Waste audit reveals that WCC disposes of lots of food

Over two days in September, volunteers sorted through 680 pounds of trash from all departments on campus –Navin Erwin-Tagore

A lot of people don’t think about the trash they throw away. But trash doesn’t just disappear once you throw it in the garbage can.

This year, WCC held its first comprehensive waste audit to find out what kind of waste the campus is disposing of and to come up with solutions to make the college less wasteful and more sustainable.

The audit took place on Sept. 4 and 11 on the side of Hale ‘Ākoakoa behind the ‘Uala Leaf Cafe. UH Mānoa’s landscaping department donated the 30-gallon sorting buckets while bags, tables and tents were supplied by WCC.

Over the two days, volunteers sorted 680 pounds of trash from all departments on campus, separating it into material types–paper, plastics, glass, metals, organics and miscellaneous–and then weighing it.

Results showed that WCC had a higher percentage of waste that is plastic take-out containers and food waste than other UH campuses. According to the audit data sheet, 37 percent of the total weight was food-related, with 24 percent from food, 11 percent from non-compostable take-out containers, and 2 percent from compostable containers. The volume of food-related waste also stood out, with 25 percent coming from take-out containers. WCC sustainability coordinator Navin Erwin-Tagore, who led the audit, said: “Being a campus that is considered ‘food insecure’ is pretty appalling when you see just how much food we’re throwing out. So that’s kind of something we need to work on. It’s not just diverting our food waste into compost pits but also just not throwing out food to begin with.”

Aside from food, the audit revealed that the campus throws out a lot of recyclable materials, with 16 percent of the total waste weight coming from recyclable paper and 2 percent from recyclable plastic, glass or cans. Additionally, paper towels accounted for a large amount of waste and was a high-volume item on the six other UH campuses that completed waste audits as well.

  Waste audits can lead to positive action. For instance, after the first audit at UH Mānoa in 2017, the student body had the idea to ask students to carry clip-on hand towels on their backpacks to use instead of paper towels as a way to reduce their paper footprint.

As the audit revealed a large amount of Starbucks cups, the campus implemented a “Bring Your Own Cup” campaign to cut back on single use cups.

The results from WCC’s audit will help our campus develop specific solutions for source reduction and waste diversion initiatives. For instance, Erwin-Tagore said recyclable materials can be easily diverted from the dumpster with better access to recycling receptacles and more signage.

“Essentially, Windward Community College just took its first step towards creating a zero waste future,” he said. “Zero waste policies reduce environmental impacts, encourage localized economies, and save institutions money.”

by Jenesis Ellis, Haley Roback and Bo Wong, Special to Ka ‘Ohana