On October 12th, Friday of last week, about two dozen students spent three hours sorting through campus waste in the Student Experience Center Plaza. They were students from Professor Ann Scheerer’s SUS 304 Sustainability Assessment class, sorting campus waste as one component of a class project. The goal of the waste audit was to see how much waste ended up in recycling bins and how much recyclable material ended up in the trash cans. Due to new regulations from China, significantly fewer items are able to be recycled at OSU, so this is a time when many students are not sure what can and cannot be recycled. Data collected from the waste audit will be helpful for assessing students’ current recycling habits and for creating a less contaminated recycling stream in the future. If we are able to drastically reduce the contamination in our recycling stream, China may begin accepting a greater diversity of materials again. For a full overview of the new OSU recycling guidelines, acceptable materials, and not-accepted materials, visit Campus Recycling’s website.
The Sustainability Assessment class was outfitted with tyvek jumpsuits, gloves, and masks, in order to stay safe amongst all of the contamination. Then the students were divided up into teams of four and each team was assigned to a station. Each station contained waste from a different location on campus; for example, one station received all of its waste from the dining halls. The students conducted the audit in two rounds. In the first round, students sorted waste that was originally deposited in recycling bins, into a series of other bins divided up by material type. In the second round they did the same, but with waste that was originally tossed in the trash. This allowed students to not only assess the recycling stream, but also to decontaminate it.