Digging for Results; WSC study shows ways to increase recycling and cut waste
May 21, 2010 -- Jonathan Schaffer spent some of his senior year digging through the trash at Western State College of Colorado (WSC).
(L-r) Kimberly McCoy, Jonathan Schaffer and Scott Cohn. McCoy and Schaffer are both seniors at Western and Cohn is an assistant professor of psychology.
Schaffer, an outdoor leadership major, did some dirty work over the last year at Western, as part of a study to figure out how to increase participation in recycling and how to reduce food waste. Two other WSC students, Justin Oliver and Kimberly McCoy, also were part of the study.
Among their responsibilities was digging through trash for a couple weeks to determine how much recyclable material was thrown away.
The study involved two academic buildings -- Quigley Hall and the Borick Business Building. It found that significant increases were made when recycling was more convenient.
“We discovered that Borick was at about 60 percent efficiency in our initial study,” Schaffer said. “After we moved bins into the classrooms, the use jumped really high to 97 percent efficiency.”
Scott Cohn, assistant professor of psychology, led the data collection efforts for the projects. He said that the study was inspired by an independent research project done by a former student to determine how well Western recycled.
“We decided to place an emphasis with this study to quantify changes in recycling habits,” Cohn said.
The study also looked at food waste, with more hands-on dirty work. This involved sorting food waste and weighing the waste on a scale.
The study began in the former Keating Dining Hall and continued into the new Rare Air Café in the College Center.
“College students waste a lot of food,” Schaffer said. “But we noticed with the changes that were made in the transition into the new facility that less food was being wasted.”
Schaffer said he thought that a more attractive facility and smaller portions from Sodexo, the campus’ food service provider, were among the reasons why waste was reduced.
Schaffer also noted that he hopes that a culture change is taking place at Western and this should contribute to future reduction of overall waste at the college.
“We have a lot of lofty goals at Western with regards to sustainability,” he said. “It should start with recycling and producing less waste.”
Story by: Luke Mehall, assistant director of public relations