University begins to implement a zero waste structure throughout the campus.

In 2017, the University of Waterloo (UW) committed to become a zero waste campus (90 per cent diversion rate) by 2035. This objective requires updates to the campus’ infrastructure, programs and services to reduce waste generation, and active outreach and training for students, staff, and faculty to take simple but tangible actions each day to join the effort. According to the action plan, Waterloo’s waste audits consistently show that over 80 per cent of all waste currently sent to landfill could be composted or recycled. In order to reach this goal of a 90 per cent diverson rate, the Zero Waste UW Action Plan takes five key approaches to reach this goal:

1. Engage and train students

Waterloo 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 focus on building knowledge of waste reduction, and reinforcing a culture understanding of its importance.

Some campus initiatives include the Sustainability Certificate, a session dedicated to reducing your material footprint, and Zero Waste Week, where Sort-A-Thon (waste sorting challenge) pop-up booths and other outreach activities to build awareness and knowledge will be available.

2. Reduce and eliminate waste

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

One of these campus initiatives include Food Services replacing 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). Another initiative Food Services has done is offer 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. Even better—Food Services will even wash the reusable container for you.

Other initiatives also include Lug-a-mug, where you save 20 cents on coffee or tea at all Food Services outlets across campus when you bring your own travel mug. Franchises such as Williams, Starbucks, and Tim Hortons offer a 10 cent discount. While on the subject of beverages, Waterloo also has refill stations across campus to make it easy for students and employees to refill reusable bottles. To date, these have eliminated over four million plastic bottles.

3. Maximize recycling

Waterloo 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 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 of these initiatives include the University developing a new standard for all waste and recycling bins that will be rolled out between 2018 and 2021. Departments can also purchase bins directly to advance the implementation plan. More information on this can be found here:

Waterloo also has recycling programs for less common items, including batteries, clothing/textiles, e-waste, furniture, hazardous waste, lightbulbs, office paper, scrap metal, scrap wood and brush, textbooks, and writing utensils. More information can be found here:

4. Capture organics

Waterloo is expanding its organics collection programs for public use, ensuring that food waste and other compostable items are diverted from the landfill. These are also matched with the recycling program in areas where food is present, such as restaurants and cafeterias, and over time expanding to lunch rooms and lounges. These locations will be updated on the Campus Map in the coming months. Currently across campus, the BMH, CIF, CMH, COM, SPH, DC, DWE, ERC, EV3, E2, E5, E6 E7, FED, GSC, HS, MC ML, M3, PAC, PHY, REV, SCH, SLC, UC and V1 buildings have organics collections.

There is also a student-led initiative called Campus Compost that collects organic food waste from across campus and processes it in their on-site compost cows. You can also visit the Campus Compost website for a list of drop-off locations across campus.

5. Expand reuse programs

Waterloo is developing and enhancing programs promote reusing goods still in working condition or which 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 of these initiatives include Central Stores maintaining a surplus inventory of University furniture, equipment, and supplies. They operate a surplus sale for those assets still in working condition. The Sustainable Campus Initiative also collects used clothing from residences and academic buildings to resell to the campus at affordable prices.

To learn more about the Zero Waste UW Action Plan, go to


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