Two hundred eighty-two tons.

That’s how much Smith has reduced its output of trash per year over the past five years, thanks to multiple efforts to compost left over food, increase recycling and reduce waste.

Between 2005 and 2010 Smith reduced the waste by 30 percent. (Click image for enlarged view.)

Between 2005 and 2010 Smith reduced the waste by 30 percent. (Click image for enlarged view.)

Put another way, people at Smith create about one pound less of trash every minute of every day all year long, explains Roger Guzowski, Five College recycling manager. That’s a 30 percent reduction in annual trash generation in 2010 compared with 2005.

One effort that can make a positive impact on Smith’s trash reduction is the college’s participation in Recyclemania, the annual college competition, in which more than 600 schools nationwide measure their recycling numbers. Smith has participated in the friendly competition in recent years.

The college began last month tracking its recycling bulk and will continue for eight weeks, through the end of March. Smith currently ranks third among all competitors in the Targeted Material category, which measures the amount of corrugated cardboard recycled.

“We hope that participating in RecycleMania, as well as educational efforts by Green Team members and Sustainability Reps in houses, will encourage members of the Smith community to make an extra effort to recycle,” said Deirdre Manning, director of environmental sustainability. “Knowing what to recycle can be confusing as the rules are different in different areas of the country or even within a particular state.”

Emma Wade ’13, a member of the college's Green Team, created a mobile of trash objects, to be displayed near recycling containers on campus.

Emma Wade ’13, a member of the college’s Green Team, created a mobile of trash objects, to be displayed near recycling containers on campus.

To help propel Smith to the top of the Recyclemania list, deposit as many recyclable materials as possible in bins throughout campus. (View a list of what should be recycled as well as other useful energy-saving information).

Members of the Smith Green Team and Sustainability Reps have created artful mobiles of recyclable items that will be displayed over recycling bins in several campus locations, such as house lobbies, to help remind people on campus of the need to recycle.

Still Room for Improvement

Smith has done well in reducing its trash output over the past five years. The composting program in Smith dining rooms continues to grow. A culture of recycling and the importance of reusing items when possible has largely taken hold.

However, Manning reminds, there is still a way to go to reach target objectives. Recyclable items such as milk cartons and juice boxes are too often discarded in trash bins, and items like plastic water bottles are too frequently used.

MacKenzie Clarke ’11 and Elena Ortiz ’11, who are co-organizing Smith’s participation in RecycleMania, would like to see that 30 percent waste reduction become 50 percent, they said. To reach that goal, they urge people on campus to:

  • reuse items, such as water bottles, whenever possible
  • deposit all recyclable items in the appropriate bins
  • put batteries and CFL bulbs in the Campus Center recycling station
  • compost food waste whenever possible.

In 2010, students, employees and visitors at Smith produced 671 tons of trash. That translates to more than 260 pounds of trash produced per person on average for the year. It’s a considerable reduction, and one to be proud of, while remaining aware that it’s only a step forward along an ongoing path.