Published: Mar 05, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Mar 04, 2013 06:17 PM
Hi, I study in Phillips Middle School. I am working with Helen Jiang and Joshua Zhou from my school on the “Siemens We Can Change the World” challenge. Through this project, we are learning about science and conservation while creating solutions that impact our planet.
After visiting the Chapel Hill Solid Waste department, we learned we are going to take our trash more than 100 miles away; thus we will be emitting more carbon dioxide to transport the trash to the new landfill. We used an online carbon calculator and found that we will be incurring a cost of $100 per ton of trash and will create 800 pounds of CO2 per ton of trash that will enter our atmosphere.
We did a classroom trash audit, with help of Ms. Muriel Williman from Orange County Solid Waste department, to see how well our school was at recycling. We learned a big contributor to classroom trash were liquids which were 21 percent of the whole trash. This data was an eye opener, and we decided to start a carton recycling and tip your liquids initiative at our school. In four weeks we have diverted 705 lbs. of trash going to the landfill by recycling cartons and tipping our liquids. Our analysis shows that if we continue this for one school year (180 days), we will save 170,561 sheets of paper, 14 mature trees, 6,000 gallons of water and we will be able to divert more than 6400 lbs. of trash going to landfill.
We are very excited about our findings and hope that other schools can follow this model sustainability initiative. Imagine the amount of trash we can divert from going to landfill when 12 elementary, four middles schools and three high schools start using our model.
During our research we also found out that compostable food waste in landfill is the biggest cause of methane gas, which heats up earth 20 times faster than carbon dioxide. We wanted to expand our research and awareness in the community since the new landfill location affects our community as well. We conducted an online community survey. We found out that only 21 percent of respondents were interested in a food waste composting demonstration; but 63 percent of our survey respondents were interested in a municipal composting program.
More than 90 U.S. cities do curbside composting programs, like Seattle and Portland. Most started because they had maxed-out landfills – just like ours. Research shows that more than one-third of all waste entering landfills can be composted. San Francisco diverts 78 percent of its waste from going to landfill by doing recycling and composting. Portland has cut back its weekly garbage collection to every other week since they are generating 30 percent less garbage every month ever since municipal composting was started.
In Chapel Hill, more than 26 percent of food waste goes to landfill. We presented our findings to Sen. Ellie Kinnarid. On her recommendation, we also presented to the mayor and council members at the City Hall meeting and asked them to start municipal composting. We hope that Chapel Hill can be the first town in North Carolina to start municipal composting. By recycling and composting, we can reduce the garbage going to landfill significantly.
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