What you can do

Two recycling binsDid you know that nearly 80% of campus waste that was sent to the landfill in 2017 could have been captured through a recycling or organics program? There's a huge opportunity for improvement, and it starts with each and every one of us on campus.

Check out the list of programs on campus to find out how you can reduce your material footprint and help us reach our goal of becoming a zero waste campus

Take the challenge  |  Reduce disposables  |  Reuse and repurpose  |  Sort it right!  |  Community resources


Take the challenge

The first step to reducing your waste is figuring out where your waste is coming from! Each year, Waterloo participates in Waste Reduction Week (mid-October) and challenges the campus community to take the Zero Waste Challenge. However, you don't need to wait until October to try it out!

Mason jar icon for zero waste challengeThe challenge is simple:

  1. Collect all waste you produce for one week in a 500mL mason jar (or similar-sized container). Recycling and compost don't count!
  2. Look through your jar at the end of the week to see what kinds of items you're throwing out the most. Then, figure out if you can switch to a waste-free alternative!

If you find the challenge difficult, that's okay! The most important thing to remember is is progress over perfection. It's better to make a small change than no change at all, and small daily habit changes lead to big changes over time!


Reduce disposables

Food and drinks are a huge source of waste on campus. Take advantage of these programs on campus to reduce your material footprint, and save money while you do it!

  • Eco-container: Purchase a reusable container for $5 and receive a 20 cent discount each time you use it. Exchange your used container for a token to get a clean container next time, and let Food Services to do the dishes! This program is currently offered in CMH, REV and V1, and is coming to the new SLC expansion. For more information, visit the Food Services website.
  • Lug-a-mug: Bring your own mug and receive a 20 cent discount on coffee or tea at any Food Service outlets, or a 10 cent discount at any franchise location.
  • Water bottle refills: Fill up your own water bottle at more than 60 refill stations across campus. Visit the campus map to find out the refill station nearest you.

Reuse and repurpose

​Here are a few programs on campus to check out before purchasing something new!

  • Used furniture: Central Stores collects old furniture from campus departments, and will recycle them to other departments if they are still in working condition. Visit the Central Stores website to see how you can dispose of or pick-up used furniture.  Any non-laminated and safe wood parts from unsold furniture are ground down for mulch around campus, and metal parts are recycled.
  • Surplus sale: Central Stores proudly coordinates a surplus sale for gently used electronic equipment, furniture, and more. If you're looking for a great deal on a computer, monitor, or other hardware, be sure to take a look. Sales are usually held on the last Thursday of every other month. Visit the Central Stores website for the next sale date and a list of available items.

Sort it right!

There are four main waste streams that you will see around campus: mixed containers, paper and bags, organics, and garbage (see table below). Waterloo also has a number of other recycling streams to capture common waste items on campus, like textbooks, clothing, and computers. Scroll down for a full list of these recycling programs and visit our A-Z Sorting Guide for drop-off locations across campus.  

For off-campus sorting, you can also visit the Region of Waterloo Waste Whiz to see where your items go.

Mixed containers Blue recycling icon                                       
  • Cans
  • Plastic and glass bottles
  • Milk, cream, and juice cartons
  • Coffee cups (remove the lid and place in same bin)
  • Plastic food containers
  • Tin foil

NO: Styrofoam products, fountain drink cups, food waste, cling wrap, or hazardous materials. Please dump any liquids.

Paper and bags Grey recycling icon - paper and bags       
  • Paper
  • Envelopes
  • Magazines and newsprint
  • Plastic shopping bags and outer wrap
  • Boxboard
  • Books
  • Egg cartons and coffee trays

NO: Labels or stickers, styrofoam products, food waste, cling wrap, or hazardous materials. Put coffee cups in Containers bin.

Organics Green recycling icon - organics
  • All food waste (meat, produce, baked goods, and more!)
  • Paper plates without a wax coating
  • Paper napkins and paper towels
  • Paper straws

 NO: Plastics, styrofoam, wax paper, tin foil, or other garbage. 

Garbage Black garbage can icon
  • Styrofoam
  • Fountain drink cups
  • Plastic straws
  • Cling wrap
  • Wax paper

If you're not sure where an item goes, please throw it in the garbage so you don't contaminate any other streams.

Community resources

If you are living off campus, please visit the Region of Waterloo waste website for helpful information about curbside pickup. Other useful links include: