LRU News

Student documents recycling success

Mon Mar 2 2009

Erin from Reese Institute and LRU student Joseph White

Erin from Reese Institute and LRU student Joseph White

Joseph White has been looking into campus dumpsters for more than a year now. No, he’s not a dumpster diver looking for treasure. He’s a conservation of natural resources major documenting campus recycling efforts.

Lenoir-Rhyne has had a limited recycling program for several years. But Dr. John Brzorad and Erin Seiling of the Thomas W. Reese Institute for Conservation of Natural Resources wanted to take it to a new level. To document the success of their efforts, they needed to establish a baseline level of recycling on campus.

That’s where White came in. He agreed to check campus dumpsters and recycling bins to determine how much waste was heading to the dump, and how much was being recycled. He first measured each container and calculated the number of cubic yards it could hold. He painted measurements on the sides of the dumpsters to help him estimate the level of trash in each one. Then, five to six days a week, he checked each dumpster and recycling station on campus and recorded his findings.

The first measurements weren’t very encouraging. During the fall of 2007, he found that an average of 114.7 cubic yards of waste were being thrown away each week and .71 cubic yards were being recycled.

The university added more bins to encourage the campus community to recycle more types of items and launched a campus-wide effort to promote recycling. Gradually things began change. By the spring of 2008, the amount of solid waste in the dumpsters was down 21 percent, while the amount in the recycling bins was up 13 percent. In the fall of 2008, the dumpster trash had dropped by 36 percent compared to the baseline, and recycled materials had climbed by 31 percent.

Now, L-R is recycling newspaper, office paper, plastic, cardboard and three types of glass (brown, clear and green).

Last November, White presented his findings at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference.  “We had always recycled at home, but I never thought about it as a worldwide issue,” he said. Now, he sees taking out the trash in a whole new light.

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