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HUB audit reveals that most of our trash isn’t really trash

Green Team members Heide Port, Kathy Moore and Kelli Dowd weighed each bag and sorted its contents into the correct bins.
January 22, 2016

“Is this really trash?”

This was the question posed by the HUB Green Team at a recent event held at the HUB-Robeson Center’s food court. With the help from Penn State’s Sustainability Institute, the HUB Green Team collected 32 bags of trash from the food court area during peak lunch hours. The intent was to determine how much of the waste in the trash bins could be recycled or composted and to where to make improvements in the waste management set up.

Green Team members Heide Port, Kathy Moore and Kelli Dowd weighed each bag and sorted its contents into the correct bins.

What they found was startling: of the 202 pounds of waste collected, only 39.2 pounds of that material was actually landfill material; The rest could have been composted or recycled.

“It amazed me how much food waste there was in the HUB,” said Heidi Port, administrative assistant in Union and Student activities and HUB Green Team member.

The items misplaced most often were food and compostable food containers. Nearly 110 pounds of compostable material was sorted from the landfill bin to the compost bin during the audit.

“I think most people are unaware of how much food will satisfy them. Many times we think we need more than is actually necessary. Not only could this save consumers money, but also create less waste,” Port said.

This event also opened up dialogue to engage students, faculty/staff and visitors to learn more about Penn State’s waste management program and ways they can help Penn State in meeting its 85% waste reduction goal.

The HUB Green Team has shared their audit findings with Food Services with hopes to collaborate on ways to reduce food waste in the future.

So to answer the question of “Is this really trash?” the answer is most often, “No, it’s not.”

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