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Waste audit identifies recycling opportunities

A group of students and staff are doing a waste audit to identify opportunities to reduce and recycle more of the Institute's trash.

The three-part audit, headed by the Environmental Programs Office and the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment, started on Sept. 30 at the barbecue pits behind Kresge Auditorium and continued on Oct. 7 and 14. Nine students joined staff to sort through hundreds of pounds of trash taken from a dorm, an academic office building and the Student Center. The goal is to identify more opportunities to reduce and recycle more of MIT's waste.

Information from the audit will benefit both MIT and the local community. The City of Cambridge has established a goal of 40 percent recycling by 2005, and MIT has pledged to share that goal. By recycling 40 percent of its trash, MIT will save an estimated $100,000 a year (the Institute's total waste management budget is approximately $1 million).

The 7.5 cubic yards of trash (approximately 675 pounds) sorted on Sept. 30 included 470 pounds of materials that are recyclable at MIT (commingled glass and plastic bottles and cans, mixed paper, corrugated cardboard and food waste) as well as 150 pounds of non-recyclable materials. These included substantial amounts of polystyrene-foam "clamshell" food containers and paper cups, both of which could be replaced by reusable materials.

Students from the freshman advising seminar (Achieving MIT's Environmental Goals) are participating in the waste audit and will analyze the information to find ways for improving MIT's recycling rates and reducing its volume of trash.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 29, 2003.

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