SEC hosts ‘dumpster dive’ to raise awareness of over-consumption, waste on campus

GVL / Liz Garlick
Students participate in the Dumpster Dive

Liz Garlick

GVL / Liz Garlick Students participate in the Dumpster Dive

Liz Garlick

For members of Grand Valley State University’s Student Environmental Coalition, the idea of being waist-deep in trash sounds exactly like a Monday afternoon.

Last Monday, SEC members lead a “dumpster dive” event, diving into the dumpster outside of the Commons near Fresh Food Company in an effort to raise awareness about over-consumption and wasteful habits.

Students sorted through trash bags and uncovered compostable and recyclable treasures such as bread heels, unused sub rolls, unconsumed food in various stages, receipts, napkins, food wrappers and plastic bottles.

Bart Bartels, campus sustainability manager at GVSU, said about 80 percent of what was thrown away could have actually been composted or recycled.

“It’s shocking, really, but good to know what we could possibly do based on what we find,” Bartels said. “The goal (of dumpster diving) is to create an awareness of what’s in our waste stream. By finding out what is in the dumpster, problem areas can be identified and dealt with.”

Although waste audits on the GVSU Holland Campus last semester helped motivate students to participate in a dumpster dive, Josh Lycka, a member of the SEC, said the event was also inspired by a dumpster raid that the SEC held after every football game last semester.

Lycka said many recyclable items were tossed into the trash during football games because no bins were provided for recycling or composting materials, such as pizza boxes and water bottles.

“It took 14 volunteers seven hours to sort through (everything),” Lycka said, adding that both events were a visual representation about waste and consumption at GVSU. “I think people in general have good intentions about what they do, but completely ignore choices.”

Steve Leeser, operations supervisor for Facilities Services, said this is the first time the Dumpster Dive has been done in Allendale in several years.

“Both (the dumpster dive and RecycleMania) help create awareness of improving our recycling, and, on a broader scope, our sustainability efforts,” Leeser said.

Mary O’Neil, a member of the SEC, said the group is trying to raise awareness that recycling is available and can help with GVSU’s sustainability efforts.

“The goal is to make people aware of options, and to (encourage them to) look for bins instead of automatically putting it in trash,” O’Neil said.

Recycling and composting bins are available at various residences, academic buildings and cafeterias on GVSU’s campuses.

Members of the SEC will investigate how much trash is in dumpsters outside an eating area and a residential area at a later date.

For more information about the SEC and upcoming sustainability events, visit

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