PET and Trash Analysis - An Environmental Society Investigation
Written by Manuela Fabregues (G11)
We in the environmental society wanted to better understand how our school dealt with waste, but first, we had to investigate what was the waste that we were producing. We decided to analyse bags of trash from different areas of the school to see how people in our community dealt with trash.
First, we looked at the waste from PET bins from around the school. When analysing the PET waste, we divided the bottles into various categories; size, brand, where you could find that brand (in school or outside), and whether or not they were crushed down before being put in the bin. We saw that most of the bottles were not crushed down before being thrown away, but what I found most curious was to see that people were sometimes throwing away bottles which still had liquids in it. We found that 82% of the bottles, that weren't of water, were sold in the school vending machine, compared to 17% from outside the school. We also noticed that there were some more popular brands, with over half of the vending machine bottles being Coca-Cola or Fuse Iced Tea. It was very interesting to see that 7% of all bottles were of still water, as you could get water from dispensers around campus for free and use a reusable water bottle instead. However, what I found even more fascinating, was that 10% of the items found in the PET bins were not PET, including a CHF 1 coin.
Three days after doing the PET waste analysis, we analysed 15kg of trash collected from bins found in different areas of the school. Out of all of the things that were disposed of, we found that several of them were still useful and should not have been disposed of. Among them were metal cutlery, a lock, a book, new plastic bags for trash, and an unopened water bottle that was still sealed. Many of the other trashed items could have also been recycled or composted, such as PET bottles, aluminium, and green waste. I was surprised to see that there were PET bottles in these trash bags as there are bins specifically for PET around campus. Regarding the aluminium and the green waste, we could minimize waste by implementing a system to separate these and dispose of them properly so that they can be recycled. We also noticed that a lot of the trash bags were not full, which indicated that the trash collection system could be adjusted to avoid wasting more plastic.
Doing this analysis made me see how there are still things which we, as the environmental society, can help teach our community about waste. For instance, simply informing our community that the reason they should squeeze the bottle before throwing it away is so that more bottles can fit per trash bag, which in itself is a way of being more environmentally conscious.