Waste is often mysterious and scary. But does it have to be? What can we learn from examining the contents of our waste? Three students from New York University decided to take the plunge and examine NYU's waste in order to get a better understanding of NYU's waste composition in order to focus efforts towards waste reduction and improved recycling rates.
The three students, with the aid of NYU recycling services, chose three buildings' waste to examine. The NYU Tisch building is a 'typical' NYU operations building which provided a valuable sample of waste while the second sample was taken from an NYU residence hall offering a stark contrast to the type of waste. The three students plunged into one bag at a time by opening it up over a plastic liner and separating the contents into a variety of smaller bins which were then weighed. The division of waste included bins of organics, diverse types of plastics, paper, cardboard and several others. The most ominous bin being the "unknown plastic" bin.
The day was met with great enthusiasm and curiosity as the students meticulously separated the waste over the course of several hours and weight each bin to understand the overall composition. The results are still being finalized and the students are expected to release a small report regarding their findings. A previous waste audit was conducted in 2008 and can be found here.