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A Dirty Job, But Somebody Had to Do It: Students Pitch in for ODU Waste Audit

Dirty Job

Harvey Logan, who oversees the university's recycling efforts, was heartened by the student response to his call for volunteers to help with a waste audit Feb. 2.

As part of ODU's participation in RecycleMania, a friendly competition among college and university recycling programs in North America and Canada, students arrived at the University Recycling Center on 47th Street, where they donned protective gloves and white hazmat suits to sort through every scrap of trash from Powhatan Apartments I and II dumpsters for the recycling department's official waste audit.

Logan, who had soft jazz playing in the background, did everything he could to add some luster to an otherwise dirty job. He laughed along with the students and encouraged them to work together at tables so that they could meet someone new.

"This is not a glamorous job by any means," he said. "These students are here because they want to make a difference."

Logan's mission as ODU's recycling coordinator is to help the campus community as a whole make a difference, starting by doing all that he can to remove as much recyclable material from the university waste stream as possible. Conducting waste audits is one part of the ongoing process.

"Sometimes audits are done for visibility and awareness sake. Some audits are done to specifically find out what's in the municipal solid waste stream, to characterize the waste and to use that information to make better policies. We are doing both," said Logan, whose passion for recycling is infectious.

The students, working in one-hour shifts, sorted the waste into nine categories, including recyclable metal, glass, cardboard, paper and plastic; compostable materials such as food waste and napkins; non-recyclable plastic like Styrofoam; hazardous waste, such as batteries and aerosol cans; and anything else that doesn't fit the first eight categories.

Early indications revealed that students need to make a greater effort to recycle plastics, particularly soft drink bottles, Logan said. The volunteer workers also found a lot of cardboard that didn't get recycled.

After all of the materials have been sorted and weighed, Logan will use the information to help in deciding how and where to advertise recycling on campus. "We hope this will tell us some things we can use all throughout our residence halls and the entire campus," he said.