Tainted trash trouble
October 8, 2009 11:35 AM
In the rush between classes, students find themselves standing in front of three bins, each a different color, serving a different purpose, to toss their food and other forms of waste into.
Among all the confusion and numerous items on the displayed signs, any bin seems to suffice, and off to class they go. But soon, a new group of students will be manning various trash locations throughout campus to educate students on the proper ways to dispose of waste.
"At this point, we are accepting as much help as possible, with the intent of the program growing into full-time monitors at every station," said student Emily Naud, Sustainable Initiatives founder and coordinator.
The new student program, led by the Cesar Chavez Sustainable Initiatives Program, trains people on how the campus waste system works, why it is important to participate and what goes in each bin. It's a system growing in popularity, and can be seen at large events such as Outside Lands and the Treasure Island Music Festival.
Interns with the program will be working for class credit, while other students who simply believe in the cause will volunteer their time. Currently, there are seven students involved in the new project.
"Basically, the streams get contaminated when individuals throw the wrong items in the wrong bins," Naud, 32, said. "For example, plastics contaminate the compost stream. That is why it is so important to take the time to learn how to sort waste in this city."
Students might be wondering: what goes in which bin? According to Naud, anything that was once considered living goes in the compost bin. For example, paper comes from trees, which were once alive so paper products can be put in composting bins. One can also put all food scraps in the compost bin, because all food is derived from once living plants and animals.
San Francisco's recycling program takes all hard plastics, glass bottles, aluminum foil and cans. Other items are considered trash.
"If nine people do it right, and one person does it wrong, they ruin it for everyone," student and recycling coordinator Jade Scileppi said.
The SF State Recycling Resource Center stresses that students need to know where to put their waste. For example, plastic coffee cup lids are not recyclable and when thrown in the recycle bin, contaminate the entire bin.
Sunset Scavenger, the company that collects SF State's waste, will not accept contaminated bins and they are hauled off with the rest of the trash.
"That means that all of the effort made by those who understand how to properly sort their waste, has been a waste of time and effort," Naud said.
SF State is breaking new ground in zero waste and has, through its recycling efforts, already attained a 76 percent waste diversion, the process of diverting waste from landfill, according to the SF State Recycling Resource Center Web site.
The need for composting in the Cesar Chavez Student Center was recognized by several members of ECO Students, a student organization vying for better environmental and social responsibility, about four years ago. Over the years, many students have helped get the program up and running, making composting a reality in the student center.
"Recycling is not something that will solve a problem. We need to reuse and conserve, but if you can't avoid it, it's the most important thing," Scileppi said.
"I think composting is a very important link in the chain of fighting environmental degradation and social justice issues, and students should recognize this and want to do their part, a really very simple task that makes a huge difference," Naud said.
The organization hopes to man the bins every day during various hours. The program has been presented to the student governing board for approval and if it goes through, they will implement their program this month. All bins on the main floor of the Cesar Chavez Student Center will be monitored.
The student organization will ideally man every station, "but that's going to take time," Naud said.
"If people see us, they should feel free to ask us," Scileppi said. "We're going to do this in an upbeat way so people want to do it right."
"My boss just got a ticket for having a wrong item in her recycling bin at home it's a little extreme," music major Blake Ritterman, 21, said. "I deal with the same bins at work and customers are always asking. I feel like people should pay attention to the signs on the bins for sure. I'm pretty familiar with them."
"Sometimes I still get confused on where to put utensils. I like that there are different bins but I don't think there should be people," business major Nam Nguyen, 22, said. "I think that a sign is good enough."
In the upcoming months, look around campus for shirts worn by group members that read, "ask not what your planet can do for you, but what you can do for your planet."
For more information about volunteering, e-mail Emily Naud at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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