Warming Up: Our First Sorting of the Fall!

Yesterday morning, a few members of our team got up bright and early to run through all the logistics of sorting through our trash for the first time this semester. We got together our bags, our bins, our scales, and our bagels (of course), and went to work!

We dug through three bags to make sure we worked out all the kinks of sorting (hidden spreadsheet glitches, brain cobwebs, etc.) and eased back into our good old trash habits. It felt real good to get back in the groove - I even missed smelling like garbage juice a little bit?

Though we didn’t go through our standard volume of waste, we did gather just a little bit of sample data to stretch our statistics muscles - just for fun, here’s what we found! (All statistics are by item.)

of all waste was diverted from landfill


of all waste was sorted accurately

Here's what the composition of all the waste looked like, by material type:


We’re trying out a couple new things this year. In addition to our usual materials, we’ve also added in “Cardboard” and “Textile” as potential material classifications, because they’re ultimately processed very differently from any of our other materials. Also, after proving that our bins and signage yield higher diversion and accuracy rates than typical NYU bins and signage, we’re choosing to focus on only the waste that’s going through our bins, and use our studies to, among many other functions, analyze specific elements of signage design and their impact on the waste streams.

After getting through some of the dirty work, we took a break to try our hand at some trash art! We’re pretty proud of what we created (obviously - please refer to the included images), and we’re hoping that we can work art making into every sorting that we do from here on out.

I think I speak for all of us when I say that we’re thrilled to get the sorting ball rolling again, and to get even more people involved and digging through trash this year! Our next sorting event is on Friday, November 18th, and it is open to the public - so if you like what we do and would like to try it out, keep an eye out here on the blog and on our social media accounts for more information!

Girl with a Gum Earring (Trash, 2016)

Girl with a Gum Earring (Trash, 2016)

I dunno, guys it's pretty accurate.


Tessa Rosenberry

Tessa is the Design & Communications Manager and Co-Founder of Return Recycling. She's a senior at NYU in environmental studies, also studying fine arts, cinema, and Spanish. Currently employed at NYU's Office of Sustainability, she has worked with the National Parks Service, GrowNYC and Sprout Up in environmental education and engagement. An aspiring banjo player, she also enjoys wandering, good humor, and snacks.