Oregon State University Campus Recycling is conducting a series of waste audits on university dumpsters through March 11. A random selection of 15 campus buildings was selected for the audit. Waste is being taken to the OSU Long Barn, where volunteers sort it into 20 different categories.

“OSU Campus Recycling is working to track ‘waste streams’ as they enter, move within, and leave the university,” said Drew Jacobson with Campus Recycling. “This waste audit will provide us with a detailed snapshot of what is being thrown away at the university – information we can use to identify opportunities for waste reduction and diversion. Splitting the study into five categories of buildings will also allow Campus Recycling to perform targeted outreach to specific types of buildings should the data reveal any patterns of behavior.”

Volunteers look at what discarded materials or products appear most often. This can inform policy planning, education and outreach, and making procurement decisions to improve overall sustainability and reduce waste.

Volunteers include Oregon State students as well as members of the Master Recycler Program of Linn and Benton Counties.

The audit also has a research component. Campus Recycling is partnering with Professor Skip Rochefort in the College of Engineering and his students, who have been working on ways to convert plastics into fuel. Some of his students volunteered in the audit, and volunteers will be saving specific types of plastic for the team to use in their trials.

The lab focuses on the plastics found in things like shampoo containers and yogurt cups. Students will collect these items, bring them back to the lab, sort them, grind them into small pieces, and heat them to condense the gas, which produces a diesel product. This product can then be blended with regular farm diesel to be used in tractors, boats and other farm equipment.

“Our goal is to put our reactors in communities that don’t have a recycling or waste management infrastructure, and to put them in communities that would like to do local recycling,” Rochefort said. “Farmers could set-up these units on their farms or as part of a farm collective and start producing diesel for themselves on site, while also dealing with their plastic waste problem.”

For more about Campus Recycling programs: https://recycle.oregonstate.edu/

~ Theresa Hogue