Joy Knight-Smith and Snowy Frankland take part in a trash audit at the Southern Cross University Wednesday BBQ.
Joy Knight-Smith and Snowy Frankland take part in a trash audit at the Southern Cross University Wednesday BBQ. Sophie Moeller

Trash audit reveals disturbing failure

A LUNCHTIME trash audit by representatives of Southern Cross University's student association has revealed a disturbing truth: their recycling bins contain almost all landfill.

During the university's weekly free lunch in The Goodman Plaza, hosted by the Lismore and External Student Association (LEXSA), a small group of representatives decided to stage a social experiment in plain view of the café, library, and queue of hungry students waiting in line for food.

According to LEXSA treasurer, Snowy Frankland, the purpose of the trash audit was to "see how much trash is generated on an average day by the Southern Cross University students and staff".

It was also to see how well the community was doing with sorting their trash into the correct bins: landfill, recycling and organic waste, he said.

"Sadly, it's safe to say we failed."

 

SCU student trash audit.
SCU student trash audit.

At the beginning of the day, all of the bins were emptied and kept in their original piles. Passing students and faculty were then asked to guess which pile was which, and place any trash they had in the correct one, said Mr Frankland.

"This resulted in many puzzled expressions, slack jaws and confused frowns.

"From the outset, the piles were so mixed it was impossible to tell them apart, even the organic pile.

"This only got worse as the day went on, and by 3pm the piles were so mixed, it made little difference where any rubbish was placed.

"This made the clean-up... disgusting, to be frank.

"People were a lot more shocked than I thought they would be. I was shocked.

Fellow student, Ms Rebecca Ryall, and Mr Frankland then led the charge to re-sort all of the trash into the correct bins.

Not only was this a time consuming process, but it gave the students a third, and final, revelation.

 

SCU student representatives Rebecca Ryall and Snowy Frankland sort through rubbish following Trash Audit of the university's recycle bins.
SCU student representatives Rebecca Ryall and Snowy Frankland sort through rubbish following Trash Audit of the university's recycle bins.

"None of the one-use coffee cups were washed clean, meaning they went into the landfill pile due to contamination," said Mr Frankland

"Likewise, almost all of the plastic containers in the recycling pile were contaminated with food.

"When sorting the trash, and deciding which piece should go where, we inevitably had one simple mantra to repeat over and over again: landfill, landfill, landfill."

Mr Frankland said he would now be taking his findings back to the university's Property Services Team to explore clearer ways of labelling the bins, based on the waste specifically used by students at the university.



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