UMD Business School Undergoes "Trash Audit"

Baihly Warfield
April 20, 2017 07:28 PM

The UMD Labovitz School of Business and Economics was under audit Thursday -- or its trash was, anyway. 

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Students in a sustainable management class, the Office of Sustainability and Natural Resources Research Institute collected three days-worth of garbage from cans in classrooms, offices and throughout the building. 

"We're looking for trash, we're looking for recycling, and we're looking for compost," junior Chris Gass said. "So trash, obviously, that's what we want in there. Recycling and compost, that's not what we want."

They weighed the original bags of trash, then separated out what could be recycled or composted, and then re-weighed the trash. 

Professor Geoff Bell said he didn't need to dig through any garbage to spot a problem area at LBSE. 

"One of my concerns is that in our classrooms, we only have trash bins," Bell said. "And it seems that most of the stuff there is going to be recyclable because it's paper products, it's water bottles, it's stuff like that."

Senior Chris Larsen said he wasn't clear on what was compostable versus what was recyclable before his turn sifting through the trash. 

"There's a lot of cups and peels of oranges and bananas," Larsen listed. "For the most part, we're trying to figure out how we aren't necessarily separating them out like we have the availability to."

Larsen also cited a lack of recycling bins inside classrooms as a reason for the amount of waste. 

"We'd have bags that were like 8 pounds," Larsen said. "And there would be 4 or 5 pounds that were recycling."

Gass, one of the organizers of the project and an environmental sustainability studies major, said it also comes down to education. 

"A lot of lids, for example, are in the trash that are recyclable," Gass said. "At our coffee shop, we have a complete line of compostable products that come with any of the drinks. So a lot of times, people just don't realize that." 

Even though it was a "garbage" class, Bell said he could hear how much his students were learning. 

"I didn't know we could recycle that. I didn't know this was supposed to be compostable," Bell quoted. 

The trash audit wasn't specifically planned around Earth Day this weekend, but Gass said it fit in to the general theme of the month. 

"We're looking at April as Earth Month, and we're trying to be aware again of just sustainability in general," he said. "So this plays right along inside that and just making sure that as an individual and as a whole kind of community, we have an understanding about our waste, have an understanding about what's compostable and really the basis behind it. Why do you do it? It's an important concept to hold true."

The data the students collect will help facilities management figure out where they need more signs and more education about waste. The results are expected by the end of the school year. 


Baihly Warfield

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