Working Groups

Resource Use

Where does your waste go?

Waste is a side of sustainability that we interact with every day of our lives. For most people, thinking about waste stops when they throw it away. But where is "away"?

A campus newspaper sitting on top of the Sycamore Ridge Landfill near Terre Haute, Indiana

A campus newspaper atop the Sycamore Ridge Landfill near Terre Haute, Indiana

IU is serious about diverting waste from the landfill. But sustainable waste management involves more than just recycling; it requires us to look not just “downstream” to our waste’s destination, but also “upstream” to its origins.

As an example, consider a standard sheet of office paper. Because traditional disposal methods such as landfilling are expensive and damaging to the environment, ensuring that the piece of paper ends up in a recycling bin is important. However, we can’t stop there. What resources were used in production and how were they extracted? Under what conditions did the workers who manufactured the paper work? How far was the paper shipped to market, and by what means? And of course, did that piece of paper really need to be used or even purchased in the first place?