Campus trash sort reveals student

Their white jumpsuits, protective gloves, and shoe coverings could easily have been mistaken for Halloween costumes. But these students weren?t looking for Halloween candy; they were rummaging through the trash.
Last Tuesday, representatives from Green Practice, EARTH, and Sustainable Students met in the grass between Doherty Hall and the Purnell Center to sort through the trash collected from 12 academic and residential buildings on campus. Sifting through the garbage, they separated items that could be recycled but were instead thrown away. They weighed the garbage before and after separation to calculate how much of the trash could have been recycled.

?We hope to show people that too much of what could be recycled is going into the trash, and we want to tell the information to everyone we can,? said Helen Davis, a senior civil and environmental engineering major.
So how well does CMU recycle?
Not very: over 38 percent of the trash placed in regular waste receptacles could have been recycled. The results were more discouraging on an individual basis; in Baker/Porter Hall alone, over 60 percent of potentially recycled material was thrown away.

The groups? intention for the project is to raise awareness about recycling and to see if the shortcomings of recycling are a result of students or the maintenance collecting it. ?We found a little of both,? Davis said.
?The students are putting recyclables in the recycling bins, and then the [maintenance] workers are shoving the recycling bags in with the trash. We?d find [recycling] bags inside of [trash] bags,? said Camille Fisher, a first-year H&SS student and member of Sustainable Students.
The participants also found numerous bags of recycled office paper in the trash. ?People probably thought they were recycling by gathering all their extra paper, and then workers were just tossing them in with the bigger trash bags,? remarked Fisher. ?We realized something needed to be said about that.?
According to Davis, recycling is an important issue for students and maintenance to pay attention to. ?We will run out of room in the landfills. Particularly on this campus we could save money by recycling because we will send out less trash.?