A study of waste bins at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus revealed that 88 percent of the contents in trash bins could have been recycled or composted. Most – 72 percent – of what didn’t belong in trash bins turned out to be compostable items, such as food, carry-out containers and paper coffee cups.
“Food waste is the single most significant contaminant in trash bins,” said Jack Johnson, a UW archaeology graduate student who leads the UW Garbology Project. “It is clear that most contamination stems from people throwing the contents of their on-campus meals, including foods and compostable/recyclable packaging, into trash bins,” he wrote in a report (pdf) posted this week summarizing the project’s findings.
Finding ways to improve composting would cut the university’s waste expenses. It costs $145 per ton to dispose of trash compared with $55 per ton for compost, which ends up turned into nutrient-rich soil by Cedar Grove. There is no fee for recycling.