Students eating at the Bear's Den and throughout campus have the opportunity to compost some of their waste.

With our single stream recycling and composting initiatives, Eco To-Go boxes, and bottled water ban, Washington University in St. Louis continues to demonstrated a commitment to reducing unnecessary waste.

This tenacity has paid off, with the university diverting hundreds of thousands of pounds of waste from landfills and into recycling and composting facilities. Since 2012, student volunteers and Office of Sustainability interns have also conducted waste audits across the Danforth Campus to gain valuable insight into student, faculty, and staff practices and to evaluate strategies for further improving waste diversion on campus. Looking towards the future, WashU continues to lower its landfill rate, with the goal of one day being landfill-free.

Sometimes waste sorting can seem confusing. Get the latest guidelines and “brush up” on what goes where through this quick video.


Washington University’s campuses transitioned to a single stream recycling process in 2010. The single stream process makes recycling simple by providing two primary options: recycle or landfill. Learn more about single stream recycling at WashU here. For a one page overview of recycling options on campus, refer to this guide. Easily download, print and post the most current recycling and landfill signs here.


WashU oversees an increasing array of composting initiatives, allowing for food and other items to be reused as fertilizer instead of filling a landfill. At the three largest campus eateries, Bear’s Den, the Danforth University Center and the Village, all pre-consumer kitchen scraps are composted. Outside of the kitchen, WashU is working to expand post-consumer compost collection across campus. The following locations are currently collecting post-consumer compostables: Bear’s Den, the Village, the Law School, and Hillman Hall.

The Office of Sustainability is working with campus partners to create near-zero waste large events on campus using “green waste stations,” which have enabled event organizers to divert as much as 95 percent of waste from the landfill for individual events. Recent successes include Commencement, WILD, WUSM Staff Appreciation Picnic, Danforth Staff Day, Convocation, the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative University, and Thurtene Carnival.

Bottled Water Ban

At Washington University, bottled water has become a symbol for waste. Shipment of bottled water to campus releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, recycling rates for plastic are low and high-quality tap water is available all around campus. WashU was the first university in North America to ban the sale of bottled water on its grounds. Effective in 2009, the ban has inspired others across the country. WashU’s ban eliminates 386,000 bottles and saves 15,000 gallons of oil each year. Newly installed water fountain retrofits make refilling reusable water bottles fast and convenient.

Electronic Waste, Batteries, and Light Bulbs

Environmental Health & Safety collects goods not covered within our single stream system (electronic equipment, appliances, batteries and light bulbs) and redirects them for our vendors to process. This collection keeps hazardous substances and valuable recoverable materials out of the landfill. Learn more about recycling miscellaneous or hazardous items on campus.


In 2009, WashU sought to find a productive use for the gallons of waste vegetable oil passing through campus kitchens. The university partnered with alum Kristopher Kelley’s St. Louis company, Kelly Green Biofuel, to turn a waste product into reusable energy. Every week, 150 gallons of the oil are cleaned, converted, and returned to Washington University as biodiesel to power campus delivery trucks.

Volunteer Opportunities

Are you a recycling enthusiast? Recycling Geniuses engage in peer-to-peer education, helping others navigate WashU’s waste sorting system. Sign up today! Student, staff and faculty are all welcome to apply!

Have a recycling question? Check out our recycling FAQs or contact Cassandra Hage (