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Student ambassadors help divert waste at Seneca

Waste-reduction initiative ongoing


Atish Pereira (right), a student in the Energy Management — Built Environment program, explains to a fellow student in the Newnham Campus cafeteria about Seneca's waste diversion program. Atish is one of the student ambassadors hired by Facilities Management to promote Seneca's waste reduction initiative.

Twenty-nine African elephants.

Or more than 145 metric tons.

That’s how much cardboard, paper and compost Seneca diverted from the landfill for the better part of last year.

As part of an internal waste-reduction initiative, Facilities Management hired a group of student ambassadors and implemented new signage last spring to promote Seneca’s waste diversion program.

The result, based on Seneca’s monthly waste collection data, was a 75 per cent increase in compostable material collected between April and December of 2017 as compared to the same period the year before.

Overall, Facilities Management found that campuses with more ambassadors experienced greater increases in waste diversion activities.

For example, with eight ambassadors, Newnham Campus saw the most significant increase in its compostable diversion rate, which shot up to 34.4 per cent in December 2017 from 14.3 per cent in April 2017.

In addition to assisting with reducing campus waste, the student ambassadors helped to change behaviours and develop a culture of environmental responsibility.

You may have seen them standing beside waste collection bins in the cafeteria, telling people that, for example, pizza slice trays should be composted, not recycled.

“That’s one of the questions we get asked most frequently,” says Atish Pereira, one of the ambassadors. “Most people think pizza slice trays should be recycled, however, due to the oil residue that remains, it’s actually compostable.”

Increases in compostable diversion rate at Seneca between April 2017 and December 2017*

  • Newnham Campus: 14.3% - 34.4%
  • Markahm Campus: 12.8% - 28.8%
  • King Campus: 11.2% - 20.9%
  • Seneca@York Campus: 30% - 36%

*Based on Seneca's monthly collection data

Atish is a student in the Energy Management — Built Environment program. He’s also a member of Seneca’s Environmental Sustainability Committee.

“The students I’ve met are very curious about the different waste collection bins we have,” he says. “A lot of them care about the environment because less landfills means more natural space.”

Paula Echeveste Petrone is a Sustainability Business Management grad who has been working with Facilities Management to co-ordinate sustainable initiatives such as the waste ambassadors on campus.

“What we’ve found is that by increasing the number of ambassadors on each campus, we can significantly improve the waste diversion practices at Seneca,” she says.

As Ontario plans to become a zero-waste province, Paula believes Seneca needs to be proactive and innovative when it comes to handling waste.

“A crucial component of increasing our diversion rate is educating people about how we can all take part in reducing the amount of waste we send to landfill,” she says. “Because the majority of Seneca’s population is students, it’s important to include them in the conversation and to educate them about waste diversion, so they can share their knowledge with their friends and classmates, creating a dialogue to generate change.”


Paula Echeveste Petrone, a Seneca grad working with Facilities Management, checks on the waste and recycling compactors at Newnham Campus. The system, Pandora, sends a notification to the waste hauler when the compactor reaches 75 per cent full. An innovative electronic monitoring software, Pandora is also installed at King and Seneca@York campuses to help Seneca reduce its carbon footprint by avoiding unnecessary pickups.