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Trash piles up, initiatives combat waste

Liz Musick / Lantern photographer

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Despite a recent focus on sustainability, Ohio State officials say there is room for improvement in reducing Ohio State’s waste output.

New initiatives have been put into place to lead OSU students to a “greener” lifestyle, starting when students enter their first-year at the university.

Almost every residence hall has a plan to help promote more environmentally friendly habits amongst residents. This plan includes a student leader in each residence hall, said Thyrone Henderson, associate director of Housing Administration.

“It’s relatively new that we’ve had a student leader that’s part of the hall council that keeps their eye on things,” Henderson said.

Sustainability chairs are encouraged to engage fellow residents to join them in sustainability events and to discuss quarterly themes.

This quarter’s theme is “Energy.” Students are encouraged to turn off lights and sustain energy where they can, Henderson said.

Two residence halls, Blackburn House and Norton House, have kiosks in their lobbies where students can view their “Buckeye footprint” and see how much electricity they have used, said Kai Landis, program manager for Energy Management and Sustainability.

Winter Quarter’s theme will be “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” and Spring Quarter will focus on water conservation along with Earth Day-related events, Landis said.

Incoming freshmen also have the option to attend a session on sustainability during their orientation. The session introduces students to the concept of sustainability, Landis said.

“It really talks about things they can do themselves to lessen their impact on the environment during their time at the university,” Landis said.

Despite these all of these initiatives, Corey Hawkey, sustainability coordinator for the Office of Energy and Sustainability, said improvements can still be made to make OSU and its dorms less wasteful.

Total trash output was more than 12,000 tons in 2010, which is up 6 percent compared to 2009, according to the OSU annual waste management report.

Trash from the dorms is collected six days a week, except for Lincoln Tower, Morrill Tower, Baker Hall East and West, Taylor Tower and Drackett Tower, which are collected twice daily, said Martha Hoff from the Facilities Operations and Development Solid Waste Shop. Hoff said it is then placed in a designated room, along with recycling, until trucks haul it away.

Cristina Dickos, a first-year in English, said she observes excess trash in her dorm’s community bathroom on the day the garbage is not collected.

“I do notice on the weekends that the trashcans pile up, like paper towels over-flowing,” she said.

Hawkey said that employees from the FOD Solid Waste Shop occasionally have difficulty separating waste from recycling before loading it into the trucks.

“We can all be doing better at recycling, making sure we’re putting it in the right bin, making sure we’re getting stuff in the right areas so custodians know what’s what,” Hawkey said. “Sometimes when the crews come to pick up the trash and recycling, it’s all mixed up and they can’t tell what’s trash and what’s recycling. It’s difficult for our crews to get it right.”

Mike Fitzsimons, a fourth-year in industrial and systems engineering and student employee at FOD Solid Waste Shop, is responsible for loading trash into the trucks.

“There’s just so much trash some days, sometimes it’s all just kind of mixed together,” he said.

Fitzsimons said he collects the most trash from Morrill Tower.

Despite these issues, recycling at OSU is up 55 percent since 2004, according to the OSU annual waste management report.

Hawkey said the main focus of the university’s sustainability efforts has been on recycling, rather than waste reduction.

“We’re really focusing on our recycling message and trying to get that right,” he said. “You really should do the minimizing first, but the recycling is here now and relatively easy, compared to minimization, to get where it needs to be.”

Landis said there are simple ways students can decrease the amount of waste they produce.

“Instead of grabbing that disposable plastic water bottle, definitely grab a reusable one,” Landis said. “It saves money, as well as saves from having things go into the landfill.”

Fitzsimons has noticed problems with waste and disposable cups and bottles during his shifts.

“They’ll drink like half of it then just throw it away,” he said. “That doesn’t even make sense. They can just save it for later.”

Hawkey suggested students buy things in bulk and split the cost among friends.

“You’ve reduced packaging and you’re saving money and you’re only using what you need,” he said.

Another way to reduce waste output is to create a school supplies swap with other students.

“You filled up one section of your three section notebook, maybe the other two can be used by someone else next quarter,” Hawkey said.

Some students have come up with other ways to decrease the number of things they throw out.

“One of my friends, she’ll bring her own silverware and she’s brought some of her own plate wear,” Dickos said. “She brings stuff from home so she’s not using plastic spoons and plastic cups; that’s the one way she cuts down.”

Although OSU is moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, Hawkey said there is room to grow.

“Everybody at the university, faculty, students and staff have a personal responsibility to pay attention to what we’re doing,” Hawkey said. “We could still be doing better.”

 

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