Waste Audit 2017 Report

In January, students and staff from the Zilkha Center and Facilities conducted a Waste Audit.  Previous Waste Audits had been conducted at the college in 2009 and 2013.  The campus recycling team picked up 3 bags from each of 15 buildings across campus and brought them to Lambert garage.  The buildings selected were meant to be representative of the variety of building types on campus.  They include dorms (Dodd, Gladden, Currier, Morgan, Susie Hopkins, and Mission), dining halls (Paresky, Mission, and Driscoll), academic buildings (Hollander Hall and Hopkins Hall), and a few others (Eco Cafe, Goodrich Hall, Sawyer Library, and Bronfman). A rotating crew of fifteen sorters (students and staff) donned Tyvek suits and dug through trash bags and sorted the contents into 13 different categories.  Once each building was finished, the contents of each category was measured by weight and volume.  


The full Waste Audit report can be accessed here.

The audit revealed that plastic bags and paper towels were the largest component by volume, both increasing relative to the last waste audit conducted in January 2013. In addition, a higher percentage of the trash was “mixed paper” than in 2013 for the campus as a whole, and the percentage of mixed paper in dorm trash almost doubled.

By weight, food was the biggest component, though a lower percentage than in 2013. Even in dining halls, where composting is available and encouraged, the trash contained substantial amounts of food. Compostable items as a whole (food waste and compostable to-go items) made up more than 30% of all campus trash.  In addition, the percentage of mixed containers (plastic, aluminum, and glass) in the trash stream doubled from 2013.

Areas of most concern:

  1. Food waste
  2. Compostable items
  3. Mixed containers
  4. Plastic bags

Next Steps:  

  1. Short term
    1. Expand composting options outside of dining halls
      1. Start composting program in Eco Cafe
      2. Pilot composting in dorms
  2. Medium term
    1. Set & implement waste diversion goals  
      1. (CEAC’s Waste Subcommittee subsequently created these waste diversion goals and strategies in the spring semester of 2017)

Click here to view results of the 2019 waste audit of outdoor trash and recycling bins.