Digging through trash is McKenzie Beverage’s idea of fun, and on Thursday she couldn’t have been happier.

_BS15151For two hours on April 17, Beverage and her students in the Butler Sustainability Practicum class sifted through nearly a ton of trash – 660 pounds from Ross Hall and another 1,140 pounds from Atherton Union – poured from Dumpsters onto the west mall between Jordan Hall and the Pharmacy Building.

Their goal: to see how many pounds of recyclables and food waste are thrown in the garbage on an average day.

Of that 1,800 pounds, 600 was recyclable—plastic water bottles, aluminum cans, glass bottles, and Starbucks cups—and 600 was food waste.

“I totally expected it,” said Beverage, Butler’s Sustainability Coordinator. “National recycling rates and the percentage of food waste is typical with what we found. But we need to understand where we are to determine where we want to be.”

Her goal now is to change where we are. Using the results, she and the campus sustainability council will create educational materials about proper waste disposal and work to make recycling on campus even easier.

Tiera Patterson, a senior from Chicago, figured the exercise would be disgusting – and, she said, it was. “But if we can get the data we need to show to the campus, then it’s worth it.”

As for the waste they looked through, the actual garbage was sent to the southside Indianapolis incinerator where it would normally go. So did the food waste, because Butler doesn’t compost discarded food. Yet.

The recyclable material was recycled.

Beverage said the experience was great.

“It was 100 percent more than worthwhile,” she said, “and we will be doing it again.”

Media contact:
Marc Allan