Trash audit brings attention to sustainability

UFV students pick through garbage to see how much material is missing the recycling bin

Volunteers sort recyclable items from bags of trash at UFV's Abbotsford campus.

Volunteers sort recyclable items from bags of trash at UFV's Abbotsford campus.

One student’s trash is another student’s recyclable.

On Oct. 6, about a dozen volunteers donned bright yellow ponchos and blue latex gloves at the University of the Fraser Valley’s Abbotsford campus green and dug through piles of garbage.

The second annual “waste audit” doubled as both an assessment of student, faculty and staff recycling habits and an educational opportunity, said organizer Travis Gingerich, with Sustainable UFV.

Volunteers dumped out a day’s worth of garbage bags from two of the campus’s buildings onto a tarp and picked through the items one by one, putting them in their correct piles – recyclable plastics, recyclable paper, compostables, true waste, etc.

There were many items in the garbage that shouldn’t have been there, said Gringerich, including several dozen disposable coffee cups, which should be recycled.

“If we’re filling a landfill with things that could be reused, things that could be composted, we’re being really irresponsible with the resources allocated to us,” said Gingerich.

He also said the decision to do the sorting on the main green, in view of fellow students passing from class to class was intentional.

“To put it out here on the green is exactly trying to make people aware of the issue,” he said.

The group planned to weigh the various piles of items to determine how much recyclable and compostable material there was compared to “true waste” , but judging by eye, the waste seemed dwarfed, at least in volume.

Gingerich said Sustainable UFV looks at the situation as a challenge, rather than blaming students for not using the correct receptacles.

“We have to look at it from an organizational point of view in that we need to be better educators, as well as having the receptacles in place for people to actually throw things away.”