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Mount Trashmore, Northwestern’s Monument to Waste

If you notice a massive pile of trash alongside Sheridan Road on April 25, it is not an accident. Mount Trashmore, representing the trash Northwestern sends to the landfill, has become one of the highlights of Northwestern’s annual Earth Month programming. Each year sustainNU works with student groups to coordinate this event as a visual representation of the waste generated on campus.

Mount Trashmore aims to inspire people to waste less through simple actions like recycling and avoiding the use of disposable items. Northwestern currently diverts 38 percent of the waste generated through recycling and composting. The Northwestern Strategic Sustainability Plan established a goal of reaching a 50 percent diversion rate by 2020.

To develop a strategic approach to waste reduction, sustainNU conducted the University’s first waste audit of the campus in 2017. This project involved sorting more than 9,000 pounds of trash to understand what is disposed of on campus. Findings from this report indicate that about 30 percent of what ends up in the trash could have been recycled. An additional 16 percent is avoidable waste – items like disposable cups and paper towels that could have been avoided through the use of alternatives like reusable mugs and hand dryers.

Mount Trashmore event volunteers will be handing out free reusable bags and water bottles to help students use fewer single-use products. Signs will be posted at the event to provide information about waste and encourage people to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Mount Trashmore began when a student involved with Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) modeled the event after one at another school and brought it to Northwestern. In 2008, the campus recycling program coordinated the event with student groups including ESW and Students for Ecological and Environmental Development (SEED), and it has become a mainstay of Earth Month programming.

To get involved, stop by Mount Trashmore, located on the lawn in front of Lunt Hall on Wednesday, April 25 from 11 am – 3 pm, or sign up here to volunteer during the event and help spread the word about how everyone can waste less and recycle more.
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