What's in Your Trash?

by M.T. Snyder

Always so tall, dark, and mysterious, the trashcan of a dormitory is truly an enigma, chock full of surprises and secrets lying just below the surface layer. ┬áBeing the naturally inquisitive students that we are here at Tufts Recycles, we decided to break open the trashcan’s outer layer and find what actually lies inside that large bin.

On March 16th, just before spring break left those trashcans oh so lonely, Tufts Recycles interns arrived early in the morning to the Save That Stuff facility where we conducted a waste sort of the trash from one dorm. Our objectives were to determine how well the recycling and trash were sorted by students and what specific products were frequently found in the waste stream. All of the waste from the 92 rooms in the mixed year hall was collected and totaled 100.47 lbs, including recycling.

We set up various stations where we sorted each trash bag by hand into paper recyclables, commingled plastic recyclables, organics, and trash. As suspected, we found that Hodgdon’s carry-out containers, the majority of which are recyclable, were a large contaminant in the trash, but to the surprise of many, or perhaps just me, the greatest unnecessary addition to the trash was the presence of liquids. In all, 27% of the trash stream by weight was liquid waste, which can easily be diverted.

At the end of our waste sort, we came to the surprising conclusion that 72% of the total waste found in the trash could have been diverted from the trash stream. ┬áThat’s one trashcan full of secrets that need to be passed on to the proper recipient (the recycling bins in this case). Not to mention, the additional poundage must take a toll on the trashcan’s health when really all the weight of our waste should be shared among the beautiful trio of waste containers found everywhere on campus.

So for all you lovebirds out there frolicking in this beautiful spring weather, please take a moment when sorting your trash to empty out those liquids and spread the love to the containers who deserve it most, because in the end who wants to see a pitifully empty and sorrowfully blue paper bin? It just breaks our hearts at Tufts Recycles. So, just pour those liquids down the drain, let go of all your regrets, and give those green and blue bins a chance!