Zero Waste Workplace

admin wcs graphIn 2015, Waste Reduction and Recycling performed a Waste Characterization Study (WCS) that examined the waste-to-landfill dumpsters for each type of building on campus: academic & administrative, residential, dining, libraries, mixed-use facilities, and research & medical buildings.

WRR discovered that for the academic and administrative buildings, compost made up 38% of the landfill waste and recyclable paper and containers were nearly 22% of the landfill waste.

These findings have inspired the Zero Waste Workplace program where offices, departments, and buildings can institute a few simple changes in order to strive for, and possibly achieve a Zero Waste Workplace.

ZERO WASTECoordinated by the office of Waste Reduction & Recycling, with the support of University Housekeeping, the Zero Waste Workplace program is currently in place at Administrative Services Building I, II, & III, Sullivan Shops I, II, & III, and Talley Student Center. Click here for a Year in Review of the initial pilot.  Click here for a quick peek of ZWW’s history.

The primary components of a Zero Waste Workplace include bin optimization, composting, and education.

Bin OptimizationminiMAX

By updating and streamlining deskside bins and convenience sites, work spaces will not only meet University bin standards, but can also reduce their waste-to-landfill through improved sorting and increased self-service recycling.

Bin optimization also includes the use of the miniBIN, a lightweight and portable clip-on landfill container that replaces a traditional deskside bin. It easily mounts on the outside or inside of users existing recycling bins.

miniBIN benefits include:

By using the clip-on landfill container, increased floor space is provided to each user.
Deskside landfill bins are often left unattended for weeks, which leads to bugs, rodents, and other pests invading office spaces. Use of a miniBIN encourages users to take to their food and landfill items to the convenience sites more frequently, which are emptied daily by University Housekeeping.
Because the miniBIN does not use a trash liner, liners will no longer need to be purchased.
The miniBIN size encourages users to thoroughly consider the proper disposal of items.
An increase in recycling creates a reduction in landfill. This in turn means that Waste Reduction and Recycling can potentially reduce the frequency of landfill collections from the users’ buildings which reduces their department’s service costs. A reduction in landfill also reduces the University’s overall fees for waste disposal at local landfill sites.
Nearly 11,000 trash liners are used each year in the Admin Buildings II and III. This will be avoided with the use of the miniBIN as they do not use a trash liner. Should this become a University-wide program, over a quarter million plastic liners will be prevented from reaching the landfill.

Individuals, not Housekeeping, will continue to be responsible for routinely sorting deskside recycling and waste at the nearest convenience site.

CompostingCompost Slim Jim drawing

Composting bins are made available in breakrooms and restrooms.

In the breakrooms, acceptable items include:

  • coffee grounds & filters; tea-bags (please let cool prior to placing in bin)
  • paper towels & napkins
  • food, such as fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, & grains

In the restrooms, acceptable items are:

  • paper towels only

Housekeeping will be responsible for routinely emptying the compost bins. Individuals are responsible for keeping the compost streams free of contamination.

Unacceptable Items in Compost:


unacceptable compost items








For more information on what can, or can not, be recycled or composted please visit:



A successful Zero Waste Workplace program requires continued education and collaboration between many individuals. Waste Reduction & Recycling is available to provide ongoing assistance to groups and individuals through presentations and trainings regarding recycling, composting, and the zero waste workplace on campus. WRR also strives to improve its operational and educational strategies through the feedback of the participating departments and individuals. Please contact us if you have any questions and/or comments.

Click on one of the dropdown menus below to learn more about the initiatives for a Zero Waste Workplace.

No. Individuals are responsible for emptying their recycling containers and miniBIN.

Self-service sorting by individuals increases recycling rates and provides individuals with an opportunity to fully appreciate how their personal choices effect the landfill, recycling, and composting efforts for the campus and the global community.

Housekeeping will regularly empty the convenience sites as well as the additional compost containers in the breakrooms and restrooms.

Honestly it may not hold it all– which is the point! One of the benefits of the miniBIN is to have users put bulk material, excess food & trash into the central convenience site landfill and recycling bins vs leaving it at their office desk to attract rodents and other pests. You may need to empty the mini-bin every day- OR, you may realize how little landfill waste you produce!

The miniBIN holds candy or granola wrappers, napkins or tissues, and plastic wrap or bags. Bulky non-recyclable materials like food containers should be placed in the designated landfill bin at a central convenience site. Convenience sites are located in areas that are frequently used on a daily basis: break room, copy room, mail room, etc.

For more information on what can, or cannot, be recycled, landfilled, or composted, please visit

It’s best to take all food waste directly to the compost bin in the breakroom. One of the benefits of the miniBIN is that it increases the frequency of users emptying their containers, vs a large landfill bin sitting full for weeks; this will prevent food smells and messes occurring.

If there is any residue in your miniBIN, the size makes it easily suitable for rinsing out in the sink.

No! One of the benefits of the miniBIN is to reduce the amount of plastic liners used on campus. Bringing your own prevents us from eliminating plastic bags from landfill waste. Should you still wish to use your own plastic bag, please try reuse it as many times as possible.

Hospitals, governments, businesses, and universities across the country have found great success with the implementation of a miniBIN program:

-The City of San Jose established the miniBIN program in 1997. For the city’s two largest buildings, city hall and police headquarters, landfill waste disposal pickup was reducing by roughly 50% resulting in collection fee savings of $11,000.
-UNC-Charlotte discovered about a 15 % increase in recycling and a savings of about $13,000 annually in waste liner reduction.
-Porter County, Ind., reduced its waste pickup cost by one-third.
-Kalamazoo County saved about $4,000 annually with an elimination in waste liners.

Waste Reduction and Recycling is committed to testing initiatives that influence both source reduction and waste diversion. Use of the miniBIN is only one step in many initiatives across campus to do just that. As we pass the 50 percent diversion rate margin, we must continue the momentum towards zero waste.

Contact Waste Reduction and Recycling if your miniBIN is missing or you have further questions.

The Waste Characterization Study done in 2015 showed that restroom paper towels made up 11.6% of the waste-to-landfill dumpsters in the academic & administrative buildings. By providing a compost bin in the restrooms for paper towels, Admin III has the potential to easily divert this amount from the landfill!

Acceptable Items include:

All Food (including fruits, vegetables, meat, bones, dairy, grains, and eggshells)
Paper plates
Pizza boxes
Coffee grounds (let cool prior to placing in the compost)
Tea bags
Wooden stir sticks
Chop sticks
Floral trimmings and leaves
Certified compostable products made from corn and other plant starches