Thursday, April 29, 2010

Trashbasher sorts trash

(that's me on the left, in the striped shirt)

From a Hennepin County news release:
Waste sort will gather valuable data about waste generation and composition at schools
A school waste composition study, organized by Hennepin County, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the City of Minneapolis, was conducted on April 28 – 29 to collect data about the amount of trash, recycling and organic waste that is generated at schools.

All waste generated – including garbage, recycling and organics – from the six participating schools on April 26 and 27 will be collected and sorted. The waste will be sorted and analyzed by the county, the MPCA, the City of Minneapolis, and volunteers.

The goal is to collect data that can be used by any school to set goals for how much waste they divert to recycling or organics collection. This is the first waste sort of this scale in the country that will analyze all waste generated at schools.

The participating schools are Burroughs Elementary School, Northeast Middle School and Washburn Senior High School in Minneapolis, Hopkins West Junior High School, Minnetonka Senior High School and Clear Springs Elementary School in Minnetonka.

Suiting up for the big sort

Dumpster + black carts full of trash

The trash was sorted into 19 categories (ie. food waste, non-recyclable paper, bottles, cans, plastics #1-6, plastic film, milk cartons, Styrofoam trays, reusables)

including liquid (chocolate milk, strawberry milk, soda all mixed together ... mmmm!)

A gold mine of data

I spent 10 hours over 2 days, sorting school trash. It was fun, fascinating, productive and meaningful, and I'm really glad I got to be part of such an ambitious undertaking. We couldn't even sort all the trash that had been collected; there was much more than the organizers had anticipated, and it probably would've taken a total of four days to sort everything. So they're just going to use the data they have, and that'll still generate a lot of useful information.

Things I learned: Gum is nasty and sticks to everything. Squeegees work best for getting the layer of muck off your work surface. In real life there is very little True Trash -- not so at a school. There are so many wrappers and foil-lined chip and snack bags, as well as chunks of used clay and bits of detritus. Lots of waste at schools.

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