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Waste Characterizations

Waste characterizations provide a great opportunity to learn first-(gloved)hand about the waste cycle and related issues on campus.

Our purpose is to characterize the waste that we are sending to the landfill to see where we need to improve or expand waste reduction, recycling, and composting programs. These characterizations will allow us to develop useful and interesting data on the waste stream that will help us reduce landfill waste from campus, with the goal of achieving Zero Waste*.

Participating in a waste characterization can be highly instructive for all participants. Many say that they are much more interested in recycling and composting or that they have a better idea of their individual impact after participating.

Staff, faculty, and students are all welcome to participate. We aim for 10-20 volunteers who open bags of trash and sort the material into 16 categories that we then measure and weigh. Lab coats/suits, gloves, glasses, and other protective gear are provided. It's not as gross as you might think!

The Center for Sustainability & Facilities typically schedules one Waste Characterization per quarter. Special characterizations can be arranged for groups, RLC's, or classes. Please contact if you are interested in volunteering or arranging a group.

*Zero Waste is a 90% or higher waste diversion rate via reduction of waste sent to the landfill or incinerator by reducing, reusing, recycling, composting, donating, or re-selling.

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