Waste Stream Characterization with Berkeley’s InFEWS Students

Pinoleville’s 2018 Waste Stream Characterization was a messy good time this week thanks to help from Berkeley’s InFEWS students. InFEWS, an acronym for¬†Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems, is a program focusing on disadvantaged communities and ways to increase access to vital systems like food, clean energy and more.

We’ve partnered with this group for more than a year. One of the activities we wanted to focus on was our annual waste stream characterization. In short, it’s period where we examine all the waste at PPN and sort it in different areas like recyclable plastics, food waste, aluminum and many more categories. As we sort the waste we weigh and total up all the different categories (12 total). This allows us to examine the waste entering the stream and make decisions on usage. For example, one year we noticed a lot of Styrofoam waste, which lead to PPN working to eliminate the use of those products on campus.

With that data compiled, we can make decisions on how to increase recycling and reuse, while cutting solid waste disposal costs.

The InFEWS students helped us sort through more than 200 pounds of waste in an afternoon while learning valuable sorting knowledge. Even when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s always something waste can teach you. In the coming months, the InFEWS crew will examine the data and begin to brainstorm ways that we can improve sorting and reduce the amount of trash going into the landfills. It’s been a valuable tool for us at PPN over the past few years, and we look to learn even more from the data we’ve gathered.

Take a look at the gallery below for an idea of just how the day went. Learn more about waste stream characterization via the EPA here.

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