Thursday, December 3, 2009

Half is Trash

Students in my Environmental Science (ENV211) class conducted an audit of the trash in Wolfe Hall this afternoon. Chris gets the gold star for collecting the trash during common hours. What did we find in these round receptacles of waste?

Trash from about 12 classrooms was collected for a total of about 15 lbs. Of the 15 lbs, 7 lbs were recyclable items (paper, plastic bottles, and glass bottles). Almost 50% of the weight of the trash were items that could be recycled! These results are very alarming and indicate that we still have a lot of work to do on the recycling front.

While digging through the trash we decided to separate out the empty coffee cups. The first observation was that people need to finish their coffee or dump the liquid someplace else. It was a mess. We collected about 1 lb of paper coffee cups. We then decided to sort them to determine where they were coming from. Maybe this data will help us reduce the issue at the source. We had 49 paper coffee cups in the trash. Of the 49, 33 came from the dining hall, 12 were from our campus coffee vendor Peet's, 2 were from Dunkin Donuts, 2 from Starbucks, and 1 from an unknown vendor. Why aren't students using reusable mugs?

While it won't be popular, it may be time to force an increase in use of reusable mugs by eliminating the free dispersal of paper coffee cups from the dining hall. I will not gain popularity by pushing that idea but I am starting to think it is time. Not only is there an environmental impact but the coffee cups in the trash make an absolute mess that our cleaning staff has to deal with every night.

We are working on getting a recycling bin located next to every trash bin on campus. Cost is the big issue. We are slowly purchasing more bins but it is not in the budget to do it in one fell swoop. Any donors out there? We'll gladly put your name on all the bins!

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