Green Advisors’ Audit Reveals High Levels of Compost in Trash

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Trash Audit_7

On November 6th, the Green Advisors (GA’s) held a surprise audit of waste disposal in Kohlberg Hall and the Science Center. They separated all the contents of the trash cans and compost bins into piles of compost, trash, and recycling, then weighed each pile.

Trash Audit_5


Here’s what the GA’s found:

Graph 1.jpg

63 lbs of trash

27.5 lbs of recycling

79 lbs of compost

Over 100 pounds of waste that could be diverted are being sent to the incinerator each day from two buildings alone.

Graph 2.jpg

In one day’s compost from the Science Center and Kohlberg:

6.5 lbs of compost

1 lb of trash

.5 lbs of recycling

Only 7.6% of the compost we generate actually makes it to the compost bin.



1) Why should we care?

Trash Audit_6

All the trash from Swarthmore gets burned in an incinerator in Chester, releasing CO2 and pollutants into the atmosphere. Recycling saves materials from getting burned and allows them to be reused.  Composting saves materials from getting burned and turns them into very rich soil that the College can use.

2) What is compostable?


Any organic matter aside from meat, dairy, and grease! Eggshells, fruit scraps, paper towels, paper plates, and paper cups are all compostable. The plastic cups from the coffee bars are compostable as well. These cups say “greenware” on the bottom.

3) What is recyclable?

Any plastic with a recycling symbol on the bottom numbered one, two, four, or five. In addition, Swatties can recycle metal, cans, glass, and all clean paper products.

4) What has to be thrown away?


All plastic utensils

Solo cups

Plastic wrap

5) What were some rules the GA’s saw people forget?

Margaret Kuo’s boxes go in the recycling

Paper coffee cups go in the compost

Plastic utensils must go in the trash

6) Where are the compost bins?

There are large compost bins in the Kohlberg and Science Center coffee bars labeled “compost.” There’s also a bin in Sharples and two bins in Essie Mae’s. If you have a Green Advisor on your hall, there is also a small bucket in your hall lounge.


This article is a collaboration between The Daily Gazette and the Swarthmore GA’s including Kelley Langhans ’16, Laura Laderman ’15, Olivia Ortiz ’16, Hazlett Henderson ’17, Indiana Reid-Shaw ’17, and Heidi Kern ’17. Other GA’s and Ecosphere members volunteered to help with the trash audit. 

All photos courtesy of Hazlett Henderson ’17.

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