CC’s Sustainability Less Promising Than Expected

Volunteers at Trash Peak sort through landfill-destined trash, filtering out the recyclable and compostable materials. Photos by Siqi Wei
Volunteers at Trash Peak sort through landfill-destined trash, filtering out the recyclable and compostable materials. Photos by Siqi Wei

On March 25, Colorado College students spent their afternoon sorting trash on the quad outside the Worner Center. While sorting trash may not be an enjoyable activity, it revealed important information about CC’s trash output and necessary steps the school needs to take to reduce campus waste.

Trash Peak arose from a desire to see how much landfill waste CC created in a day, and how much of that should have been recycled or composted. With recycling and compost bins all over campus and detailed labels displaying what items go in each bin, it may seem obvious that people would correctly dispose of trash, recycling, and compost. However, the results of Trash Peak showed the contrary.

CC’s environmental club EnAct sponsored the event, and students were encouraged to come and volunteer to sort through waste. Sophomore Sabrina Heitmann, co-chair of Enact, helped organize and facilitate the whole event. She collaborated with Sodexo Supervisor Tom Allen and Landscape and Grounds Supervisor Josh Ortiz, who helped her identify which people and organizations on campus she should contact.

The first time students sorted through the college’s trash was four years ago, and many students thought it was about time to have another event to analyze the school’s waste.

“We wanted to bring this back because we think it’s a really important issue, and it fits really well with Recyclemania,” said Heitmann.

DSC_5188EnAct partnered with the Office of Sustainability and Scott Slaughterbeck, the Sustainability Specialist in Landscape and Grounds, who compiled the trash and made the enclosures for separating the trash. Slaughterbeck collected trash from multiple buildings around campus, so the trash was representative of the college’s overall daily waste.

“We ended up sorting through 10 percent of a day’s worth of trash, and we found some really cool results,” said Heitmann.

The volunteers did find interesting objects that people had thrown away, including a fully grown and potted plant. However, the most fascinating information gained from this event was the percentage calculated afterwards.

“We found out that 66 percent of the trash could have been diverted into recyclables or compostables,” said Heitmann. “That’s crazy.”

DSC_516566 percent means that over half of Colorado College’s trash could have been composted or recycled. Reducing that number could have a serious positive impact on CC’s sustainability, and informing people about this is the first step to be taken.

“I think education is a big thing that we need to do,” said Heitmann. She plans on discussing the results of Trash Peak with EnAct club before bringing this knowledge to the rest of campus.

Trash Peak proved that CC and its student body are not as sustainable with waste as many would like to think, and measures need to be taken to improve the effort.

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