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A student tosses a biodegradable food container into the landfill waste bin in MacHall on Jan. 20.
Kaye Coholan/the Gauntlet

Organic waste bins installed in student centre

Students confused over new compost program

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The garbage bins in the MacEwan Student Centre were replaced earlier this month to include a slot for organic waste, but there is confusion around what rubbish goes where.

"There have been students putting composting in the landfill," said Students' Union vice-president operations and finance Patrick Straw.

The bins, which were custom-designed and constructed for use in the student centre at a cost of more than $1,000 per bin, include slots for landfill waste, beverage containers and organic items.

So far, at least seven have been installed with plans to introduce more on campus.

According to the Office of Sustainability, organic waste includes food scraps, wooden chopsticks, napkins, paper towels, cardboard food containers and the corn-based clamshell food containers that replaced styrofoam in the MacEwan Student Centre last September.

Mowno Islam, a first-year open studies student who was dining in the MacEwan Student Centre last Monday, said he knew to put his food container into the organic waste bin.

"I read somewhere that these are biodegradable," Islam said, adding he imagines most students wouldn't know what to do with the containers. "If I hadn't read it, I wouldn't have known."

Sessional music instructor Howard Engstrom said he wasn't sure where to dispose of his food container.

"Which one of these would this go into? Well, landfill, I'd assume it's not organic," he said, adding he was surprised to learn that the corn-based containers can go in the organic items bin.

In an attempt to ensure the bins are used correctly, the su is planning to release a "full-scale communications plan" in the next few weeks, which will include various forms of advertising to instruct individuals on how to deposit waste.

Straw said it is the SU's job to communicate to students about the new garbage bins.

"We need to make our best efforts to educate people around what goes where," Straw said. "If there is a misconception, it's our responsibility to let people know."

The su has only been able to track use of the new bins based on how frequently they're emptied, which Straw said has increased. But because this includes the collection of landfill waste and because the containers are smaller, it's an imprecise measurement.

To make room for the new organics slot, the paper recycling bin has been removed, a decision that was based on the identified needs of the building.

"The reason is that the overwhelming majority of waste from MacHall is food-based waste," Straw said.

"This is another sustainable project the su has brought in because students want to make more sustainable choices with their waste," said Straw. "We encourage students to make sure they understand what products can go where and really utilize the bins we've developed to make smart choices."

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