UMASS Campus CenterColleges and universities vary widely in terms of size and infrastructure, but most have common needs for diverting waste. In many ways, a campus is like its own city with a wide range of waste materials. Just about every building generates cardboard, academic buildings have potential to redirect large amounts of recyclable paper, while public campus spaces and dorms have significant recycling opportunities for bottles and cans. Dining facilities can establish donation and composting programs for food scraps, as well as recycling programs for cardboard and bottles and cans. Colleges and universities also generate surplus electronic equipment, office furniture, construction and demolition materials, mattresses, and fluorescent lights. In addition to cost savings, recycling programs are a high visibility way to highlight the institution’s commitment to sustainability and the environment. Recycling, composting, and waste reduction initiatives also play a key role in college and university sustainability and climate action plans.

It is important to flatten cardboard boxes before they are placed in a recycling container, as this saves space and makes it easier to consolidate and transport across campus. The RecyclingWorks cardboard graphic can be displayed in common cardboard collection locations, such as mail rooms, loading docks, and residence halls, to remind students and staff how to properly recycle the material.

Takeout, delivery, or grab-and-go dining options often generate large quantities of packaging and other single-use materials that may not be accepted for recycling through a typical single stream program in Massachusetts. Our Guide for Reducing Waste From Takeout and Delivery Meals offers tips to help your institution save money, eliminate necessary waste, and purchase takeout materials that can be reused, recycled, or composted.

When your campus hosts an event, the waste needs may be different from your day-to-day operations. See our Tips for Waste Reduction at Workplace Events for guidance on how to reduce waste, recycle, and divert food waste at your events.

Waste Ban Compliance Tips for Colleges and Universities

To help colleges and universities comply with Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Waste Bans, RecyclingWorks developed the following sector-specific tip sheet:

PDFWaste Ban Compliance Tips for Colleges and Universities [English] 

PDFCumplimiento de la Prohibición de Desecho Consejos para Universidades [Español] 

UMass Amherst

Learn about UMass Amherst’s food recovery efforts across the food recovery hierarchy, including source reduction, donation, and composting.

PDFUMass Amherst Written Case Study: Lean more about source reduction, food donation, and composting of food scraps from UMass Amherst.

UMass Amherst is also featured in RecyclingWorks’ instructional video on Source Source Separation Best Management Practices.

Massachusetts College of Art and Design Composting

Learn how Massachusetts College of Art and Design set up a successful front and back-of-the-house compost collection program that diverts about 80 tons of food waste annually.

PDFMassachusetts College of Art and Design Written Case Study: Learn more about the food waste diversion program at MassArt.

 Worcester State University  Composting

Learn how Worcester State University set up a successful off-site composting program to comply with the commercial organics waste ban and divert 60 tons of food waste annually.

UMASS Amherst Food Waste Composting

PDF  RW Blue Wall Case Study: Learn how the University of Massachusetts diverted over 1200 pounds of food waste per day by implementing a composting program.

Boston University Dining Services Composting

PDF Boston University Case Study:  Learn How Boston University grew their composting program from 4 tons of organic waste diverted in 2007 to over 850 tons in 2011.

Harvard University Case Study

PDF Harvard Case Study:  Learn how Harvard University achieves 55% waste diversion, despite limited storage and dock space, by utilizing technology and student involvement.

Deerfield Academy

Learn how Deerfield Academy diverts 80% of their waste through composting, donation, and other waste reduction efforts.

Microfilm and Microfiche Recycling

Microfilm and microfiche are sheets and reels of plastic film which enable newspapers and other bulky publications to be stored in a compact, stable form. The publisher photographs the pages of a work (usually newspapers, magazines or journals) in miniature and places them on card-shaped photographic material (microfiche) or strips of film on reels (microfilm).

Many colleges and universities are phasing out these materials, which can be recycled by the following outlets due to the silver and other metals found in the material:

Safety Kleen
B. D. Associates, Inc.

If your organization processes X-ray film for recycling and would like to be added to this list, email RecyclingWorks.

College & University Forums

RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts has hosted several Forums for College & University (C&U) professionals to network and discuss waste reduction topics. Resources from these Forums are particularly relevant for facility managers, dining service operators, and recycling and sustainability coordinators.

See below for presentations and recordings from past C&U Forums and view the RecyclingWorks in MA Forum webpage for information about our next event.

Past RecyclingWorks College & University Forums

Additional Resources

Learn more about the following business sectors:


RecyclingWorks is especially interested in helping colleges and universities establish food waste composting programs in the coming months. Please call or email the hotline for guidance and assistance: (888) 254-5524, or