During the week preceding Earth Day 2009, a group of Students for Environmental Awareness in Medicine (SEAM) club members and the Longwood Sustainability Coordinator undertook a week-long daily trash audit of the TMEC building at Harvard Medical School. Students were trained by the Longwood Sustainability Coordinator and HMS Custodial staff and were provided with appropriate protective gear. These groups of student volunteers spent their weekday mornings before class sifting through the previous day’s trash.

In total, 49 bags of trash were collected from the building during the course of the week. Students pulled out items such as paper, plastic bottles, cans, cardboard, coffee cup lids, plastic clamshell take-out food containers, and even binders! During the Mt. Trashmore recycling audit, 17 bags were filled with recyclable items that had ended up in the trash. That means that nearly 35 percent of what people threw into the trash in TMEC could have been recycled instead!

The bags of recyclable items that were sorted during the course of the week were placed in a display in the TMEC Atrium on a daily basis. The every-growing display demonstrated to members of the HMS community how carelessly throwing items away that could have been recycled really adds up!