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The United States’ waste stream is the most visible example of popular society’s disregard for the earth. The environmental movement focused on curbing the array of crises we now face has been steadily growing since the 70’s, however; the extent of its progress in many areas is questionable. Specific to mitigating the amount of garbage that plagues our communities and landfills, recycling programs have cropped up nationally and internationally. The success of these programs is arguable and while Smith’s program has become more efficient in the last twenty years, the sense that further improvement could be made led to an investigation that sought to quantify its waste stream. In collaboration with Bob Dombkowski and other members within Smith’s Grounds and Physical Plant Departments, samples of garbage were taken from 10% of Smith’s dumpsters. Each sample was weighed and then separated into specific groups that fit into the larger categories of goods that were either: recyclable/compostable/reusable/hazardous waste/trash. Once sorted the samples were re-weighed. Percentages were calculated using the new weights against the initial net weight of a sample; these percentages exemplified the “true” weight of the sample. The results of each sample revealed that at least 50% of the “garbage” in each trial wasn’t trash and could be diverted away from the landfill. While Smith does make strides to keep recyclable materials from entering the waste stream, it was clear from much of the sorting that was done that Smiths’ ideology toward trash parallel that of greater society’s, assuming trash to be an unavoidable byproduct of life.
© 2003 K. Wraight
Wraight, K., "Wasting Away" (2003). Capstone, Smith College, Northampton, MA.
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