Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Waste Audit

Students in my Environmental Science class participated in a waste audit today. It was on a small scale but still the data is quite revealing. The data gives us an indication as to how well our new recycling system is working. We collected all the waste from the classroom and hallway garbage cans in Wolfe Hall. We then sorted the waste into different categories. Here is what we found:
  • 31% cans and bottles
  • 53% waste (12% from paper coffee cups)
  • 10% paper
  • 7% other plastic
Recycling for cans and bottles as well as paper is available in the hallway of these buildings and yet 41% of our waste contains recyclables. Also striking is the amount of waste from paper coffee cups. Paper coffee cups represent 12% of our waste in this building. Clearly a Lug-a-Mug campaign is needed.

We then collected all the material in the recycling bins and found the following:
  • 58% cans and bottles
  • 17% paper
  • 11% other plastic
  • 11% paper coffee cups
The data highlights two problems. First students are not placing recyclables into the bins. Second students are placing items that cannot be recycled into the recycling bins. We recovered 4.5 lbs of cans and bottles from the garbage cans and only 2.5 lbs of cans and bottles from the recycling bins. The culture needs to change on our campus. We also found plastic and paper coffee cups in the recycling that we currently cannot recycle. This indicates to me that students want to recycle these items and think these items can be recycled in our system.

Where do we go from here? Next week I am going to run an experiment. I think to increase recycling in the academic buildings each classroom needs recycling stations or we need to remove all garbage cans in each classroom. Bins in each classroom is not an option right now because the recycling budget is dry. I will test the hypothesis that students will recycle more if there are no garbage cans in classrooms because it forces them into the hallway to throw items away where they will see the recycling bins. My colleague thinks my hypothesis will not be supported and students will just pile their waste in the classroom along the wall. I'm confident Lasell students are better than that.

1 comment:

Bobbie said...

Good luck with this!