Public W20 Waste Audit - Earth Week 2014

MIT Earth Week event answers the question: What are we throwing into the trash?

On Friday, April 25, 2014 -- as part of MIT's Earth Week events -- a group of fifteen volunteers led by the Earth Day Collaborative, in partnership with MIT Facilities, got up close and personal with MIT's material consumption at a public waste audit. Students and staff sorted through two day's worth (about 275 kg) of garbage thrown into waste bins at Building W20, MIT's student center. Not only did participants get to observe firsthand just how much we throw into the trash that could have been diverted from the landfill (either recycled, composted, or reused, i.e.. volunteers found reams of paper and boxes of baked goods, for instance), but the audit also provided data to help inform more sustainable waste management practices.

Answer: Most of what we threw away could have been composted, recycled, or reused.

Take a look at the results below.

Results of W20 Waste Audit
Category Mass (kg) Percent of Total
Garbage 90 33%
Recyclables 60 22%
Organics (compostables) 115 42%
Misc. (includes reusables & Ewaste) 10 3%
TOTAL 275 100%


Student volunteers captured the process and the takeaways in a slick video.

Take a look:

MIT Waste Audit from Chi Feng on Vimeo.