April 13, 2011

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(Update: Due to weather, this event has been rescheduled for April 21.)

By Sam Alcorn

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Call it dumpster diving with high purpose.

On April 19, as part of Earth Week 2011, Bucknell University students will don protective gloves and white hazmat suits and wield metal tongs to sort every scrap of trash from two campus buildings for the University's first official waste audit. Rain date is April 21.

Co-sponsored by the Bucknell University Environmental Center's Campus Greening Initiative and the Bucknell facilities department, the goal is to both create community awareness of the campus waste stream and to begin a comprehensive waste audit that will inform new strategies for campus waste reduction and recycling, said Dina El-Mogazi, director of the Campus Greening Initiative.

"Sometimes audits are done for visibility and awareness sake. Some audits are done to specifically find out what's in the municipal solid waste stream, to characterize the waste and to use that information to make better policies," said El-Mogazi. "We are doing both."

Nine categories of waste
From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Science Quad, facilities will transport trash dumpsters from two yet-to-be named buildings where about 35 student volunteers, working in one-hour shifts, will sort the waste into nine categories, including recyclable metal, glass, cardboard, paper and plastic; compostable materials like food waste and napkins; non-recyclable plastic like Styrofoam; hazardous waste like batteries and aerosol cans; and anything else not fitting the first eight categories.

As the 5- and 55-gallon containers at sorting stations are filled, student volunteers will determine the gross weight of each container and record the material type, weight and volume. This summer, a student intern will analyze the data with the goal of designing a waste sampling procedure to get an overall representation of the campus waste stream.

The waste audit is taking place on Bucknell's highly trafficked Science Quadrangle with the purpose of making the campus community keenly aware of the waste it produces, said El-Mogazi.

Shock value
"Part of it is the shock value," said El-Mogazi. "Here are our students going through the garbage, in a highly visible area in the middle of the day. There will be big signs to capture attention and explain what we're doing."

El-Mogazi said the University will continue to sample the waste stream into the fall semester.

"What we'll use that information for is to see if we are in need of better recycling education," she said. "For instance, are we getting a lot of recyclables in the general waste stream? We have a 22 percent recycling rate right now and we'd like to do better than that. We hope this will tell us some things we can use."

She said the audit could underscore that things are being thrown away that could be replaced with something else.

Trial run
"We did a trial run at Theta Chi fraternity and there were a lot of paper towels from restrooms," said El-Mogazi. "If we find that makes up a big component of the waste, what are the advantages of going to hand dryers, for instance, as opposed to using so many paper towels? If we're getting a lot of take-out food containers, we might think about ways to package food in something that could be recycled."

The audit volunteers for the waste audit include members of the Environmental Club as well as students from two courses, "Mindful Consumption" and "Ethics of Consumption," who will write essays based on the experience.

"I've asked them to think about the empathetic angle of this. So many people throughout the world have to earn their living going through garbage," she said. "The Bucknell Brigade always takes their students to a community that lives near the Managua (Nicaragua) dump. So, it's connecting the experience with people who have to do this to earn their livelihoods."

El-Mogazi added that the facilities department, with special assistance from Merritt Pedrick, associate director of operations, and John Testa, grounds supervisor, was contributing "significantly to the logistics of the project."

Contact: Division of Communications


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