Counting trash

Class project determining MSU trash footprint

Class project determining MSU trash footprint

Knight Center for Environmental Journalism students wanted to characterize the trash that fans dumped into Spartan Stadium each football Saturday.

They were curious about what it was, how much of it there was, if it varied by stadium location and how much of it could have been recycled rather than tossed.

But it was a hard data collection challenge

They had limited time for an analysis – a narrow window between the end of a game and when the stadium gets cleaned up. They lacked enough reporters to pick up, count and characterize every piece of litter. And they were looking at the equivalent of a mountain of garbage.

Instead, they enlisted the help of an expert in quantitative analysis who help them develop a plan to take a scientific sample of the garbage in the stadium.

Here’s the technique that they used. It helped produce these stories.

They were part of this larger series of stories that looked at the environmental footpring of Spartan football.