WastePhotos by Cameron McPhail/ Senior Staff Photographer


Trash Talk: The Secret Behind the Waste in Birmingham and UAB

Students raise awareness on waste and sustainability at UAB


Sufia Alam
Editor in Chief


Each person in Alabama, on average, throws away 2000 pounds of steel, aluminum, glass and plastic each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Statewide, this translates to 5 million tons produced each year by the state of Alabama.


Last week, the UAB Green Initiative performed a waste audit in Heritage Hall. Students and volunteers wearing blue plastic gloves and white hazmat suits took out all the waste from the trash cans that were produced in a day. Then they laid it out and began piling it into groups for landfill, compost and recycling.



A waste audit is a method of sorting and assessing the trash output of a specific area, according to Rose Albert, president of the Green Initiative club at UAB.

The Green Initiative at UAB is a student organization that aims to raise awareness about environmental issues and promote action in the UAB and Birmingham community.


The reason Albert and her team performed a waste audit was to help other students visualize just how much waste students produce even in a day.


"We have this very distorted mentality of 'out of sight, out of mind,'" Albert said. "A lot of people aren't aware of what's recyclable at UAB because it also changes. Sometimes there's just not a direct line of communication between the facilities and the students."


Not only are students sometimes not aware of what can be recycled and what can't, that ignorance causes contamination of recycling bins which leads to them ending up in landfills instead of recycling plants.

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To raise awareness of sustainability and waste management, the Green Initiative at UAB as started a four-part "Let's Talk Trash" campaign that will host different events throughout the 2019-2020 school year. While step one was performing the waste audit, step two of the campaign will be engaging the community. Step three will be to educate the student body about sustainability and step four will be assessing the results of the campaign to see what changes can be made.


Some students who have taken part in the events have already become more conscious of the amount of trash that is produced by the campus in a day alone.


"The amount of trash was kind of crazy," said Alexis Cargill, sophomore in chemistry. "I wasn't expecting to see as much trash as I did."


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However, Albert said while awareness is an important part of their goal, it's important the UAB Green Initiative also aims to inform students about active steps they can take to produce less waste.


"Greenwashing is a ploy where businesses market that the best way to be sustainable is to buy expensive things," Albert said. "an example of this can be thinking you need to buy a metal straw to save the turtles when you don't drink from straws every anyways."


Easy habits to promote sustainability can include using glass Tupperware when storing lunch or choosing to bring your own cup to Starbucks when buying a drink.





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