Unnecessary trash clutters campus, audit finds

One person looks through garbage that is in on a tarp in the Union Oval at Bowling Green State University

Environmental Service Club and Environmental Action Group conducted a rescheduled waste audit on Thursday, April 14, to determine how much was being used in certain academic buildings on campus.

Originally planned for April 6, it was rescheduled due to bad weather.

The two groups wore Hazmat suits and took trash from the Business Administration, Eppler, Hayes and Olscamp buildings, dumped the trash onto a tarp near the Union Oval and sorted through it.

They separated the trash among multiple categories: cans, plastic bottles, disposable cups, paper, glass bottles, bathroom trash, compost, cardboard, plastic bags and general plastic. Five of these categories (cans, plastic bottles, disposable cups, glass bottles and plastic bags) are recyclable materials.

A bar graph from the Environmental Service Club tallying their total amount of recyclable waste found.
The count of waste of all recyclable materials. Now that the audit is over, these items will be taken to a recycling center where they will be properly disposed of.

The groups spent eight hours Thursday in the Union Oval, counting the buildings’ waste and monitoring their count on a white board that was displayed outside of the garbage zone. The board was frequently updated throughout the day allowing students to see the progress throughout the day.

The waste audit is meant to see what people are throwing away that could potentially go to other forms of waste disposal such as recycling and composting.

Environmental Service Club president, Lily Murnen said the Union throws out nearly seven tons of trash weekly, which converts to 12,000 to 14,000 pounds.

“By purely looking at pounds trash (428 pounds in total), 45 percent of the waste stream was recyclable or could have been prevented by personal lifestyle decisions or a revised campus policy,” Murnen stated in an email. “Pounds, however, are deceiving and not all types of waste weigh the same amount per item … We audited categories that could be easily counted, we made sure to count them individually along with the weight.”

A bar graph showing the total amount of waste sorted through by the environmental service club
All of the waste that was sorted by Environmental Service Club was separated into 10 categories. The items that cannot be recycled will be taken landfills.

Of all the categories, bathroom trash had 46 pounds of waste, the most of all the categories. The least pounds of waste was general plastic.

Compost, which is a decayed mix of organic matter (such as fruits, vegetables, grass and leaves), accounted for almost five percent of the audit’s waste.

“If BGSU invested in composting, we would be able to reduce this number drastically, she wrote in the email.

While the University does not have a composting program or policy in place, Environmental Action Group has put in another policy that has helped reduce waste in the Student Union.

“There is a policy that (we) put into place at the beginning of the semester,” President Matthew Cunningham said. “Cashiers no longer ask if you would like a bag. It’s a simple policy; just that policy alone has reduced bag consumption on campus by 18,750 in the past two months.”

But Cunningham knows that this policy isn’t the end of his work in the environmental groups.

“We still have a lot of work to go,” he said. “We’re still using almost 2,000 bags every single day on campus.”

Murnen thanked everyone who participated in the audit and helped engage people during the event.

“We hope that you will continue to think about what you buy and throw away and that you will use your voice to push for sustainable reform here on campus.”

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to correct the number for bag consumption reduced from 750 to 18,750
This article was updated by the original author and edited for the web.
This article was originally printed by independent student publication, The BG News, on April 19, 2016 which can be found here.

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