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Students dig into Earth Day trash event

Courtesy of MCT

As Ohio State celebrates Earth Day through a week of events, some students will participate by digging through trash from four different campus buildings to analyze the university’s recycling efforts.

Ohio Staters, Inc., a student volunteer organization on campus, will be sorting through trash collected from University Hall, the Union Market, Science and Engineering Library (SEL) and Bradley-Patterson Hall as part of its second annual Think Before You Throw event.

“We want to get a representation from everywhere on campus so we can get a better idea (on recycling),” Danielle O’Connell, a fourth-year in strategic communications and Ohio Staters representative for the event. “We can kind of get a good look at all sorts of things: We’ve got a library in there, University Hall is a classroom-type building, the Union is going to be food and Bradley-Patterson is going to be our dorm.”

Students will gather in Ohio Union West Plaza on Thursday to separate pounds of disposed substances into trash, compost and recyclables to understand how OSU can improve its green initiatives, according to the event’s press release.

OSU has recently been more active in promoting recycling around campus to eliminate excess waste. Corey Hawkey, sustainability coordinator at OSU, launched the successful Zero Waste initiative in Ohio Stadium during the 2011 football season to reduce waste in the stadium.

Other initiatives have taken place around campus as well, such as the Greening the Way Conference on March 30, events at the Blackwell and the College of Pharmacy hosting a zero waste graduation ceremony in June, Hawkey said.

Hawkey and the Office of Sustainability support all green initiatives on campus, including Think Before You Throw.

“I think that the Think Before You Throw event is a great event for bringing awareness and education to how to recycle at Ohio State,” Hawkey said. “We here at the sustainability office are in support of the efforts and look forward to seeing how it goes.”

Event participants will be assigned to a building’s trash and recycling, and a leader assigned to the bags of components. The bag will then be dumped into a plastic bin where students will sort the components into trash and recycling, then weigh again to see the difference in what has been recycled and what was in the trash and can be recycled, O’Connell said.

To keep the event as sanitary as possible, students are required to wear vinyl gloves as they sift through the trash. No trash will be collected from any restroom facilities on campus, O’Connell said.

O’Connell said she expects to find paper recycled from SEL and University Hall, but wants to focus on the food products from the Union Market.

“We want to make sure people are recycling food properly and all that type of stuff,” O’Connell said.

In addition to separating trash components, Students for Recycling, a student organization that promotes recycling awareness, will sponsor a variety of games to test what students know about recycling and educate them on products that can and cannot be recycled.

“We’re trying to keep a recycling theme and focus on zero waste,” said Evan Boylan, a third-year in anthropology and a representative from Students for Recycling. “Making it fun and interesting is the best way for people to learn what you can do with your waste.”

Boylan said many students throw things into recycling bins that cannot be recycled. For example, Boylan said candy wrappers and Coca-Cola cups from campus dining halls are commonly seen in recycling bins when they are not recyclable.

“A lot of people don’t realize still that a lot of items that they throw in the trash can be recycled,” Boylan said. “We need to be involved in programs like this. There is a lot of awareness work to do and educational work.”

Hawkey said another factor in recycling properly is to keep food out of the recycling, because any container with food can contaminate and waste other recyclable product.

“If you put a half-empty ice coffee cup in the recycling, and it breaks open and all the fluid swashes around with all the nice copy paper that was put in there, you run the chance of ruining all that paper,” Hawkey said. “Then that copy paper is not able to be recycled. It is important to be cautious to what you throw in there and keeping food and liquid out of the recycling.”

Representatives at the Ohio Union will also film the event to further promote zero waste throughout campus, and said they hope to see it shown at events like orientation, O’Connell said.

Other students think it is great that some are separating out the recycling, but are not necessarily putting on the gloves.

“I can see the [recycling] effort,” said Olga Benson, a first-year in computer science engineering. “I think it’s really good that there are people interested.”

Brian Slusher, a third-year in physics, said he is eager to volunteer and separate out the recycling and the trash.

“I think the event is an exceptional attempt to change the OSU recycling perspective,” Slusher said in an email. “I volunteered at it last year and heard over and over things like, ‘I had no idea this was recyclable,’ or ‘I didn’t know this was not recyclable.’ It’s extremely informative for those who participate in the trash sorting on the day of the event.”

Hawkey said he thinks the Think Before You Throw event is another way to show leadership in the zero waste initiative.

“It is also demonstrating not only to folks here on campus that if we can do the event in the stadium, then what can’t we do?” Hawkey said. “It is also demonstrating to campuses across the country and other schools. I think it is a demonstration of the leadership here at Ohio State, and we want to keep it going.”

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