our first waste audit

ben salley, mika maekawa, margaux nguyen, asha kreiling getting dirty.

On November 14th—the day before America Recycles Day, members of the SIPA Sustainability Committee, clad in full-body tyvek suits and rubber gloves, conducted a waste audit in SIPA’s 4th floor “fishbowl,” the most visible and heavily used area of the International Affairs Building.


The purpose was not only to measure and analyze the waste stream of the International Affairs Building out of curiosity, but also to demonstrate to SIPA students, faculty, and visitors the amount of recyclable material that thrown improperly into the trash cans. The Sustainability Committee decided the best visual of this was to literally empty bags of trash in front of passersby, and sort out recyclables by hand.



The Committee removed a total of:

-10 lbs of plastics/aluminum/glass

-6 lbs of paper

-17 lbs of food waste.

The Greenmarket on 115th and Broadway happened to be open that day (every Thursday and Sunday!) so the Committee was able to drop off food scraps to the GrowNYC compost drop-off booth rather than throwing it back in the trash.


Shown here are the before and after weights of the 5 bags analyzed.

Weight of trash bags before separation Weight of trash bags after separation Percentage that could have been recycled or composted:
19 lbs 8 lbs 58%
10 lbs 3lbs 70%
12 lbs 3 lbs 75%
11 lbs 2 lbs 82%
12 lbs 3 lbs 75%

IMG_4319 IMG_4324

The significant difference in the weight of the trash bags before and after sorting made it clear that awareness of what you can recycle and why you should needs drastic improvement. This has prompted the SIPA Sustainability Committee to work even harder to educate students with better signage on waste and recycling receptacles, outreach, and more waste audits.



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