In March, the Zilkha Center, CES Professor Pia Kohler, and the Grounds staff coordinated a waste audit of outdoor trash and recycling bins. The goal of this half day activity was to determine what is being thrown away correctly and incorrectly and in which locations. And from there to make recommendations about what sorts of solutions are needed in terms of infrastructure, recycling education, and perhaps even certain purchasing best practices. Professor Kohler’s The Planet’s Plastics Plight course also was interested in looking at what kinds of plastics end up in the trash and recycling containers and so we added a few extra categories to the sort.
The Grounds team did a pick up of trash and recycling bins from selected locations on the Friday and Monday before the sort – prioritizing high-traffic areas and locations that had trash and recycling receptacles side-by-side. The bags were stored in a garage and the cold temperatures kept the smell to a minimum. The “Waste Audit Sorting Party” was open to anyone to join. Student and staff volunteers showed up a few at a time, suited up in full-body Tyvek, tore open bags and sorted them into pre-determined categories that included food, non-food compostables, paper, cardboard, recyclable plastic, non-recyclable plastic, glass, and trash. From 2:30-3:50, students from Professor Kohler’s course spent their class time joining the sort. The contents of each bin was measured by weight and by volume.