"I think I have trash juice on my face!" is one thing you might only overhear at a waste audit. On Friday, October 5, the Office of Sustainability's zero waste intern, Caitlin Martin, led a waste audit of trash and recycling from the nine floors of Brumby Hall, a high-rise freshman dorm.

Interns teamed up with leaders from the University of Georgia's University Housing to conduct the waste audit. The volunteers picked through recycling in order to find materials that couldn't actually be recycled.

One of the biggest recycling contaminants was food, which cannot be recycled as it can ruin other recyclable materials and attract pests to the sorting facility. Food such as fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, grains, and eggshells can actually be thrown into compost bins, which help return nutrients to the earth.

Intern Caitlin Martin displays the weight of a bag of trash at the Brumby waste audit on Friday, October 5, 2018. Photo/Becca Wright

Another contaminating item in the recycling was pizza boxes covered in grease, which cannot be recycled. However, if the the greasy bottom is separated from the clean top, the top can be placed in the recycling bin. Check out our single stream recycling page for more information on what can be composted or recycled, and what has to go to the landfill.

Other pollutants of the recycling included plastic film, which cannot be recycled at the single stream sorting facility as it can get tangled and damage equipment. Plastic film items such as plastic bags can be recycled at the Athens-Clarke County Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM). Find out what else can be recycled at CHaRM here.

Interns Caitlin Martin, Ali LoPiccolo, and Nicole Schlabach sort trash and recycling at the Brumby waste audit on Friday, October 5, 2018. Photo/Becca Wright

Volunteers also picked through trash piles to find items that belonged in the recycling. Many bottles were found in the trash with liquid still inside, but after dumping out the bottles and rinsing out the inside, these items were ready to go to the recycling facility.

A total of 83 lb of garbage was sorted from all nine floors of Brumby Hall. By the end of the audit, 5.5 lb of potentially contaminating material was diverted from the recycling. Additionally, 4 lb of recyclable material was redirected from the trash bins into recycling bins. Check out these photos of the waste audit below, taken by intern Becca Wright.


Written by Jordan Meaker