Students curiously wandered near the mountain of trash scattered over tarps in the middle of Rawls on Wednesday, watching as the trash was sorted and weighed.
Eric Yee, a graduate student, noticed people looking at the scene in disgust and overheard remarks wondering what was going on.
Net Impact, a national organization for business students who want to use their business degrees to enact environmental and social change, held an event called “Mt. Trashmore” to try to spread awareness of the ease of recycling on campus and what can actually be recycled.
Over a period of 24 hours, students collected trash cans and recycling bins from classrooms and offices around Rawls Hall and emptied their contents onto tarps in a common area on the third floor.
“We wanted to try to make it visible to help educate people,” Yee said.
For several hours, the trash was sorted and weighed. The students were able to see whether recyclable materials were thrown away in the trash. They found that all glass bottles had been recycled, but only around 62 percent of plastic bottles had been recycled. Other materials they looked at were mixed paper, cardboard, aluminum cans and newspapers.
The students found the issues with throwing away recyclable materials didn’t seem to stem from the ability to find recycling bins but, more likely, from the lack of knowledge among students of what they are actually able to recycle.
“Basically anything can be recycled besides food waste, Kleenex, waste from the restroom and food wrappers. But anything else can be recycled: Styrofoam cups you get from the Discount Den, Starbucks cups, cardboard, and paper,” said Jessica Rush, a graduate student.
Yee found that Purdue has incorporated easily accessible recycling bins all over campus for students to utilize.
“The University makes it
really easy to recycle,” Yee said. “In fact, they recycle so much that they don’t define what should be recycled; they defined what should be thrown away.”
The students involved with the event hope they educated students more about recycling and clarified what is able to be recycled.
Anil Tripathi, a graduate student, said the organization plans to put up more signs near recycling bins and use social media to help decrease the amount of recyclables that are thrown away.