Waste Audit Results Indicate Over a Third of Trash is Recyclable

Green Living Representatives sort through 63 bags of trash to access recycling habits at HBS.

On the sunny afternoon of Friday, October 27, approximately 20 Green Living representatives, administrators, and volunteers sorted through trash from the Harvard Business School dormitories, Spangler and Aldrich common areas, Soldiers Field Park/One Western Avenue (SFP/OWA), and Peabody Terrace to determine the percentage of recyclables that are thrown in the trash on a regular basis. This is the third trash audit the Graduate Green Living Program has coordinated. Their results are used to inform and to gauge the effectiveness of educational campaigns.

Waste Audit Results
In teams of four, the participants sorted through and weighed the contents of 63 bags of trash collected throughout the week. (For results, see chart on the right.)

Improvements from the October 2005 audit to note include: a decrease in paper found in the trash in the HBS dorms, down from 23% to 15%, and a decrease in the percentage of recyclables in the trash at SFP/OWA from 49% to 41%.

Most of the recyclables found in the trash were things that could easily be collected and placed in recycling bins. The majority of the recyclables consisted of paper, newspapers, cans, plastic cups, and bottles.

Interested in increasing your recycling? Read on to find out what can be recycled at Harvard-you’d be surprised about the number of things that can be recycled now.

Paper and Cardboard
All paper can be recycled including newsprint, magazines, junk mail, catalogs, and cardboard. Even juice cartons (such as the small Tropicana containers that were ubiquitous in the trash!) and milk cartons can be recycled, by placing them in either the paper/cardboard or the cans/bottles bins.

If you can rip it, you can recycle it!

Cans and Bottles
Recyclable cans and bottles include many more items than one might imagine. You can recycle aluminum cans, metal cans, shaving gel cans, plastic bottles, glass jars and bottles, laundry detergent jugs, and even clean aluminum foil.

You can also recycle any food or laundry container made of plastics #1 through #7. Simply turn the container over and you will see the plastic number encircled by a recycling sign on the bottom. (Sorry, plastic bags and Styrofoam are not recyclable.)

The waste audit turned up many reusables, including designer clothes, books and baby clothes. These should be donated to the Goodwill and Salvation Army on Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge instead of being thrown in the trash. Dorm residents can bring clothing and shoes to the dorm laundry rooms.

Vanessa Loy (NF), the Green Living Representative for Chase Hall, observed, “Some of the things people threw away (packages of crackers and candy, notepads, etc.) could have been given away and used by someone else.”

The Cost of Not Recycling
Financially, recycling makes sense. Harvard pays to haul away all of the trash that is produced in the dorms and common areas at HBS. Currently, Harvard pays $85 a ton to haul trash to rural South Carolina where it is landfilled. On the other hand, Harvard is paid $15 a ton for paper it brings to a nearby recycling facility, a net difference of $100. And Harvard pays only $25/ton to recycle cans and bottles. The money that is saved by increasing recycling can be used more wisely elsewhere.

The Green Living Representatives are optimistic that recycling will continue to be adopted by residents and become the norm throughout HBS.

“It just takes a little effort to make a big difference,” shares Meryl Brott, Manager of the Graduate Green Living Program. “Recycling saves resources and lightens your environmental impact. Looking at the state of our environment, it’s time to act, and recycling is a great place to start!”

Please feel free to email your Green Living Rep with any questions or suggestions for activities.