Let’s sort through trash for a less trashy tomorrow

Reposted from the Poughkeepsie Journal

The way we deal with trash is a real mess. In 2010 alone, Americans created 250 million tons of solid waste, only 34 percent of which was recycled. Between overflowing landfills, high waste-collection prices, synthetic materials that never decompose and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it’s clear we can’t keep doing what we’re doing. The bottom line is this: we’ve got to start putting less in the trash can and more into the recycle bin and compost pile.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The best places to start are at home and at work, the places we spend most of our time. Composting and recycling are easy to implement at home.

Municipal or private recycling dropoff or pickup is generally available for residences, and if you have a yard, composting is as simple as a ring of chicken wire pushed into the ground. Work, however, poses more of a challenge, because if you’re not the owner or manager, you don’t have as much control over waste management practices.

This is where the Bard Center for Environmental Policy Waste Audits Team comes in. Seven graduate students are working with the Town of Red Hook on the Commercial Waste and Sustainability sector of its Climate Action Plan. The goal, very broadly, is to develop strategies for businesses to improve their waste management.

CEP Waste Audits Team gettin' trashy Credit: Diana Benlevy

Luckily, we aren’t shy at Bard Center for Environmental Policy, nor are we afraid to get trashy. The waste audit process is what it sounds like — we take a week’s worth of trash, spread it out over a tarp, sort it into categories like “Recyclable Plastic,” “Non-recyclable Plastic,” “Paper” (you get the idea), weigh the different categories, figure out what areas need the most improvement and develop a recommendation from there.

CEP '13 students Nick, Amy, and Maggie sorting through trash in Red Hook Photo Credit: Diana Benlevy

The Waste Audits Team is auditing the waste streams of several businesses in the Red Hook community to give them free information and advice about recycling, composting, how to be more sustainable, pay less for disposal and reduce their footprint. Is it smelly? Sometimes. But is it worth it? Absolutely.

Jordan Michael Kincaid EP'13

Jordan Michael Kincaid is a graduate student at the Bard Center for Environmental Policy in Annandale. He is serving as a consultant to the Town of Red Hook on its Climate Action Plan to improve its commercial sustainability and reduce its refuse footprint.

About Jordan M. Kincaid