How rummaging through trash can help promote sustainability

UVU is now the largest university in the state of Utah. With that title comes the opportunity to be the leaders in the fight for sustainability. Helping to lead the way is Scott Williams, professor over outdoor recreation management. As a project, Williams organized a trash audit at Northridge Elementary school to assess how much of their lunch time trash is actually trash.

Williams and his student volunteers manned stations with large bins that would hold various recyclable items such as: untouched or touched fruits and vegetables, milk, milk cartons, plastic containers, plastic bags, uneaten food (bread, meat etc.), styrofoam trays, utensils and a bin for trash.

As the students finished their lunches, they got in line to place their items in the labeled bins. With the help of Northridge’s staff, Williams and his volunteers were able to collect and properly place the trash of nearly 400 students.

“We’re trying to be game changers,” said Shon Frary, head custodian at Northridge. “The state will see what we’re saving in recycling and hopefully put more money towards new bins.”

As the lunch period progressed, the bins quickly piled high with unopened milk cartons, plastic bags, styrofoam trays and uneaten fruits.

“There’s this big hullabaloo to get our kids to eat healthier, but how much of it are they actually eating?” said Aurora Hansen, senior outdoor recreation management major.

According to Frary, not much.

“One of the problems is our students are rushing to eat their food so they can go out to play. This is producing a ton of unnecessary waste,” he said.

This waste could be used to feed the school’s children at a later time.

To accurately track how much waste was produced during one lunch period, Williams and his students added up the amount of trash in each bin to calculate how much waste there was.

After adding up the waste of over 400 students, Williams and his students will prepare a presentation for the school of Northridge to educate the staff  and the children on how much waste they’re producing and how they can decrease waste through recycling.

The idea for this trash audit was given to Williams at a trash audit conference. According to Williams, this is the first time UVU has done a trash audit for Northridge but they were able to  perform one on a smaller scale for the Science Building on campus.

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