Washington University in St. Louis’ goal is to chart a path toward zero waste.


In fiscal year 2012, Washington University achieved an overall waste diversion rate of 38 percent on the School of Medicine Campus and 73 percent on the Danforth Campus, exceeding our 2010 goal of 20 percent and 35 percent diversion, respectively.

Overall waste diversion increased from 17% in Fiscal Year 2010 to 37% in Fiscal Year 2014.Waste reduction and diversion initiatives have long been a hallmark of WashU’s sustainability efforts. The university steadily expanded recycling infrastructure throughout the late 1990s and 2000s, with waste diversion rates increasing with the improvements. In 2009, we were the first North American university to ban the sale of bottled water, reducing an estimated 390,000 plastic bottles from our waste stream each year. That same year, administrators worked with students to launch the Share Our Stuff move out donation drive.

300,000 Lbs Of Compost Collected on CampusWaste Efforts

The adoption of the 2010 Strategic Plan for Sustainable Operations further accelerated our waste efforts. The university switched to single-stream recycling and labeled trash bins “landfill,” which resulted in a near doubling of our consumer recycling rate from 2008 to 2010. Compost collection was introduced in 2010 and has grown to over 300,000 pounds annually. The consumer waste diversion rate has been growing annually ever since.

90% of construction and Demolition waste Diverted from the landfillConstruction Waste Disposal

WashU diverted more than 90 percent of construction and demolition waste from the landfill for recent LEED projects the BJC Institute of Health and the Stephen F. and Camilla T. Brauer Hall. For non-LEED projects, we are working to increase the amount of construction and demolition waste captured by improving our project management processes and through enhanced tracking and reporting mechanisms.

From no zero-waste events in 2010 to 16 zero-waste events in 2014.Zero-Waste Events

Dozens of large events throughout the year, including Commencement and the School of Medicine’s employee appreciation picnic, have achieved zero waste (greater than 90 percent waste diversion) through the use of green waste stations. The green waste station approach, which was first piloted in 2012, has now been institutionalized into our custodial team’s standard service offerings.

Dining Services

Washington University Dining Services was awarded the 2014 NACUFS (National Association of College and University Food Services) Sustainability Gold Award for Excellence in Waste Management as a result of its many efforts to reduce waste, including: extensive promotion of reusable wares at dining facilities, the Eco To-Go reusable take-out program, eliminating plastic bags from campus markets, coffee discounts for customers with reusable mugs, donating unused food to organizations that serve individuals and families in need, and converting fryer oil to biodiesel to power Dining Services delivery trucks.


WashU’s printing policy, established in 2011-2012, set a $40 yearly quota on student printing in residential hall computer labs, encouraging students to print only what they need and compelling them to think about their waste output. The new policy cut the WashU community’s net printing output in half, saving more than a million and a half sheets of paper. In addition, an increasing number of schools and departments across our campuses are pursuing a paperless office by shifting from paper to electronic records.

Bottled Water Brief

Logo for waste managementWashU became the first North American university to ban the sale of bottled water on its West, North, and Danforth campuses in 2009. Since the ban went into effect, the sale of all bottled beverages has decreased by nearly 40%, a reduction of over 567,000 plastic bottles annually. Explore the bottled water brief to learn more.

View the Brief

Waste Audits

Logo for waste managementSince 2012, student volunteers and Office of Sustainability interns have 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.

View the Audit