Back-to-school BBQ limits waste

The UNMC back-to-school barbecue took place two weeks ago, welcoming students and staff back to campus. It was a hot day with around 800 people in attendance to play games, socialize, eat food and listen to fun music. In total, 803 meals were served.


The past two years, this was a zero waste event, meaning at least 90% of all the waste generated in preparation and during the event was diverted from the landfill — either by being composted or recycled. This year, the diversion rate was 71% — slightly below the zero waste threshold. Below are the quantities sent to each end destination:

  • Compost: 88 lbs.
  • Recycling: 12 lbs.
  • Cardboard: 16 lbs.
  • Hefty EnergyBag (soft plastics): Five lbs.
  • Landfill: 43 lbs.

Of a total of 164 pounds of waste, 116 were diverted. A diversion rate of 71% is pretty high, but there is room for improvement. The wrapping around the food, condiment packets, table covers and other random items could not be recycled or composted, which contributed heavily to the landfill bin. Chip bags and other soft plastics were placed in orange Hefty EnergyBags but were not counted as diverted waste because these materials are not yet being recycled — they are still sent to be burned for energy. The plates, utensils, food, leftover liquids and any wet cardboard was all composted. Water bottles, aluminum cans, plastic cups and cardboard were recycled. Volunteers stood at each waste station and helped students and staff sort their waste into the correct bin, raising awareness and educating the attendees on waste management.

A special thanks to Verdis Group for volunteering their time to help stand by waste stations and weigh the waste at the end of the event, UNMC staff and HEAL volunteers that helped plan and clean up the event afterwards, Sodexo for catering the event and Hillside for providing the compost bins.

Making events zero waste helps the med center reach their goal of creating net zero waste by 2030. You can help at future events by ensuring people are putting their waste into the correct bin and checking out our Zero Waste Event toolkit.

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