One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Data

By Elias Platte Bermeo

Furry french fries, rancid ravioli, and moldy mochi. These are just a few of the things the Grad Housing Team had to see, smell, and touch (though thankfully not taste!), this past Friday as we successfully completed the second of three audits of 720 and 824 Hilgard that will allow us to track the progress of our pilot compost program.  And somehow, we all managed to not throw up or run away in the process! Javier and his team once again provided us with much of the necessary equipment like suits, gloves, and goggles. One issue our team had during the initial audit was the fact that the scale we were using was not very reliable and made it very difficult to measure waste below a certain weight. Luckily, Javier provided us with a luggage scale for this audit so taking measurements was much smoother. Sarah and Chloe also purchased several five-gallon buckets we could use since Jessica from Athens unfortunately couldn’t be there to provide her own. After briefly looking over the results and comparing them to the first audit’s results it’s clear that the compost program is having an impact! We’ll analyze this data more this week and try to see what it means in terms of the program’s expansion.

The audit also gave us the opportunity to assess the extent of the fruit fly problem that many residents had noted in their survey responses. They were mostly concentrated around the green waste bins and were more of an issue in 720 Hilgard, likely because the building is so much bigger and therefore receives more waste. We reached out to Jessica and Jennifer from Athens and Jason from EcoSafe to see if they had any suggestions for dealing with this. They let us know that the issue was probably aggravated by the fact that to conduct each waste audit we had to cancel regular pickups, which left organics sitting in the waste rooms for extended periods of time. They also gave us some tips that we could send to residents, like ensuring bags are tightly tied off, being sure to close the green waste bin lid after disposing of compost, and considering disposing of waste the night before pickup to reduce the amount of time it sits in the waste room. We plan to email Hilgard residents with these tips later this week.

This Friday we have a meeting with Emma and Javier to talk about the progress of the program so far and try to figure out exactly what we need to do to help expand it to the rest of Graduate Housing and ultimately all of University Apartments. This will also give us the chance to go over our audit results with them and hopefully get answers to some questions we have about the results.