Student recycling cup at four stream receptacle


We're committed to becoming a zero-waste campus.

Becoming a zero-waste campus will require a large shift in the way the campus operates. Students and employees have a critical role to play in these efforts. Waterloo has launched the Shift:Zero campaign to support the transition, with a focus engaging and educating the campus, reducing waste before it is created, capturing waste through organics and recycling streams, and expanding opportunities for reuse. Learn more about these programs below:

Student playing Shift:Zero sorting game at Zero Waste Fair

Engagement + training

Waterloo is expanding educational messaging to build knowledge of waste reduction opportunities and reinforce a culture that understands its importance. Some campus initiatives include: 

  • Sustainability Certificate: includes section on responsible consumption and reducing material footprints
  • Zero Waste Month: annual event with pop-up booths, sorting challenges, and other interactive activities to build awareness and encourage action
Reusable water bottle and mug

Reducing + eliminating waste

Waterloo is expanding programs and services that reduce waste at the source and make reusable alternatives easy to access. Some campus initiatives include:

  • Eco-container: Food Services offers a reusable takeout container in residence dining halls. Students can purchase these for $10 for unlimited reuse throughout the year. Plus, Food Services will wash it for you!
  • Eco-mug: Save 20 cents on coffee or tea at all Food Services outlets across campus when you bring your own (clean) travel mug. Franchises (Williams, Starbucks, Tim Hortons) offer a 10 cent discount.
  • Water bottle refill stations: Waterloo has refill stations across campus to make it easy for students and employees to refill reusable bottles. To date, these have eliminated over 4 million plastic bottles! 
  • Plastic straws: Food Services has replaced plastic straws with paper straws at their locations across campus, which can be diverted through our organics collection program (Please note plastic straws will still be available upon request for accessibility.)
  • Two-sided printing: All centrally managed printers on campus are set to default to double-sided printing to reduce paper waste
Student recycling cup at four stream receptacle

Maximizing recycling

Waterloo is rolling out standardized waste bins to make it simple and convenient to recycle, as well as recycling programs for specialized items (e.g. batteries, e-waste). Some campus initiatives include:

  • Shift:Zero Sorting Guide: If you're not sure where an item goes, check out the sorting guide for more information, available online or via Shift:Zero app for IOS and Android devices.
  • Standardized four-stream bins: To ensure consistency across campus, the University has developed a new standard for all waste and recycling bins. These will continue to be rolled out through 2024. Departments can also purchase bins directly from Plant Operations to advance the implementation plan. 
  • Recycling programs:Waterloo has recycling programs for less common items, including batteries, clothing/textiles, e-waste, furniture, hazardous waste, light bulbs, office paper, scrap metal, scrap wood and brush, textbooks, and writing utensils
Countertop organics bins on table with greenery

Capturing organics

Waterloo is expanding its organics collection programs for public use, with bins next to all food outlets, as well as in lunch rooms and lounges. Some other campus initiatives include:

  • Campus Compost: This student-led initiative launched the first public composting on campus and continues to operate two on-site compost cows. With organics now managed by Plant Operations, Campus Compost focuses on education and advocacy, as well as a small number of collection points across campus.
  • UWP organics collection pilot: This volunteer-run program collects compost waste from student suites in University of Waterloo Place during the fall and winter terms. Interested students can sign up for the fall 2023/winter 2024 program.
Seamstress repairing coat at repair workshop

Expanding reuse programs

Waterloo is expanding programs that promote reuse of goods that are in working condition or can be put to beneficial use. Some campus initiatives include:

  • Free Store:The Sustainability Office has launched a Free Store to keep usable items out of the landfill (e.g. kitchenware, home goods, office supplies) and redistribute them to those who want and need them. 
  • WUSA Thrift: The WUSA thrift store, located on the ground floor of the Student Life Centre, collects donations clothing from residences and community members and resells it at a discount. The store helps to divert textile waste from the landfill and provides a sustainable and affordable clothing option on campus.
  • UW Repair Hub:The UW Repair Hub, run by 4RepairKW, offers free workspace, tools, and support for DIY mechanical/electrical repairs, sewing and mending, knife sharpening, and shoe/backpack repair in E7-1401.
  • Surplus inventory: Central Stores maintains a surplus inventory of University furniture, equipment, and supplies and operates a surplus sale for those assets that are still in working condition.
  • Campus grounds: Grounds Services reuses leaf and lawn clippings for compost on-site, and reuses damaged trees, broken skids/pallets, and other untreated wood for wood chips on campus gardens.