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ryals zero waste initiativeThe UAB School of Public Health is proud to launch the Ryals Zero Waste Initiative, a pilot effort at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), to develop sustainable waste protocols among faculty, staff, and students, and to ultimately assist in reducing landfill waste from the Ryals School of Public Health building. New waste protocols supporting the Ryals Zero Waste Initiative will occur in two phases, in alignment with UAB Sustainability Strategic Plan and with support from UAB Facilities. The Point of Contact for this project is Julie Price: juliegp@uab.edu.

Phase 1: 

Phase 1 of the Ryals Zero Waste Initiative will begin August 23, 2021 and will include two new waste disposal policies. The first policy under Phase 1, which was put into place during the COVID-19 Pandemic, asks that Employees of the School of Public Health begin placing their individual trash bins outside of their office doors at the end of every workday for pickup. Building Services will cruise through each suite, tip the cans to empty waste, and unless soiled or wet, will leave the bin liner in each individual garbage can to reduce plastic waste. Large, common area trashcans will still be pulled on their own, including liners. The second policy under Phase 1 is to begin use of our new, 4-stream waste receptacles, located at the end of every main hallway in Ryals. Eliminating the need for the building services team to enter individual offices every day will allow more time for enhanced cleaning in public spaces, as well as time for the separation of waste into the 4-stream waste receptacles. You may have noticed these new bins, which are now open for use and offer streams for paper, locally recyclable plastics, aluminum, and landfill. Employees and students are invited to begin using the 4-stream receptacles now and are welcome to stop use of individual garbage bins altogether if preferred, to prepare for Phase 2,which will remove most free-standing trash cans in the Ryals Building, including those in individual offices. An official School of Public Health communication will be distributed announcing launch date of Phase 2 in the coming months. 

Phase 2: 

Phase 2 of the Ryals Zero Waste Initiative will include the removal and discontinuation of service of most free-standing trash cans in the Ryals Building to encourage primary use of the 4-stream receptacles, with the exception of cans in the bathrooms and breakrooms. Individual trash pickup will be removed, and employees and students will be asked to take the personal responsibility of walking any waste to their floor’s 4-stream waste receptacles. The end goal of the Ryals Zero Waste Initiative is to remove individual trash cans altogether, supporting a reduction of landfill waste that could otherwise be recycled, and to encourage more thoughtful consumption and waste disposal habits within our school. For example, when an individual packs their lunch, now that individual office bins are no longer available, they may consider bringing food in reusable Tupperware rather than a plastic sandwich bag. Or, if a student brings a plastic water bottle to class and finishes their drink halfway through the lecture, they will now wait to recycle the bottle in the hallway bins after class, rather than throwing it away in their classroom trashcan. The launch date for Phase 2 will be determined in the coming months.

The “Why”

  • According to a recent UAB Sustainability report, UAB Hospital and University campuses throw away almost 3,000 tons of combined waste per year. UAB already recycles and repurposes a significant percentage of our waste. But, to get us to the next phase of serious waste reduction, responsibility, education, and infrastructure is required on the individual level to reduce the amount of waste generated in buildings and to increase the ability to recycle what can be recycled.
  • An average American generates roughly 4.9 pounds of landfill waste every day.
  • Not only is it important to recycle waste, but even more important is to reduce the waste that we generate since recycling still uses energy, water, and other resources in the transportation and recycling processes. The best waste is that which is not generated at all.
  • In a society where the culture of “use and throw away” is increasingly widespread and where products become waste in an instant, changing our habits is incredibly difficult. We should even prioritize not generating or producing waste over recycling it. Consider the small ways you might be able to reduce waste through new habits like carrying a reusable water bottle. Some of these new habits might also save money!
  • If you are in a position of purchasing supplies or items for events on behalf of the School of Public Health, consider the ways that you might reduce waste on the front end. For example, departments might switch to rechargeable batteries instead of disposable batteries. For events, consult UAB Sustainability’s Green Events Guide for ways to reduce the environmental impact of events and further promote a culture of sustainability among our SOPH community.


Take a moment to thank the Ryals Building Services employees

  • Floors 1 and 2: Cheryl Merkerson
  • Floors 3 and 4: Jacqueline McCall
  • Floors 5 and 6: Lakeyia Wilson

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