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Waste Initiatives

Stanford has a long history of recycling and reuse. Students began the recycling program in 1976, and in 1993 Stanford partnered with its recycling and waste hauler, Peninsula Sanitary Service, to develop a more comprehensive program. Stanford currently recycles paper, film plastics (such as bubble wrap and plastic bags), bottles and cans, yard trimmings, food scraps, wood, and construction and demolition waste. PSSI / Stanford Recycling Center also collects shoes and clothing on-site.

Stanford diverted 65 percent of its solid waste from landfills in 2014 – more than 16,300 tons.

Recycling Fact Sheet - PDF

In 2015, Stanford's Waste Reduction and Recycling Program diverted more than 16,300 tons of materials from landfills, including:

  • 7,852 tons of organic and compostable material composted
  • 5,108 tons of construction and demolition waste recycled, donated, or otherwise recovered
  • 3,206 tons of paper, cardboard, plastic, metal, glass, etc. recycled
  • 10.44 tons of other materials reused, donated, or resold

See below for more details on Stanford's recycling programs and visit the PSSI/Stanford Recycling Center for more information.

Recycling & Reuse Initiatives

Paper, cardboard, plastics, metals, and glass

Paper recycling is gathered in blue recycling bins across campus. Undergraduates have bins in their rooms, and the Desk-Side Recycling and Mini Trash Can Program helps address paper recycling in office buildings on campus. The Desk-Side Recycling and Mini Trash Can Program began full roll-out in summer 2014.


Cardboard can be recycled at Stanford either in blue paper recycling bins or in separate dumpsters labeled specifically for corrugated cardboard. It is preferred that cardboard boxes be flattened and recycled in separate cardboard dumpsters. It is okay to keep packaging tape attached to cardboard boxes when putting them in the dumpsters. Cardboard packaging should be put in paper recycling bins.

Plastics, metals and glass

Plastics, metals and glass are recycled in green recycling bins across campus. Undergraduates have bins in their rooms, and there are public recycling bins throughout campus that facilitate the collection of these materials. More than 125 public recycling bins have been installed next to existing public trash cans since 2007. Tip: plastic bags and bubble wrap should be disposed of in paper recycling bins.


Campus dining facilities, cafés, student-managed housing, graduate housing, faculty/staff housing, on-campus nursery/elementary schools, the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Business, and various academic facilities all compost food waste. Compostable is now a legally defined term by the state of California, which means that it breaks down in an industrial composting facility in 180 days or less. Usable food is donated to community organizations through SPOON, the Stanford Project on Hunger, and other local area organizations. 

Special Events

Stanford provides receptacles for recyclables and food waste at events, encourages the use of compostable serviceware and provides green event guidelines for student events and catered activities.


Stanford mulches brush and tree trimmings for use on campus, composts yard clippings from residences and other buildings, "grasscycles" (leave mowing trimmings behind) and more.


Concrete, clean fill, dirt, sheetrock, carpet, and mixed construction waste from construction and demolition activities are all recycled or reused when possible. All construction contractors use the campus hauling service, simplifying and streamlining Stanford's monitoring and record-keeping of construction and demolition waste. When Terman Engineering Center was demolished in 2011, 99.6 percent of the building was diverted from the landfill.

Electronic equipment

Stanford’s Surplus Property Sales operation collects and sells usable computers, displays and other electronic equipment. Equipment that can’t be resold is recycled off-site.

Small electronics

Cell phones, PDAs, chargers, CDs and other small electronics are collected in more than 125 drop-off bins in academic buildings and residences . All small electronics are refurbished or recycled in their entirety. No parts are landfilled.

Stanford Electronic Waste Recycling


Stanford’s battery collection system meets the campus’s unique needs through a combination of drop-off bins at over 200 locations and regular hazardous waste pickups. Batteries are recycled off-site with recovery of metals, including cadmium and mercury.

Stanford Battery Recycling

Property reuse

Through Surplus Property Sales and the Property Management Office, the Reuse website helps university departments share and reuse equipment, furniture and supplies.

Goals & Results

Stanford's initial goal is to increase its rate of waste diverted from landfill to 75 percent by 2020. This will help pave the road to zero waste, which is defined as at least 90 percent diversion.

Stanford has performed 28 waste audits over the past two years, each with informative results. By weight, the trash dumpsters audited contained the following:

  • 7 percent aluminum cans, plastic bottles and glass jars
  • 17 percent office paper and paper packaging
  • 1 percent film plastic
  • 3 percent metals
  • 1 percent e-waste
  • 4 percent wood and construction/demolition
  • 4 percent reusables
  • 31 percent organics (food scraps and compostable service ware)
  • 1 percent toilet paper rolls (1/2 full)
  • 7 percent paper towels
  • 0 percent styrofoam
  • 24 percent real trash

Stanford uses these findings to inform its recycling programs and ultimately increase the university's waste diversion rate.