Up close and personal with trash

A group of UB students plans to get up close and personal with UB's trash and they're hoping that classmates, faculty and administrators will join them.

On April 16, six environmentally minded UB students and their recruits will sort through a whole day's worth of trash collected from all classroom, administrative and dorm buildings on UB's North and South campuses (with the exception of buildings that generate hazardous waste.)

The trash will consist of anything that has been disposed of in a garbage receptacle.

Open to all members of the UB community, the "Dumpster Dive" will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., between the Student Union and Bell Hall on the North Campus.

Protective coveralls, goggles, gloves and masks (as well as pastries and coffee for breakfast and pizza for lunch) will be provided to participants, who will be supervised and informed of potential risks.

The purpose is to raise awareness about how much garbage people generate and how much of it is recyclable by sorting recyclable material from the "real" trash.

The students got the idea for the Dumpster Dive (no one will be literally diving!) after conducting a trash analysis of three buildings on campus as part of an environmental internship with University Facilities.

"We were just amazed," said sophomore Randi Mail. "Seeing all this garbage that could have been recycled, it makes you feel responsible."

As part of the project, the students also surveyed their peers about recycling.

"People don't know what they can recycle," said Mail. "Some of the students we surveyed in the residence halls didn't know that regular paper could be recycled; they thought only newsprint could be recycled."

The New York State Solid Waste Management Act of 1988 stipulates that state institutions should recycle half of their waste.

According to the students' calculations, UB offices recycle between 30 and 40 percent of their waste, while the figure may be lower in the dorms.

In their analysis of one day's trash generated in one day in Capen Hall, the students discovered in the trash 330 pounds of paper and cardboard and 90 pounds of bottles and cans-all of which are recyclable. They also found 50 pounds of paper and foam cups.

Out of 700 pounds of trash, only 230 pounds was garbage that could not be recycled or somehow eliminated through a waste reduction strategy, such as encouraging people to drink from reusable mugs.

In the dorms, the students discovered half-full recycling bins and recyclable materials in the trash, due, in part, to a lack of information and lack of access to recycling facilities, the students concluded.

Out of 390 pounds of garbage in one residence hall, 130 pounds was recyclable.

"There just aren't enough recycling bins in the dorms, and in some cases they aren't even on every floor," said senior Jodi Freilich. "The students told us that if the bins were more accessible, they'd recycle more."

They hope the "Dumpster Dive" will encourage the university to provide more recycling bins in residence halls and all over campus.

"UB welcomes the efforts of these students and is committed to increasing recycling to 50 percent as stated in the university's recycling policy," said Walter Simpson, UB energy officer and the students' internship advisor.

Robert Horvath, Robert Nash, Meghan Fay and Erin Cala also are organizing the Dumpster Dive.

For more information, contact Randi Mail at rcmail@acsu.buffalo.edu or call Rachel Martin at 829-3535.

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