The beginnings of this project lay in our belief that sustainable development is as much a process of social, institutional and structural change as it is the closing of resource loops. If we are to meet the environmental challenge before dramatic ecological changes take place, we will need to learn how to mobilize whole communities toward achieving sustainability targets. 'Recycling the Budget' is as much about how the campus community can be mobilized in this broad sense as it is about improving participation in its recycling programs.

The University of Waterloo's recycling system currently consists of two elements:

The University ensures that a collection system for recyclables exists and details how this system is best used. While these are critical elements to the success of any recycling program, they are not, in and of themselves, able to facilitate the kind of community mobilization we believe essential if the majority of recyclables are to be diverted from the landfill-bound waste stream. The recycling system, as structured, relies almost exclusively on the individual's native desire to recycle. It does not, in any systematic or obvious sense, actively nurture or encourage this desire to recycle within the individual.

We believe that in order to encourage this desire within the individual, and in turn more successfully capture recyclables from entering the landfill-bound waste stream, three additional elements need to be incorporated into the recycling system:

In short, if a meaningful motivation to recycle is provided, if both individuals (students, staff and faculty) and administrations are actively included in the waste management process, and if seamless administrative support for recycling initiatives is present a real environment for change could be fostered. With such an environment in place new behaviors could be encouraged, new infrastructures could be developed, and individual initiative could nurtured. Of these three outcomes, the stimulation of individual initiative is perhaps the most important. The most intimate knowledge of campus systems resides in the individual. If these systems are to be structured such that sustainability targets are supported, applying this experience is essential. If the individual is encouraged by meaningful levels of administration this resource is likely to be much better utilized.

We felt that one way to incorporate motivation, inclusiveness and support into the waste management system would be to alter the way the waste management system is administered. The basic idea is this: the entire waste management budget for the University of Waterloo would be divided proportionately among faculties and university departments. Each faculty would be given this allotment at the beginning of the year and pay Plant Operations for waste management services out of this budget. Any money that might remain as a result of reducing landfill-bound waste flows through aggressive recycling programs would be considered discretionary funds for the faculty. As can be seen, this model brings a financial motivation to a wider number of the campus administrations, and with this widened administrative base, individual initiatives designed to increase recycling would be better supported and encouraged.

The model was also very useful because it was flexible. For example, if we found that the financial motivation was not sufficiently attractive at a per faculty level, the system could be converted into a lottery. Savings and revenues resulting from recycling could be pooled, and those faculties which exhibited the best performance could win the pool.

Before this partially decentralized waste management system can be seriously explored, one must first establish that there is a reason to consider changing the existing system. In addition to improving recycling performance, a worthy justification in itself, the authors sought to determine if either individual faculties or the university as a whole would benefit financially from the proposed system. It is this specific question that 'Recycling the Budget' endeavors to address.


2.1 Basic Definition

The Brundtland Report provides a basic definition of sustainability, namely that development be conducted in a manner which allows present generations to meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. The Report, in this manner, successfully represents the system of economy and environment as an interdependent whole. Traditionally this has found expression in initiatives such as those listed below:

2.2 Implications

The Brundtland Report, in addition to providing the basic definition given above, also suggested that efforts must be made to make qualitative changes in institutional arrangements and decision-making processes at all levels. This implies a larger set of considerations, including:

  1. Reducing the dramatic inequalities between nations
  2. Closing the gap between wealth and poverty
  3. Forming a cohesive world community
  4. Meeting the material and spiritual needs of humanity
  5. Fostering participatory decision-making processes
  6. Supporting grass-roots democracy

These deeper dimensions suggest that sustainable development is not just a form or pattern of development but rather a process of society- or civilization-wide transformation. Framed in this manner, several other concerns or challenges must be addressed, and as such, must be considered implicit elements of sustainable development. These include:

Sustainability is, therefore, a complex multi-dimensional concept and as such allows for a wide range of expressions. Any model of a green University of Waterloo will need to keep these far ranging aspects well in mind if it is to be comprehensive. It is this longer view which inspired the present research and its hope of mobilizing the entire campus community.


The goal of this study was to determine the financial incentive to divert all recyclables from the landfill-bound waste stream at both the university and faculty levels. This goal was served by fulfilling the following objectives:

Determine landfilling costs

This was calculated by totaling the landfill collection service fee, the tipping fees and the tax charges involved in landfilling materials. All figures used in this calculation were based on 1995 accounts and waste flows.

Determine recycling costs

This was simply a matter of reviewing the collection contract for recyclables on-campus. Several haulers were involved.

Determine potential recycling revenues

This was determined by totaling the value of all projected recyclables in the waste stream. The waste stream content projections were based on a 1992 visual audit of campus waste flows.

Calculate a waste management balance sheet

This calculation was performed at two levels, one at the university level and the other at individual faculty levels. The concept is simple, total all incomes and expenses associated with waste management on campus and calculate an overall balance. If the balance is positive, waste management has become a money making proposition. Several scenarios were considered, though only three individual faculties (Arts, Math and Optometry) could be examined due to data limitations.

Last updated April 21, 1996. das