There was a lot of trash talk Friday in Red Square, the heart of Pacific Lutheran University.
Students threw around words like “recycling,” “compostable” and “landfill.” Then there were the scrunched faces and resounding “ews” and “yucks.”
To demonstrate the importance of recycling, volunteers gathered all the trash bags around campus from the last 48 hours and brought them to Red Square. Then they sorted the contents into large, individually marked bins – paper, metal, glass, plastics, composting and landfill.
The public display is meant to grab attention from passing students.
“If they see a big pile of trash, they’re going to be curious, they’re going to ask,” said junior Sara Patterson, who helped organize the Garbology event. “We want students to see what they’re creating. That way they can take ownership for what they’re throwing away.”
PLU’s Office of Sustainability has done this on a smaller scale for seven years, usually in residence halls. This year, the office expanded the waste audit to the entire campus.
Sustainability manager Chrissy Cooley estimated students sifted through 2,500 pounds of trash.
The 27 students who work in the Sustainability Office, as well as volunteers from student government, took shifts putting trash in the appropriate bins.
They tried to coax passing students into helping by offering incentives. Five minutes of digging in the trash earned a Frisbee; 10 minutes meant a drink voucher at the campus café; and 15 minutes warranted a Recyclemaniac T-shirt.
Cooley said the event was a fun outreach to students who might have never contemplated where their trash ends up.
“I hope this is a visual representation on how waste affects our society,” she said. “Every time we’ve done it, we see 80 to 90 percent of what’s in the trash could have been diverted from the landfill. And that’s crazy.”
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653