‘Mount Trashmore’ to draw increased attention to recycling

Stephen Huber | Student Life

A dumpster containing a representation of waste from the South 40 residence halls, dubbed “Mount Trashmore,” sits across from the Clocktower. The display is part of an initiative from the Office of Sustainability to increase student awareness of Recyclemania, a two-month-long recycling competition.

Students walking by the Clocktower this week may be surprised to see giant bins of trash lining their path.

The trash bins, deemed “Mount Trashmore,” are a part of Recyclemania, a two-month-long college competition consisting of more than 400 universities to see which school is able to recycle and compost the most of its trash.

Washington University has taken part in the competition since its inception in 2001, but this is the first year the Office of Sustainability is trying to draw student attention to the event.

“We wanted to push more this time just because we’ve already got this huge momentum going on with all of the other changes and efforts we’re making with regards to waste reduction on campus,” Sustainability Fellow and senior Wendelyn Oswald said. “There are already so many changes we’ve made this year compared to last.”

The competition, which began Feb. 1, will last eight weeks and requires the University to log the amount of trash generated each week. In order to raise student awareness this year, a collection of the trash produced in the South 40 residence halls each night will be displayed by the Clocktower for the week.

The inspiration for Mount Trashmore came from Oswald’s previous experiences with waste audits, in which all of the trash for one night from a certain part of campus is collected together.

“You just look at all this trash, and you’re shocked that it’s just from one night,” Oswald said. “Normally, people don’t realize how much trash they do generate, so it doesn’t feel as present. We’re hoping this will cause the same emotion in other people, for them to start realizing that this is what we’re creating and now we need to see how to fix it.”

Junior Sydney Kapp, who lives in South 40 House, said that the bins caught her attention immediately.

“I can see them when I look out my window,” Kapp said. “I guess the amount of trash in it is expected when you consider the number of trash rooms per floor on the 40 and then consider that amount for every dorm.”

The Office of Sustainability received a grant that was focused on waste. With the grant, it has started focusing efforts on ways to make students aware of composting by means of Green Ambassadors, Compost Ambassadors at all of the trash bins and making all the major orientation events zero-waste.

“There are a lot of changes we’ve been making,” Oswald said. “We’ve updated the waste cans with pictures and labeling to help clarify what can be recycled and what can’t. We also noticed that having ambassadors at the compost stations to tell students how to sort their waste has made a really big difference.”

According to Oswald, while ambassadors were at the stations, roughly 90 percent of waste generated from campus was kept out of landfills; a month later, there was only a 3-percent decrease without the presence of ambassadors.

“There’s this assumption that we’re a really green school, but we actually have this huge capacity to be greener,” junior Libby Mohr, waste production and diversion intern, said. “There’s a lot more focus that could be put on recycling and composting that this event will hopefully help call attention to.”

Out of the different categories within the competition, Washington University has generally done best at the Gorilla Challenge, which monitors tonnage of recycling. Oswald says that while this is a good sign of recycling, the competition only takes into account total waste recycled, not waste per capita.

“We could have just been generating a lot more waste than other schools, rather than recycling more of our waste per capita than them,” she said. “This year, we’d really like to do better in other categories that some of the other universities have traditionally been better at.”

The other categories of the competition include greatest percentage of overall waste diverted from landfills (Grand Champion) and the greatest amount of recyclables per person (Per Capita Classic). In addition to Mount Trashmore, other outreach events will take place during the two-month span.

“Even if it’s not perfect, everyone just making a small effort would have a huge impact,” Oswald said. “Just getting people more aware and seeing what little they can change would be a job accomplished.”

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