are alerting recyclers to several issues, and there’s much that we – those who are already recycling – can do to address these issues!

The Recycle Responsibly Campaign was launched by OneSTL’s Materials and Recycling working group to educate residents. Their motto: Stick with the Six! Only six materials should go into any recycling bin: paper, flattened cardboard, plastic bottles and containers, glass bottles and jars, metal food and beverage cans, and food and beverage cartons. These materials should be loose, clean and dry to keep food waste out of our recycling stream. And plastic bags and plastic film should never be included. They create huge problems by jamming machinery in recycling facilities. Visit www.recycleresponsibly.org to learn more.

For those aiming to go beyond recycling responsibly to diverting ALL solid waste from the landfill, the TRUE certification is a great way to gain recognition. The certification has participants meet a series of guidelines and requirements that focuses not only on waste diversion but on upstream policies and practices as well.

Incorporating all three areas outlined above extends the range of participation of an eco-conscious individual from the immediate surroundings of the building he lives in, to a much broader vision of waste disposal and waste reduction for the community.