Volunteers at Pittsburg State University spent part of Wednesday up to their elbows in trash in order to better understand how the university's recycling efforts are working. The event was scheduled to coincide with national Campus Sustainability Day.
According to Kathy Benard, a member of the PSU Sustainability Committee, the volunteers sorted through trash collected over two days from four campus buildings: Heckert-Wells Hall, Yates Hall, Kelce Hall and Hughes Hall. They were looking for any materials that could have been and should have been dropped into the recycling bins that are in each of the buildings.
Even before the bags of trash were opened, organizers were pointing out possible recycling errors that they spotted through the semi-transparent plastic bags. They were encouraged, however, by a smaller amount of trash than they had expected.
"That's a good sign," said Brian Peery, co-chairman of the Sustainability Committee.
For part of the morning, the students and staff were joined by PSU President Steve Scott.
"I'm here to show how important these sustainability efforts are to the university," Scott said. "Changing the campus culture takes time and it takes the commitment of people all across campus from the administrative team to every student, teacher and staff member."
Jon Bartlow, also a co-chairman of the Sustainability Committee, said his initial reaction was positive.
"We found some things on their way to the landfill that shouldn't have been," Barlow said, "But not huge amounts. While there is still work to do to educate people about the need to recycle, I think we've made huge strides."
Bernard said the trash and recyclable material will be weighed and those numbers will be compared to data collected in a similar project five-six years ago.
In addition to the trash sorting and recycling, students held a bottled water taste test on the Oval to determine whether passing students could taste the difference between tap water and bottled water. The Student Government Association sponsored a contest that challenged students to guess the number of plastic bottles in a large container. Dr. Joey Pogue's small group communication class surveyed passing students to assess their knowledge of sustainability and recycling. Pogue's class is also creating an on-campus advertising campaign to encourage recycling.
©2011 Pittsburg State University