The Daily Gamecock

Volunteers dig for recyclables in residence hall waste audit

Survey of campus trash teaches about sustainability


The volunteers, equipped with masks and full-body suits, will be taking part in the Residence Hall Waste Sort conducted by the Facilities Department, Housing and Sustainable Carolina.

"We will be physically sorting through trash bags in order to gauge what recyclables were thrown away. It will probably be kind of gross, but it will definitely be educational," said Christine Burke, a second-year anthropology student and undergraduate assistant at Sustainable Carolina.

The sort took place at Facilities, a building behind the Colonial Life Arena, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday and will be the same time today. Each shift involves safety training, and participants will receive suits, gloves, masks and trash grabbers.

The residence halls to be sorted Thursday were Preston, Maxcy, East Quad, McClintock, Wade Hampton and Capstone. The Roost, Cliff, McBryde, Honors and West (Green) Quad will be today.

Margaret Bounds, the coordinator for Environmental Sustainability for University Housing, said the USC student and staff volunteers will be helping to sort about 100 pounds of trash from each residence hall into categories such as types of plastic, paper, metal and glass.

"We are hoping to see, first, what students are throwing away in the residence halls. What is the main source of trash ­— is it food takeout containers, paper, plastic?" Bounds said. "From that, we can gauge how well our recycling system is working."

The university is working with Resource Recycling Systems to do the waste audit, and Bounds said they will work with the company throughout the year to look at different processes, times of year and big events. Resource Recycling Systems will then give recommendations on how to improve the waste and recycling system on campus.

"We are hoping that what we learn can help us reduce the amount of trash being produced in the residence halls, increase our recycling rate and help us educate students more about waste," Bounds said.

As part of the Recycling Team at Sustainable Carolina, or the Green Quad Learning Center for Sustainable Futures, Burke is volunteering to help support the university's efforts. The results will be part of a yearlong waste audit USC is funding.

Through her work at Sustainable Carolina, Burke said she has aimed to change student habits regarding waste and sustainability. She is concerned, however, that these efforts will not be reflected in the waste audit.

"I imagine that while I'll be digging through the bags and finding lots of recyclables, it will be a little disheartening after all of our efforts to promote recycling," Burke said. "That's why I'm hopeful that students without an environmentalism or sustainability background will participate as well because those students are the ones who really need to take a second look and consider what they're sending to the landfill."

In general, Burke said she is hoping to learn more about the waste habits of students on campus from participating in the audit and expects the experience will affect her awareness as well.

"I am certain the experience will change the way I consider what I throw away, even though I already consider myself pretty conscious of the issues," Burke said.