Students, staff sort trash to promote recycling

Jason Howard

Students sort through recyclable materials
Photo by Keri Weiland


The abundance of white coveralls under the tent by the Student Union Oct. 24 may have made it look like there was radiation leak on campus, but the suits were just to protect the students and volunteers who were sorting through university trash during the 6th annual Garbage on the Green.

Garbage on the Green is a UNF Environmental Center event where students and volunteers can sort the refuse of the university.

First held in 2006, the event aims to engage and educate students, faculty and staff about recycling and its importance to the university and the environment.

James Taylor, the coordinator of the UNF Environmental Center, was pleased with the turnout. He said over 100 volunteers came out to help.

The high number of volunteers shortened the event. It usually lasts until 3 p.m., but this year it finished an hour earlier.

The first step for volunteers is donning the white suits, along with gloves and lab goggles, to handle the assorted trash. Following pick up, volunteers go through each bag, taking measure of where it came from and the types of materials inside it. Then, they weigh each category of waste.

Divided among several campus locations, the event began with a pick up of refuse from

Piles of trash wait to be sorted
Photo by Keri Weiland

buildings 51 and 42, the Student Union plaza and the Crossings. These served as the sample for the university.

Taylor said the Crossings is a new choice for the housing trash auditing; the former location was the Hall.

One of the purposes of Garbage on the Green is to calculate how much university trash can be diverted from landfill. This is known as the diversion rate.

The potentially diverted trash includes materials that could potentially be recycled, composted or reused.

The campus diversion rate last year was at 51.6 percent — just scratching the surface of the rate Taylor hopes to reach.

“We hope to reach a 75 percent diversion rate by 2020, which is actually a state of Florida goal.” Taylor said.

Among the volunteers, John Smith, an English and sociology senior, came out for his fourth time.

“I do this every year,” he said. “I really like the whole process and the fact that I’m getting these numbers that will help the university know how to manage waste better.”

Due to the University’s new contract with its waste utilities contractor, just about everything is recyclable in any on-campus recycling bin. Items include empty steel and tin cans, juice boxes and more. Glass, styrofoam and plastics numbered one through seven — meaning a range from thin water bottles to very hard plastic — are now recyclable.

Garbage on the Green also featured an electronic waste pick up. The Environmental Center will be providing the same electronic waste disposal for housing. So, if you have a refrigerator you know will not fit in the back of your Jetta, the Environmental Center is the place to take it.

Regina Brooks, a journalism sophomore, said she has been dying to go to the event since last year.

“I love green projects, and I love seeing young people, especially, get into environmental activities,” she said.

Smith and Brooks said they didn’t find anything too strange in the university’s garbage.

“I found sushi and a muffin in a bag and thought, ‘Who eats their sushi with a muffin?’” Brooks said.

What Smith found was more concerning than humorous.

“There was a bag with an entire crate of vegetables, and I know someone could actually use that, so it’s upsetting that that is going into the trash,” he said.

Garbage on the Green and the waste audit is just the tip of the recycling iceberg for the Environmental Center.

“We’ve found people do tend to recycle paper, but they are not recycling plastic bottles nearly enough,” Taylor said.

Email Jason Howard at [email protected]

The UNF Environmental Center is located in building 1 by the Ghandi statue and building 3