Trash Day reveals recycling potential

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FARMINGTON – School administrators and members of the University of Maine at Farmington Green Campus Coalition spent last Thursday knee-deep in trash – literally – in an attempt to encourage recycling on campus.

According to student coordinator Rachel Thompson, Trash Day, as it was called, was designed to “raise awareness about waste and recycling within UMF and the surrounding community” and to “perform the recycling audit of the waste to know how much waste could have been diverted from (the) waste stream by reuse/donation and recycling.”

So seven students got up at 4 a.m., gathered trash from residence and dining halls throughout the college, and deposited it on the lawn in front of Mantor Library. Around 2 p.m., about 15 people did a “trash audit,” measuring the amount of trash produced by the school in one day and separating out things that could have been recycled.

“It’s a great visual, something that is not as easily ignored as a poster on a wall,” said Thompson. The students found that 145.16 cubic feet of trash had been gathered, and 50.86 cubic feet – nearly one-third – could have been recycled.

“The waste students had thrown away could have been recycled, donated or reused,” Thompson said. “A few points of interest (were) a pair of shoes, Darth Vader plant pot, older-style laptop and two Nalgene bottles.”

For Executive Assistant to the President Valerie Huebner, the so-called campus “Trash Queen,” who “had my hands in those bags of trash,” the most impressive part of Thursday’s event was “how organized it is.” She added that “it’s just really great that students go and learn what’s happening,” and then “implement policies in a very practical way that carries out” their ideals.

She also said she was surprised by how easy it was to sort through the trash. “I had no idea what it would be like,” she said. “There you are, thinking about going through people’s garbage; it’s kind of a gross thought.” But the wind blew the smells away, and most of the trash was “big wads of paper, bottles – like an archaeological dig or something.”

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