Taking out the Trash: Waste Stream Audit

On the 24th of January, the U-32 auditorium was flooded with things like trash, a set of keys, a blue plastic plate from the cafeteria in the classroom trash, a whole set of Pez* dispensers, and even a brand new water bottle.

Brenna Toman, from the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District, said that working with the school, they have collected one day’s worth of trash in the entire building.

“And we got it sorted out right now in classroom recycling, classroom trash, kitchen trash, cafeteria trash, and kitchen recycling.”

“What we find is a certain amount of contamination in the recycling stream and also in the trash.” Toman stated.

The total amount of trash collected from the cafeteria alone was more than 70lbs. Only ⅔ of it was actually trash. In classrooms, only half was garbage.

In an email, John Jose – who was also present at the U-32 Audit as and from the CVSWMD – said “it is very important to keep in mind that almost all of the public schools within the Central VT Solid Waste Management District that we work with are enjoying the same successes and the same challenges.”

“The U-32 community should realize that they are not alone in some of the challenges faced, along with what is already working well.” John said.

Members of U-32’s Green Team also partook in the Audit, wanting to see exactly how we sort our trash.

“We’re using the data to move forward with some projects we’ve been talking about.” Green Team member May Lamb said.

Projects like a milk machine – where students get reusable cups of milk instead of cartons. The Audit showed an alarming amount of empty milk cartons that, with the machine, could be greatly reduced.

Many members of the student body had no idea what was happening. The reactions varied from open curiosity, wanting to join in on the sort, or even rude and offensive.

“A huge group of eighth graders walked by and I could hear them being like ‘whoa what are they doing?’ They had no idea what was going on.”  Green Team member Lucy Krokenberger said.

“I heard one kid took a picture and put on his [Snapchat] story and said ‘Oh U-32, hippie activity’ and then he took another one and said ‘A pile of trash looking through trash.’” Said freshman Mia Isabella.

To commemorate the successful sort, artist and members of the Green Team came together to create sculptures for a special ‘reArth’ gallery show.

  • Cafeteria Trash:  70 lbs. initially collected – 2.75 lbs. recycling and 23.35 lbs. compost = 43.9 lbs. actual office trash.
    • Amount of Cafeteria trash in trash stream that was truly trash: 43.9 lbs. or 63% by weight (~ 2/3 of trash stream).
    • Amount of cafeteria trash stream that could have been composted: 23.35 lbs. or 33% by weight.
    • Amount of cafeteria trash stream that could have been recycled: 2.75 lbs. or 4% by weight.
    • Total amount of cafeteria trash stream that was not trash = 26.1 lbs or 37% by weight (~ 1/3 of trash stream)

 

  • Cafeteria Recycling:*  17.45 lbs. initially collected – 1.15 lbs. trash and 11.0 lbs. compostables** = 5.3 lbs. actual cafeteria recycling.
    • Amount of cafeteria recycling in recycling stream that was truly recyclable: 5.3 lbs. or 30% by weight.
    • Amount of office recycling that was actually trash: 1.15 lbs. or 7% by weight.
    • Amount of office recycling stream that could have been composted: 11.0 lbs. or 63% by weight.**

 

  • TOTAL CAFETERIA TRASH: 53.58 lbs. from trash stream sort + 5.75 lbs. from recycling stream sort = 59.33 lbs.

 

  • TOTAL CAFETERIA RECYCLABLES: 131.5 lbs. from recycling stream sort + 9.95 lbs. from trash stream sort = 141.45 lbs.

 

  • TOTAL COMPOSTABLES IN CAFETERIA TRASH AND RECYCLING STREAMS = 42.25 LBS.

 

  • TOTAL TRASH (59.33 lbs.) + TOTAL RECYCLABLES (141.45 lbs.) + TOTAL FOOD WASTE (42.25 lbs.) = 243 total lbs. of materials in CAFETERIA materials stream.

 

  • Total amount of CAFETERIA recycling kept out of landfill: 141.45 lbs. or 58% of CAFETERIA materials stream.

 

  • Total amount of CAFETERIA trash destined for landfill: 59.33 lbs. or 25% of CAFETERIA materials stream.

 

  • Total amount of compostables from CAFETERIA stream, diverted to Grow Compost of Vermont for composting: 42.25 lbs. or 17% of CAFETERIA materials.

 

  • Total amount of divertible material that would have gone to landfill, if we hadn’t sorted and diverted through the process of conducting the Audit:
    • 9.95 lbs. recycling + 42.25 lbs. compost = 52.2 lbs.* or 21% of total office materials stream

 

  • Classroom/Office Trash:  100.7 lbs. initially collected – 9.95 lbs. recycling and 36.9 lbs. compost = 53.58 lbs. actual office trash.
    • Amount of classroom/office trash in trash stream that was truly trash: 53.58 lbs. or 54% by weight (~ 1/2 of trash stream).
    • Amount of classroom/office trash stream that could have been composted: 36.9 lbs. or 37% by weight.
    • Amount of classroom/office trash stream that could have been recycled: 9.95 lbs. or 9% by weight.*
    • Total amount of classroom/office trash stream that was not trash = 46.58 lbs or 46% by weight (~ 1/2 of trash stream)

 

  • Classroom/Office Recycling:  142.6 lbs. initially collected – 5.75 lbs. trash and 5.35 lbs. compost = 131.5 lbs. actual classroom/office recycling.
    • Amount of classroom/office recycling in recycling stream that was truly recyclable: 131.5 lbs. or 92% by weight.*
    • Amount of office recycling that was actually trash: 5.75 lbs. or 4% by weight.
    • Amount of office recycling stream that could have been composted: 5.35 lbs. or 4% by weight.

 

  • TOTAL CLASSROOM/OFFICE TRASH: 53.58 lbs. from trash stream sort + 5.75 lbs. from recycling stream sort = 59.33 lbs.

 

  • TOTAL CLASSROOM/OFFICE RECYCLABLES: 131.5 lbs. from recycling stream sort + 9.95 lbs. from trash stream sort = 141.45 lbs.*

 

  • TOTAL COMPOSTABLES IN CLASSROOM/OFFICE TRASH AND RECYCLING STREAMS = 42.25 LBS.

 

  • TOTAL TRASH (59.33 lbs.) + TOTAL RECYCLABLES (141.45 lbs.) + TOTAL FOOD WASTE (42.25 lbs.) = 243 total lbs. of materials in classroom/office materials stream.

 

  • Total amount of classroom/office recycling kept out of landfill: 141.45 lbs. or 58% of classroom/office materials stream.

 

  • Total amount of classroom/office trash destined for landfill: 59.33 lbs. or 25% of classroom/office materials stream.

 

  • Total amount of compostables from classroom/office stream, diverted to Grow Compost of Vermont for composting: 42.25 lbs. or 17% of classroom/office materials.

 

  • Total amount of divertible material that would have gone to landfill, if we hadn’t sorted and diverted through
    the process of conducting the Audit: 

    • 9.95 lbs. recycling + 42.25 lbs. compost = 52.2 lbs.* or 21% of total office materials stream