Thursday, May 28, 2015

Spring Concert!

Spring Concert is always a big event, and produces a lot of waste. To make sure all this waste got sorted correctly, the excellent Jackson Van Fleet donned a fluorescent vest, camped out by a group of bins, and helped students throw away their trash effectively.

 Jackson poses with some compost.

 Everyone appreciates a guy in a fluorescent vest.

 Jackson pointing out that the cups handed out at Spring Concert read "compostable" on the bottom.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

7th Weekend Saturday

Spotted in Goodhue: an RA has taken the initiative to DIY an informational poster about waste sorting.  Great work, Goodhue RAs! We love to see people take an interest.

This Saturday's collection of unspoiled food found in the trash: pizza, V8, an orange, cheese, some pasta salad, and some matzah. We'd prefer you don't throw away perfectly good food, but at least there's more for us.

 A large collection of recyclables that were all originally found in a landfill bin. Luckily, we caught them and moved them to recycling.

Our friends on trash-crew posing with all of the day's finds. From left: David, Shilin, Andrew, and Matt.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

6th Week

A landfill receptacle that is full of tissues. Tissues are 100% compostable. We very frequently find tissues in the landfill, even if they are not in this concentration.

A totally intact and functional frisbee in the landfill bin. We rinsed it off and returned it to the owner, whose name was written on the back.

Matt poses with today's recovered resources.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Photographer's Perspective on Trash

Last term, Catherine Berman shadowed the waste monitors to see what gets thrown away on campus and what we as waste monitors find through our work. Here's the photo project she produced from the trip for The Lens magazine:

Landfill: A fractured mirror and a paper plate

            One of my first interactions with Jackson was when he offered to share the bacon and eggs that he was frying. “You went to Econo this morning?” I asked. “No,” he said, without missing a beat, “I found this in the trash.” The next week he brought home a blender he fixed himself, also found in the trash. Then, rope that he used to hang his clothes between trees in the backyard.  Then syrup and pencils, when I was no longer phased.
            I learned that Jackson is part of the trash crew at Carleton, a team of students that started out sealing bags of smelly, beer-filled trash on Saturday mornings as their campus job.  Noticing how much waste was improperly sorted in the recycling, landfill, and compost bins, they petitioned to expand their job to collecting data about improperly sorted trash.  Beyond a job, it’s a practice that has changed their lives.
            Two weeks ago, I spent Saturday morning attending the trash crew clean-up and learning about what this work means to three of the members, Jackson VanFleet Brown, Henri Sandifer, and Andrew Woosnam.  More than an off-beat hobby, this work is based in deep conviction.  Henri firmly believes that germs and bacteria build the community inside our bodies and that we need not fear trash so much.  And, he points out, anything organic that comes from a life (even hair and nails), is compostable, which speaks to the interconnectedness of the world. Most importantly, Henri and Jackson see the trash as a kind of ‘truth dump’ that tells us about how we treat our resources and our own bodies: it’s a private place we’ve agreed not to look, but when we do look, we find that what we consume is as disturbing as what we waste.
            The photographs show the objects that these three collectors have saved and other objects that we found together on this Saturday morning clean up. To me, this project represents how three people can carry what they believe into what they put in their bodies, touch with their hands, and fix with their time (a blender for Jackson, a lava lamp for Andrew, and four pairs of pants with holes in the crotch that Henri doesn’t plan on fixing but will wear anyway). 
Formally, I used lighting, negative space, and a mock-up studio that resurrected the sacredness of this work and the beliefs that the objects represent.  The content and form of this project were strongly influenced by three still-life photographers: Olivia Parker, Rosamond Wolff Purcell, and Laura Letinsky.
These photographers all elevate the objects to another level of perception. Parker points out, “Reading objects, archaeologists search for meaning in bones, earth, and stone. Today, some anthropologists try to figure us out by checking out our garbage. What if each cereal box, grapefruit rind, and hub cap were perceived to have its own moving spirit?” She shows the spirit of the object not just in the way she positions it (as a sitting, hanging, or falling object), but in the way it dissolves into the darkness that is then interrupted by a glow of light or a setting sun.  Similarly, Laura Letinsky is highly aware of the lighting and space in her photographs, using soft light that dances across a table or harsher rectangles from windows.  This form elevates a decaying apple core and a crystal glass to the question she is after in her work: how can we show intimacy in human relationships through what remains, through what has sustained our physical bodies?  How can a photograph flatten a beautiful and decaying thing in the same plane?
Finally, Rosamond Wolff Purcell, a photographer fascinated by the obsession of collecting, has influenced my work.  She has photographed collections all over the world, ranging from dice collections, to Peter the Great’s Kuntskamera museum, to scientists’ collections of monkeys and bats preserved in glycerin.  She believes that the qualities that collectors possess are the ones that “distinguish[] people of true accomplishment.”  The collectors she worked with, she writes, “all believed passionately in the value of their work; they were driven, sometimes at the cost of life or sanity, by this conviction, this urge to collect, to bring part of a limitless diversity into an orbit of personal or public appreciation.”  In my own work, I wanted to use the lighting, space, and form of a sculptural accordion book to similarly illuminate the perseverance, activeness, and principle that Henri, Jackson, and Andrew show in touching and saving everything from a fractured mirror to a paper plate. 


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

4th Saturday

We are always interested in the waste signage that RAs produce independently. This was part of a larger billboard display entitled "Kitchen How-To." This board does a good job of highlighting important compostable items such as tissues and pizza boxes. It also says that the landfill is for "trash, and anything you are not sure about." I would challenge the latter claim, because I think that the landfill is overused simply because people allow themselves to put anything in it.

Edible foods that we found in trash bins in Goodhue. We cooked the ramen from the dry noodles and microwaved the pizza. A greasy breakfast for the trash crew.

A puzzling decision to throw away an entire packaged salad.

Another trash cornucopia. Everything here was found in landfill receptacles during our rounds.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

3rd Week

It looks like all this food should have been left out on the counter. But NO, we actually took it out of the landfill bin in the kitchen! The waste crew starts off the shift with a greasy breakfast.

More nicely intact food from the landfill.

Textiles are a common occurrence in our landfill waste stream. Textiles are also highly recyclable, because the fibers can be used for a number of applications such as stuffing in pillows and couches. However, Carleton does not have a textiles recycling system in place. In the ideal world, students of this campus would repair clothing when it tears in specific places. As you can see, though it is torn in one small place, this fabric is in quite good condition.

An egregious misuse of the landfill waste stream. Cardboard and aluminum are valuable  recyclable materials.

Here is another instance of many recyclable materials found in the landfill waste stream. In this case, the issue arose because recycling bins were removed from the hallways and taken into someones room to use as a beer pong table (a popular use for the "slim jim" containers in residence halls). Unfortunately, the people who decided to co-opt the recycling receptacles failed to return them in time for their floor-mates with recyclable waste. Consequently, the landfill bin gets filled up with aluminum and cardboard.

This is a wild compost receptacle, meaning this is the condition we found it in. And as you will see, it is a happy sight. There are three items in here that we work hard to promote as compost to the student body: friday flowers, sayles boxes, and paper towels.

This is a very courteous thing, and something that warms my heart as a trash man. Rather than stuffing recyclable materials into the top of the bin, so that it is overflowing and difficult to empty, the residents of this floor have placed a paper bag with their excess recyclable materials on the floor next to the recycling bin. This is also a smart move because it suggests that these people did not take the fullness of a receptacle as an indication that it would be necessary for them to direct all further recyclables to the landfill bin (which, being larger, is typically not yet full). Oftentimes, we see students chucking their recyclable materials into the landfill bin simply because the local recycling bin is full.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

1st and 2nd Week

Andrew with organic goat whey protein powder, vanilla flavor. The can is half full.

Data collection + resource recovery

Saturday crew with recovered resources. Two pairs of shoes this week.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Photographs by Catherine Berman '15

Catherine Berman followed the trash crew a couple of weeks ago, using the objects we recovered from the landfill as the subject of her photo series. Thanks for bringing glory to these rejected objects. Here are some samples of her work:

Sunday, March 1, 2015

This is What Happens to Your Recyclables

Last (7th) week, a group of Carleton students and faculty took a trip to the Dick's Sanitation mixed recycling facility. The staff there gave us a brief presentation and showed us around.

Here are some pictures from the tour:  
The company has cameras all over the facility to help monitor and ensure safety. Some of the footages can be remotely accessed.

Put on your helmets and earplugs. Let's head inside!

During the Tour

Trucks are weighed before and after they pick up the recyclables to measure how much they have collected. 13 to 16 tons of recyclables go through this facility daily. 

An overview of the facility

This machine separates the cardboard from everything else by grabbing on to the cardboards and moving them up as the wheels turn; other materials fall through the gaps between the wheels and gets sorted later.
Though most of the sorting is done by machines, plastics are organized into the right categories by these workers.

There is a compressor for each type of recyclables. A ground manager controls the compressor.
A close up of compressed aluminum cans. Did you drink one of these?
 These blocks are ready to be shipped out. 

To learn more, you can watch this video DSI made:

Here are some interesting facts about recyclings to end the post with:
1. Cardboards have the most consistent price and the highest demand.
2. It only takes 30 days for recycled aluminum cans to be back on the shelf.
3. Recycling facilities nationwide are losing money daily because they are unable to sell the large quantities of recycled glass in storage. Unless people come up with an efficient way of reusing the glass, it might end up in the landfill!