Ms. Sarah Clauss, CVC Environmental Correspondent
In 2013, CVU installed sorting stations in the cafeteria to separate trash, recycling, and compost. They were designed by students in EnACT (Environmental Action Club). Although all of the students currently at CVU have been using the stations since they started here, problems with sorting remain.
Grace Hemmelgarn and Tess Cloutier, the EnACT members leading the project to improve the stations and educate people about proper use, had some insights about why students have trouble knowing where to put their garbage. According to Hemmelgarn, “common mistakes include chip bags, brown salad boats, [and] wax paper.” Many of the items that confuse students come from food packaged by the cafeteria. For example, the salad containers are made from plant-based plastic, which is compostable. Since they look like typical plastic containers, however, they are often found in the recycling bin. Similarly, wax paper, which also belongs in the compost, often ends up in the trash. When a ‘batch’ of recycling or compost has an item that does not belong, the whole container is thrown away. In this way, more material ends up in landfills instead of where it belongs.
Since the installation of the sorting stations, EnACT has done several projects directed to improve sorting accuracy. EnACT members have conducted several “trash audits”, where students sorted waste pulled from the landfill and recycling bins to figure out commonly misplaced items. Posters were put up around the school with pictures of these items and their proper places in the stations.