By Chelsea Lear-Ward, Staff Writer
After the seventh annual Trash Day, hosted by the Sustainable Campus Coalition (SCC), it was clear to the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) club that each year has brought more awareness of recycling across campus, lowering the amount of trash produced.
“When we first did this, I think there was about 40% of the trash that was recyclable,” said Dr. Luke Kellett, Sustainability Coordinator and Anthropology professor, “Now, we’re somewhere around the 25-20 percent range.”
Trash day is an event that takes place each fall where 24 hours worth of trash is collected from the residence halls by UMF Facilities and laid out on the Mantor Library lawn for SCC to pick through and determine what materials could have been recycled, Terracycled, and composted compared to the amount of trash that actually should have been thrown away. At this time, the club also determines what recyclable materials were contaminated by food.
This year, the club rummaged through 26 bags of trash and found that six bags worth could have been recycled in some manner and two buckets worth of food could have been composted. As a very rough estimate, that’s 23 percent of recyclable trash. Although dropping below that last 20 percent will be the most difficult push, Kellett believes it to be possible. “Kids are coming to UMF now thinking about recycling where 8, 10 years ago- it wasn’t that case.”
Melaine Christensen, a fourth year club member and one of the student leaders for SCC, believes that the program is an awareness-raising tool for the UMF population. “It’s such a great visual because you get to see how much trash we’re producing on campus and you realize that there’s a lot more we could be doing…and you also have to think that we’re paying to get that trash disposed of, so it’s a cost that we’re paying as students in some way too.”
Christensen confirmed that since the program started in the fall of 2007, Trash Day has slowly evolved with the club’s attempts of raising more awareness of the many sustainable opportunities on campus. “We’ve gotten better about doing some more out-reach with Trash Day,” Christensen said, “We have some tables out talking about Terracycle and composting, the SCC, and Everyone’s Resource Depot, and we’re trying to share more information about what we’re doing on campus.”
Terracycle, a program that appeared on the UMF campus only a year and a half ago, has already received positive feedback. “We’ve been having a really good response,” Kellett said, “It started slow but with human behavior and reminding ourselves of what we can throw away and what we can recycle, the Terracycle bins are filled fast and now it’s getting that visibility finally.”
Terracycle is a recycling program based out of New Jersey where non-traditional materials, such as number six plastics, are recycled by turning the materials into park benches, backpacks, and other useful items. SCC operates through the program by collecting the materials at different drop-off bin locations around campus, which they then sorted through and sent in boxes to the official Terracycle company. For every piece of material provided, a person receives credit through an online account. SCC donates the money raised to the local United Way, which the company can then donate to the non-profit organization of their choice. “We’ve raised at least 300 dollars for United Way just with the last check,” Kellett said, “and it’s going to be more this year.”
Christensen, a Secondary Education major with a concentration in Earth and Space Science, plans to incorporate her work with the SCC into her future classroom. “I think it’s one of the most important and practical applications in environmental science,” Christensen said, “and a lot of the things I’ve done here at UMF will definitely affect the kind of sustainability activities I’ll do in the classroom.”
For more information about the programs done through the SCC and upcoming events hosted by the club, contact Christensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.