Issue #7: Liquid Disposal in Commons?

Dear Sustainable Abigail,

I’ve always admired commons for their commitment to sustainability–with the mug club, the local food, and the various waste bins. However, I’ve also always wondered what happens with the liquid waste? Especially now that we have the separate spot at the dish return to pour our liquids down, I’m just wondering where all that goes?

-Lingering questions about Liquids

Dear Lingering questions about Liquids,

Great question, the chute down which our leftover liquids go is a pretty mysterious place. I’m really glad that you brought this question up, because it actually brings up a lot of important points. But, first, to answer your question: all of the liquids that are poured out in commons into the liquid waste place simply go into a bucket and then get dumped down the drain. Unfortunately, while our food waste can be repurposed for the pig farmer’s use, liquids are a whole other issue. They are simply not useful for Bates’s purposes nor for the farmers purposes; thus, every cup of water, juice, soda, coffee, etc. poured down the liquid waste chute is just that: waste. Which brings me to the first important point that this question raises: a necessary awareness of how much liquid we are taking versus how much we are actually drinking. You may have noticed the increase in size of the plastic cups, part of the initiative to rid Commons of paper cups last year, and thought “wow look how much orange juice I can drink now!” While this is true, there is a lot of space for orange juice, the worry with the larger cups is all of that extra orange juice that never makes it into your stomach. Liquid waste is a significant issue at Bates, and just as it is important to only take as much food as you are going to eat, it is important to only take as much liquid as you are going to drink, especially because any leftover will go down the drain. The second point that I wanted to briefly touch on was that of the other waste receptacles that we have throughout campus, with spots for recycling, compost, landfill waste, and of course, liquid waste. While this liquid waste is similarly wasted in that it gets poured down the drain, it is still important to separate any liquids into it because if any liquids end up in the recycling section of the waste receptacle, then that entire batch of recycling gets compromised. Liquids can damage paper fibers thus compromising their ability to be reused (check out this link for more tips about recycling right! So, try not to waste liquid products and take only what you are going to drink. However, if you must waste them, put them in the proper location so as not to harm other important waste processes. Thanks for asking, write again soon!

-Sustainable Abigail


*Content originally published in The Bates Student Newspaper*