Diving into Buffalo’s waste

UB Sustainable Urban Environments Initiative conducts waste audit

waste

UB students were elbows-deep in garbage on Wednesday, searching for sustainable ways to manage large-scale waste and encourage companies to do the same.

Eight Fundamentals of Sustainability (SSN 501) students participated in Western New York Sustainable Business Roundtable’s dumpster dive to teach students and companies how to implement waste audits into their sustainability practices. WNYSBR is an organization comprised of Buffalo-Niagara companies that come together to find ways to better the environment. The Dumpster Dive, held at the Tri-Main Center, included collecting and looking through the center’s garbage to see what could have been recycled or reused. 

Sustainability Initiative Director Susan Clark believes the dumpster dive helps minimize waste and showcase trash which could have been recycled.

“If we’re keeping those materials within our economy, they become resources that can be used over and over again, rather than just putting a landfill and then have to use raw material from nature,” Clark said. “It represents an economic opportunity, but it also reduces the energy, carbon footprint, all of these things that hurt our environment.”

As students at the event searched through trash, composting and recycling specialist Andrew Goldstein presented business representatives with ways to improve their companies’ sustainability plan through waste auditing and assessments. He also emphasized ways companies can use these measures in their branding, and that recycling doesn’t always save money, but waste auditing can reduce garbage costs, “save material and save our planet.” 

Goldstein wants businesses to “take action” to help the earth and believes that improving a sustainability plan is a “team effort.”

“Most often there’s somebody under your wing that is your recycle or die kind of person that can’t understand why you’re not recycling –– look for those people and give them some responsibility over this,” Goldstein said. “But make sure it’s part of the team and as part of your goal setting for all of [you].”

SA Assistant Director of Environmental Affairs Sadie Kratt believes the event was important because it educates both the student participants and the center’s employees. 

“Until you’re going through a bag that smells like a diaper and is covered in yogurt and coffee grounds and cereal, you don’t really get the experience of knowing what is in the trash,” Kratt said. “It was really gross but very eye opening so it was worth it.”

Kratt said UB’s sustainability office hasn’t done a waste audit in six years and she hopes to apply what she has learned from the dive to UB. 

“I think this would be a really cool club opportunity perhaps to go through just the garbage like on the [Student Union] third floor because that’s where all the club offices are located,” Kratt said. “So that might be a potential SA club opportunity to get clubs more involved with their personal trash and see their personal impact.”

Alexandra Moyen is a news editor and can be reached at alexandra.moyen@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @AlexandraMoyen.