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The following have been endorsed by SOW groups as topics of research interest for the university. Research is encouraged to expand beyond the listed topic. Questions on research topics may be routed through Lissa Larson ( to be forwarded to Operations contacts.

If researchers would like to submit a research topic that is not listed below, it may be considered by the appropriate SOW group. SOW groups meet throughout the year and will need to endorse the operational usefulness of the research project. To attend a SOW group session and propose a research topic, contact Lissa Larson to confirm the upcoming SOW group schedule.

We anticipate funding projects as listed below; however, larger proposals may be considered as $500,000 is available for FY23.

The SOW group developed the following goal, which was endorsed and passed to the Sustainability Office for consideration: “By 2040, we will reduce, reuse, recycle, or compost 100% of our nonhazardous and nonmedical waste.” (Although this excludes hazardous and medical waste, 100% of every generated regulated waste stream will experience some reduction in volume, toxicity, and/or hazard as compared to 2022 standard University practices.)

The SOW identified three research topics:

Campus Waste Audit

Description/Questions to consider:

  • A University-wide waste audit has not been performed.
    • Seeking waste audit/analysis of all waste streams that can inform expected annual waste and be used for planning impact of future spaces/building functions.
    • Audit to capture accurate representation of all U of U facilities, including U of U Health and Aux. partners.
    • Audit plan should address QA/QC process; seasonal variations; special circumstances (e.g. COVID); and/or later regular data reviews to confirm findings

Current Status:

  • Previous audits have been performed on a small scale (available upon request); none in the past 3+ years.

Anticipated Budget: $20,000

Operations Contact:  Josh James, Chris Shirley


Description/Questions to consider:

  • Soft plastics are currently not recycled on campus (only Plastics 1 and 2). There is little downstream market for soft plastic recycling, and soft plastic is often burned for energy.
    • Seeking downstream uses for campus-sorted soft plastics. Expectation that plastics are not burned and are recycled/re-purposed.

Current Status:

  • Soft plastics (all except 1 and 2) are sorted out from campus recycling and sent to landfill.

Anticipated Budget: $30,000

Operations Contact: Josh James

Sorting Technologies

Description/Questions to consider:

  • Waste sorting on campus is labor intensive and done manually to capture just Plastics 1 and 2.
    • Seeking small-scale sorting technologies, processes, or approaches that can be utilized on campus to reduce total waste to landfill and improve operational efficiency.

Current Status:

  • Recycling is sorted manually to address contamination then baled with dedicated bailer (250-300lb/month).

Anticipated Budget: $50,000

Operations Contact:  Josh James, Chris Shirley