Sustainable Duke: Procurement & Waste

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Liu, Yang
Shepherd, John


Clark, Charlotte

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This report examines Duke University’s Procurement Department and Waste Reduction & Recycling Department to identify opportunities for environmental improvement. With regard to waste reduction and recycling, we conducted two different waste reduction and recycling efforts to increase Duke’s 39 % recycling rate, thereby lowering the amount of trash the University sends to the landfill. We conducted a series of waste audits to better understand Duke’s to-landfill stream. Our audits revealed that 47% of the material sent to the landfill could have been recycled, and that 23% could have been composted. Second, we investigated whether Duke should consider switching to single-stream recycling (versus multiple-stream). We created models project potential impacts if Duke were to transition to single-stream recycling; the models predict that transitioning could: reduce Duke’s annual tipping fee by up to$46,568 and reduce the commensurate CO2e emissions by up to 281 tons CO2e. With regard to Procurement, we evaluated the effectiveness of Duke’s current sustainable procurement policies and practices through website information review and interviews. Additionally, we investigated the widely varying sustainable procurement approaches used by thirty other institutions of higher education to evaluate their relative merits. Our work resulted in a list of recommendations to improve upon Dukes already successful model. Regarding waste management, we suggest that Duke implements single-stream recycling and post-consumer compost collection program simultaneously on campus. Regarding procurement, we recommend that Duke moves to a more centralized purchasing system and propose several suggestions to promote sustainable purchasing.





Liu, Yang, and John Shepherd (2013). Sustainable Duke: Procurement & Waste. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.