Recycling bins


  • Achieve a 60% diversion rate by 2025

  • Become a zero waste campus (90% diversion rate) by 2035 

Supporting SDGs

SDG 12 - Responsible production and consumption SDG 13 - Climate action SDG 14 - Life below water

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Shift Zero

Shift ZeroBecoming a zero waste campus will require a large shift in the way the campus operates, and students and employees will each need to do their part to limit the waste sent to landfill. The Shift Zero campaign focuses on five key areas to support the transition and make behaviour change convenient and create impact:

  • Engagement and training
  • Reducing and eliminating waste
  • Maximizing recycling 
  • Capturing organics
  • Expanding reuse programs

Check out the videos and additional resources on the campaign on the Plant Operations website.

Waste Sorting

Waste SortingThe University of Waterloo has standardized waste sorting on campus, making it easier than ever to find out where items can go. Learn about our sorting programs below, and check out the Shift: Zero sorting guide and app to search for specific items on campus! 

Check out our resources and waste sorting support.

Engage & Train

People iconWaterloo is expanding programming to ensure students and employees know how to use the systems in place, and that messaging and communication of services is visible and repeated. Engagement and training efforts will focus on building knowledge of waste reduction, and reinforcing a culture that understands its importance.

Some campus initiatives include: 

  • Sustainability Certificate: session dedicated to reducing your material footprint 
  • Zero Waste Week: annual event with a Sort-A-Thon (waste sorting challenge) pop-up booths and other outreach activities to build awareness and knowledge

Reduce & Eliminate

Zero waste iconWaterloo is advancing initiatives that reduce waste items across campus, including items which are not recyclable or compostable. This is focused on making it easy to access reusable alternatives to single-use items, or by shifting activity so that waste is not created at all.

Some campus initiatives include:

  • 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.)
  • Eco-Container: Food Services offers a reusable takeout container in residence dining halls. Students can purchase these for $5 and then save 20 cents on every meal they purchase with it. 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 travel mug. Franchises (Williams, Starbucks, Tim Hortons) offer a 10 cent discount.
  • 2-sided printing: All centrally managed printers on campus are set to default to double-sided printing to reduce paper waste.
  • 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! 

Maximize Recycling

Maximize recyclingWaterloo is implementing a universal waste receptacle standard to ensure that bins for common recyclables such as containers and paper are consistent, paired with garbage, and provide clear sorting instructions. As this expands, Waterloo will balance the level of service for recycling and garbage. Waterloo will also emphasize recycling initiatives for less common items to increase recycling capture rates.

Some campus initiatives include:

  • Recycling standard: To ensure consistency across campus, the University has developed a new standard for all waste and recycling bins. These will be rolled out between 2018 and 2021. Departments can also purchase bins directly to advance the implementation plan. More information and how to order
  • 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
  • A-Z Sorting Guide: If you're not sure where an item goes, check out the sorting guide for more information

Capture Organics

Organics iconWaterloo is expanding its organics collection programs for public use, ensuring that food waste and other compostable items can be diverted from landfill. These are matched with the recycling program in areas where food is present, such as restaurants and cafeterias, and over time will expand to lunch rooms and lounges.

Please only place food waste and certified compostable products inside the organics bins!

Some other campus initiatives include:

  • Campus Compost: This is a student-led initiative that collects organic food waste from across campus and processes it in their on-site compost cows. Interested departments can contact Campus Compost to learn more and inquire about space in their pick-up program, which runs during the spring and fall terms. You can also visit the Campus Compost website for a list of drop-off locations across campus.  

Expand Reuse Programs

Expand reuse programs iconWaterloo is developing and enhancing programs that promote reuse of goods that are in working condition or can be put to beneficial use. This includes programs to extend the life of assets on campus, as well as partnerships with community organizations to repurpose unwanted goods.

Some campus initiatives include:

  • 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
  • SCI Clothing Sale: Sustainable Campus Initiative collects used clothing from residences and academic buildings, and resells them to the campus at affordable prices.
  • 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