On April 21, a campus waste demonstration was set out in the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Sundial during Earth Week where passers-by were able to sort through recyclables found in waste bins from academic buildings. Students Alex Thomas, Mike Gotham, John Paul Darling and Grant Luer conducted the waste audit as a part of their advanced solid waste course.
Organic waste was removed for citizen participation and through rain, hail and sunshine. Students like Kelly Adlington, a sophomore in waste management, volunteered to sort.
“I’m looking forward to taking this class and doing my own project,” Adlington said. “Waste is not thought about enough in the natural resource fields, even when waste management is at the root of sustainability.”
Darling, junior waste management major, said the university has the most control over diverting recyclables from landfills because it is the only UW college to sort onsite.
Still, 19 percent of all campus waste was paper, a common recyclable. Items like a trophy, unopened aluminum tape, intact pottery artwork and textiles were some of the more unusual reusable or recyclable items found in the waste, Darling said.
This was the first year a waste audit was conducted for academic buildings, and 48 percent was recyclable material.
Dave Barbier, director of the Office of Sustainability, has been working with the project since the beginning. He said the university receives money for recycling items such as aluminum, paper, cardboard and scrap metal.
“It is good to recycle for the environment, but the economic reasons are present as well,” Barbier said. “If those items aren’t recycled properly, it is like throwing money away and paying to put it in a landfill.”
Chancellor Bernie Patterson also came down to sort. He said now is an especially important time for the university to focus on resource preservation.
“We are looking under every rock for what we can save, so it’s wonderful if we can encourage students to recycle more,” Patterson said.
Rob Michitsch, assistant professor of soils and waste resources, has been conducting a similar waste audit in the residence halls with students since 2012.
From 2012-15, 65-85 percent of waste was recyclable material, Michitsch said.
“If you are unsure if something is waste or recyclable, and it isn’t heavily soiled with food or liquid, then recycling it is the best option,” Michitsch said.
“In the bathroom, paper towels go right into the garbage when they can be recycled,” said Jimmy Budiac, Center Service Team employee. “There isn’t a bin for recycling in there.”
Thomas said they are looking to expand the number of outlets for recyclables as well.
Aside from recycling, Lisa Moehlman, a student working with Michitsch, said the diversion of organic material in the residential living waste has improved. From 2012-13, 36 percent of waste was organic and from 2013-14, the percentage dropped to 26, Moehlman said.
“Student involvement in demonstrations like these gives students a new perspective on waste management,” Thomas said. “We can talk to waste management students all day, but it is everyone who contributes to the waste on campus.”