Exploring the Way We Waste
After a brief introduction to the sorting process, volunteers are given a cover-up suit, gloves and goggles, and are sent to a sorting station. Bags of trash are emptied onto tables and volunteers sort materials by type into nearby bins for compost, cans/bottles, mixed recycling and garbage. The party-like atmosphere includes popular music, sorting games and challenges.
“There’s a lot of dancing and laughing while we sort,” said Aubrey Batchelor with the UW Sustainability Office. “You learn so much about what can be composted or recycled, and it’s surprisingly fun to see what others have thrown away.”
Mirroring the protest power of a ‘Sit-In’, the first ‘Trash-In’ took place on the UW campus in 1970 to emphasize the waste associated with American life. Students and faculty collected trash from around campus and separated it into categories, returning recyclable materials to the original producers for reprocessing. It was from this event that the University’s recycling programs began.
“The first Trash-In was about students taking action to bring the issue of recycling to the forefront,” said Newcomer. “Today’s Trash-In is about recognizing our ‘wasteful’ habits and identifying goals for the future.”
One such goal, according to Newcomer, is the upcoming implementation of hi-tech kiosks on Red Square that collect composting, recycling and garbage. UW Recycling & Solid Waste sought the kiosks in response to results from its 2011 Trash-In that revealed sixty-one per cent of garbage from Red Square was actually compostable. The University of Washington will be the first university nationwide to use this system to capture all three waste types in an outdoor public area.
“The Trash-In event showed us that public area composting is the next logical step in waste collection at UW,” said Newcomer. “Through their involvement, students can help guide our programs and directly see the results. Trash-In is a fun way to explore where we are, and where we might go in the future.”
Sign up today to volunteer at the 2012 Trash-In!
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Photos by Alex Credgington