It started with one full dumpster and five Northwest Missouri State University faculty and staff members.
The result was a sparsely filled dumpster and a large pile of materials to be recycled and/or added to the university's compost pile.
John Viau, sustainability coordinator at Northwest; Chris Redden, hardscape & recycling supervisor; Deb Toomey, assistant professor of marketing; Kurt Davis, hardscape groundskeeper and Aimee Rhea, complex director, all volunteered for the third-annual "Dumpster Dive" project.
The reason behind the project that most would consider unfathomable is to prove a very direct and obvious point during the week-long celebration of Earth Day.
"We pick out and go through a dumpster to see how much of the waste would be recyclable," Viau said. "It's kind of a fun act for the students to see how much we throw away that could be recycled."
And the numbers, though not shocking to the group that was more than elbow deep in other people's trash, would be shocking to most.
At the beginning, there was 298 pounds of waste in the dumpster.
After it was sorted, the group weighed just 46 pounds of actual trash, which fit into four bags that barely covered the bottom of the once-full dumpster.
Roughly 115 pounds of the rest will be added to the university's compost pile, used as mulch for the campus' many gardens and flower beds.
Another 108 pounds were accounted for by plastic and metals, including aluminum, tin and computer parts.
There was 29 pounds of cardboard and paper that will be sent to the university's pellet plant for heating and cooling the many buildings on campus.
Redden said that based on the weight, it would have cost the university $6 to dispose of the waste. But after selling the recyclables and considering the energy savings from using the pellets, Northwest will actually make about $50.
And that's just from one dumpster pulled from outside of one dormitory. This one happened to contain a wild turkey carcass, presumably from a careless hunter.
There are 70 waste dumpsters located throughout the campus, not including receptacles meant specifically for recyclable materials. Redden and his crew empty each one on a daily basis.
If the one sample dumpster is an accurate depiction, this means that more than 17,000 pounds of waste are thrown away on a daily basis that could instead be recycled.
Redden and his crew, along with Viau and other Northwest staff work tirelessly to help reduce that figure.
"Every day we send tons of solid waste to the landfill," Viau said. "We are really trying to reduce that."
Redden added that if students and staff would just make that little extra effort to put recyclables in the appropriate bins, the university would not only reduce its environmental impact, it would spend less money.
Page 2 of 2 - Well-known for its alternative energy project that burns recycled paper products for heating and cooling, Northwest has always taken measures to be environmentally-friendly and cost-effective when it comes to energy.
Recently there has been an increase in those efforts. This includes student initiatives, Redden and his crew paying close attention to what is in the dumpsters (searched daily), and programs like the "Dumpster Dive."
"Recycling efforts at Northwest have grown exponentially over the years," Viau said. "It is really important for us to educate and share the importance of sustainability. We need to reduce the footprint - the amount of waste, and practice energy conservation."
With more than 6,800 students and roughly 700 faculty and staff, there is no question as to why so much waste is produced on a daily basis.
Using grants from the Solid Waste Management District and other entities, the university is continuing to look for ways to reduce that heavy footprint.
Even though Earth Day 2013 is now in the past, Viau, Redden and others at Northwest plan to continue their efforts to reduce, re-use and recycle.
"The damage from the waste is incremental," Viau said. "One or two days would not be that bad, but over the years that same amount of trash will have such a big impact. We have to teach, and to learn to be more conscious of what we do with our waste."