Balmoral Hall students' waste audit finds nearly two-thirds of trash is compostable

Students at Winnipeg's Balmoral Hall picked through bags of trash to find out how much of their school's waste actually belonged in the compost bin.

Private school has now launched a compost collection program

Jessica Sui, second from right, led a team of students and teachers who picked through garbage to find out how much of the school's trash could be composted. (Submitted by Balmoral Hall)

Balmoral Hall student Jessica Sui discovered it's not easy to convince teenagers to hang around after school to pick through garbage.

"I would say that there is a lot of interest in a lot of passion in sustainable living at our school," the Grade 12 student said in an interview with Ismaila Alfa, host of CBC Manitoba's afternoon radio show Up to Speed.

"However, obviously, staying at school … picking through trash for a couple hours, it is less appealing than other things."

Sui was elected by her peers at the Winnipeg private girls school as the community service and green prefect.

In that role, she wanted to conduct a waste audit to find out how much compostable material ended up in the garbage bin at Balmoral Hall — and to hopefully reduce the amount going to the landfill.

She was able to assemble a team of students and teachers to help and over a 24-hour period, they gathered trash bags from the cafeteria, dorms, and some classrooms. They then brought the bags into the main hall of the school and began sorting the trash into separate bins for compost, recyclables and garbage.

"We actually opened up the bags and picked out each individual piece of garbage, with our lab coats on and gloves on to our elbows," she said. They then assigned each piece to the proper bin.

After weighing each bin, they discovered that 61 per cent of what gets thrown away every day at the school is compostable.

"I was definitely shocked. I knew it would have been a big number. That's why we wanted to do this program. But there were a lot of things that I didn't realize could be composted that I learned through the audit," she said.

Things like used paper towels, napkins, and paper cups often end up in recycling or garbage, but are actually compostable, said Sui.  

At the beginning of this month, the school launched a compost collection program through Compost Winnipeg. There are separate compost bins beside the garbages in the cafeteria, and separate paper towel bins in the bathrooms.

"Every day, we see staff and students, even those as young as two, making more conscious choices to separate their waste into compost, recycling, and garbage," a statement released by the school said.

Sui hopes through projects like hers and the school's new composting program, other people will start to change their habits and think before they toss something in the garbage.

With files from Laurie Hoogstraten


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