Compost Audit

On November 15, Trash Talk execs and Adam Chiaravalle of McMaster Facility Services decided to get their hands a little dirty and do an audit of one of McMaster’s new compost bins! We overturned and sorted one almost-full bin, separating the things that belonged from the things that did not. Once we had sifted through everything, the results were pretty surprising.

Between 1/3 and 1/2 of the contents of the bin were garbage and recyclable material. Some of the worst offenders were:

  • plastic utensils
  • plastic water bottles
  • straws
  • plastic take-out containers
  • condiment packages
  • coffee cups lids

When a bin is contaminated to this extent, everything gets tossed in the garbage, compostable or not. Sadly, contamination is a significant problem in both McMaster’s compost bins and recycling bins.

Next Steps…

Trash Talk wants to understand what prevents proper usage of McMaster’s waste receptacles. Promoting waste diversion involves not only providing a sufficient number of compost and recycling receptacles across campus, but also making sure the system is convenient and easy to understand for users.

In order to combat this challenge, we plan to propose new designs for the sorting labels on waste bins to replace the current This, That and The Other labels. We want a comprehensive, visual guide that makes proper sorting a piece of cake (cake, by the way, would go in the compost). We also plan to undertake a recycling audit in second semester to see if as many misplaced items lurk in campus recycling bins.

The images above show the contents of the compost bin sorted into three piles (in order from left to right): Non-compostable material, potentially compostable material, and compostable material.