Students get knee-deep in waste for a good cause

12 October 2009

student waste audit0_52E1E7
Student volunteers sort through some of the University's waste.

Spending the day sorting through piles of rubbish may not be everyone’s idea of fun. However, for a group of University of Auckland students, it’s all part of giving back to their community.

Student volunteers from the environmental groups Tzu Chi, Greens on Campus and Nexus Sustainability got together earlier this month to carry out a waste audit for the University. The group sifted through a day’s worth of rubbish from the Faculty of Engineering’s cafeteria and level three study area – the most used open space area in the department.

The volunteers first sorted out the contents of the bottle and can recycling bins to see how much material had been contaminated by non-recyclable waste. They then sorted through the general waste bins to determine how much of this waste could have been recycled. All the contents of the recycling and general bins were put into labelled bins and weighed. Items such as glass, some plastics, paper and aluminium, were then put out for recycling.

“Before we do any recycling initiative, we first do a baseline waste audit. We’ve done waste audits at various places throughout the University. The main goal of this audit is to measure the effectiveness of the roll out of the new recycling bins in the Engineering building,” says the University’s Environmental Officer, student Jenny Chu.

“The good news is that the audit has shown that the stainless steel recycling bins are being used properly. Only 5% of their contents are not bottles and cans.”

Volunteer Charles Harsono, a first year biomedical student, says he was involved in environmental work at high school and wanted to continue his passion for the environment at university. Mr Harsono says it’s disappointing to see that the general bins still contain a large number of bottles, which can be recycled. The recycling team will step up their efforts to encourage students to further reduce the University’s waste by putting these items in the recycling bins rather than the rubbish bins.

Tzu Chi member Lina Chan does a range of volunteer work in addition to volunteering for the University’s environmental programme, including picking up rubbish and planting trees. “It feels great to help out,” she says.