Whatcom Measures Its Waste

by Lauren Owens

Horizon Reporter

A lingering odor of waste interrupted the smell of a crisp autumn day on October 12, as students and faculty of Whatcom Community College sorted through pounds of plastic, paper, and compost at Whatcom’s second waste audit of the year.

In front of the Syre building, the college’s Sustainable Committee collected 24 – hours worth of trash from the entire campus to be sorted into 10 categories: paper, recyclable glass, recyclable plastic, recyclable aluminum, film-plastic, trash bags, compost, paper towels, liquid, and landfill. The idea was to find out how much trash being thrown away can be recycled, which has a positive impact on the environment and the college’s finances by saving money.

 More than 50 bags were collected from the outside and inside of the college, which were reduced to eight to10 bags of landfill after the recycling process.

“This gives us an idea of what we can strive for,” said Blanche Bybee, part of the Sustainable Committee and the lab supervisor for biology and chemistry at Whatcom.

As the day progressed the sound of bonking buckets, rustling trash bags, and the occasional “eewww” from the volunteer students filled the air. 

The volunteers wore blue gloves and wrinkled noses as they sifted through torn open trash bags hunting for waste and putting them into their properly labeled buckets. Paper equals paper bucket, plastic bottle equals plastic bucket, orange peel equals compost bucket. 

Crystal Ravenwood, a math teacher and member of the Sustainable Committee at Whatcom, was handed the trash-filled buckets, which were individually weighed.

Ravenwood then compiled the data into a percentage to show how much is recyclable material, how much is compostable material, and how much goes to the landfill.

The point of all this?

 “A lot of people walk away being conscious of what they throw away,” Bybee said.

This last spring, on Earth Day, the Sustainable Committee held its first waste audit. Unlike the October 12 audit, only four buildings in the student square were sorted and weighed. The Syre, Heiner, Baker, and Laidlaw buildings had the percentages of waste shown below:

This is compared to the October 12, audit where the Sustainable Committee counted trash from the entire campus, which results show below:

An increase in the landfill percentage is good, said Bybee, “We want an increase in percentage, not in volume.” This means that people are throwing their garbage away properly and less contamination is happening.

“We want a grasp on the waste streams,” said Richard Bruno, a key member of the sustainable committee who organized and ran both waste audits.” Additionally, Bruno said it’s important to recognize that “the connection is about revamping policies.”

If you are interested in being a part of the Whatcom Sustainable Committee, contact Blanche Bybee at, bbybee@whatcom.ctc.edu

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