“On Nov. 11 Lidia Henderson ’16 and Shannon Oleynik ’16 donned protective gloves and goggles to root through 25 bags of trash and recyclables from three residence halls. Their objective: to determine how effective students are at recycling. Their goal: to improve Colby’s recycling rate.
Henderson and Oleynik are EcoReps”student environmental leaders who work to promote sustainable living in their dorms and a culture of sustainability at Colby. To conduct their waste audit, they sorted the trash into plastics, cardboard, mixed paper, aluminum and cans, compostable materials, and liquid waste. Working with a dozen students who helped out, they weighed each bin and recorded the data.
Findings? There is considerable room for improvement in how students sort their waste and in where it goes when it leaves campus. In their sample 20.5 percent of the waste was diverted for recycling. In a report they wrote they propose a best-case scenario in which 77 percent of the total waste analyzed could have been diverted from the landfill.
Their report suggests ways to improve what happens with Colby’s waste stream. Students should educate themselves about what can be recycled (and how to go about it) and should work to inspire others to improve their practices. The EcoReps noted that 25 percent of the total waste in their sample was compostable and urged students to sign out compost bins from the Sustainability Office.