HUB audit reveals that most of our trash isn’t really trash

January 25, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — “Is this really trash?”

This was the question posed by the HUB Green Team at a recent event held at the HUB-Robeson Center’s food court. With help from Penn State’s Sustainability Institute, the HUB Green Team collected 32 bags of trash from the food court area during peak lunch hours. The intent was to determine how much of the waste in the trash bins could be recycled or composted — and where to make improvements in the waste management setup.

Green Team members Heide Port, Kathy Moore and Kelli Dowd weighed each bag and sorted its contents into the correct bins.

What they found was startling: Of the 202 pounds of waste collected, only 39.2 pounds of that material was actually landfill material, while the rest could have been composted or recycled.

“It amazed me how much food waste there was in the HUB,” said Port, an administrative assistant in Union and Student Activities at Penn State and a HUB Green Team member.

The items misplaced most often were food and compostable food containers. Nearly 110 pounds of compostable material was sorted from the landfill bin to the compost bin during the audit.

“I think most people are unaware of how much food will satisfy them. Many times we think we need more than is actually necessary. Not only could this save consumers money, but also create less waste,” Port said.

This event also opened up dialogue to engage students, faculty/staff and visitors to learn more about Penn State’s waste management program and ways they can help Penn State in meeting its 85 percent waste reduction goal.

The HUB Green Team has shared its audit findings with Food Services in hopes of collaborating on ways to reduce food waste in the future.

So to answer the question of “Is this really trash?” the answer, most times, is, “No, it’s not.”

For more information about Green Teams, please visit To learn more about möbius, Penn State's waste management program, please visit

  • Hub Waste Audit - scale

    An eatery-goer in the HUB-Robeson Center weighs a trash bag collected during a waste audit in November. Of the 202 pounds of waste collected, only 39.2 pounds of that material was actually landfill material. The rest could have been composted or recycled.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 20, 2019