Last weekend, The Environmental Center’s Rethink Waste Project partnered with the Mt. Bachelor Play Forever Mountain Clean Up to educate volunteers on proper waste sorting. We designed a waste sorting station that was integrated into the clean up. Volunteers picked up their grabbers, gloves, and reusable burlap bags at check in. They took the ski lift up the mountain and hiked down picking up litter. Then they brought bags full of litter from the mountain to sort through together at the sorting station.
The result: 200+ volunteers collected 1900 pounds of litter and diverted 30% to recycling (including scrap metal, aluminum cans, plastic bottles, glass, and electronics). Among the most interesting finds were two Motorola razor flip phones, a Super Bowl XLI mini keg (from 13 years ago for those of us not keeping track), and several disc golf discs (that will make it back to their owners thanks to the contact info written on them). One volunteer noted that last year cider can and bottles were a top find, while seltzers were much more popular this year.
This was the first year the Play Forever Mountain Clean Up incorporated litter sorting into the clean up process. So, we tested two different sorting station set ups and gathered information to inform future outreach efforts. Here are some key takeaways:
- While plastic bottles and aluminum cans were the largest volume of materials recovered, many more bottles and cans just weren’t clean or intact enough to be recycled. This reinforced the idea that waste reduction is key (before it becomes litter).
- Scrap metal from equipment of all sorts significantly drove up our diversion rate. Metals are highly valuable recyclables that help minimize the upstream impacts of mining for virgin metals.
- The age of the collected litter demonstrated just how long items disposed of or lost on the mountain can stay up there, while other items can be carried into the watershed via snowmelt, entering nearby rivers and lakes.
Overall, it was a unique opportunity to put hands-on waste sorting into practice with our community! Check out this video of the clean up from KTVZ.