Zero Waste Building Pilots

Stanford is on the path to Zero Waste, defined as 90% diversion from landfill or higher, by 2030. Our campus waste characterization study shows that 26% of the waste going to landfill is recyclable and 36% of the waste is compostable. The University's Zero Waste Plan has adopted a new waste system that adopts best practices, industry standards, and efficiency standards to ensure all waste is disposed of correctly. This new system will not only help us reach our Zero Waste Goal, but will also reduce touchpoints, keep bins more sanitary, and meet future state regulations.


The Zero Waste Building Pilots began April 1, 2021. Waste staff will monitor progress and collect feedback during the pilot period and make changes as needed to optimize the new system in each building. After the pilot period, the final waste system changes will remain in pilot buildings and be systematically rolled out in additional buildings campus-wide.

Key Elements of the New Zero Waste System

  • Use of centralized waste and recycling bins and elimination of deskside trash and recycling custodial service in offices. Daily service to labs, kitchens, conference rooms, and commons spaces will not change.
  • Removal of all wheeled carts (high touch); replaced with 16 gallon rectangular bins with color coded lids (low touch)
  • Switch to single stream recycling (combined paper with plastics, metal and glass)
  • Centralized collection of flattened corrugated cardboard in or next to recycling bins
  • Add compostables collection in breakrooms and kitchens
  • Add paper towels collected as compostables from restrooms
  • Custodial removal of all recyclables, compostables, and landfill waste from common spaces in building daily, 5x/week, in addition to higher levels of cleaning and sanitization.
  • Hauler will continue to service outside dumpsters and compactors

How to Participate

1. Educate yourself on the new system: ZERO WASTE PILOT WASTE SORTING GUIDELINES

2. Put recyclables in new single stream recycling bin (no food).

3. Flatten cardboard and put in or next to recycling bin.

4. Put compostables (food and plant material, food soiled paper, and compostable plastics) in compost bin.

5. Put paper towels (only) in the compost bin in the restroom.

6. Put items that don’t go in the recycling or compost bin in the centralized landfill trash bins.

7. If you use them, empty your deskside trash and recycling bins into centralized bins on daily basis.

8. Don’t contaminate the bins!

  • If in doubt, find out! 
  • We will be auditing the waste bins to check on contamination levels and providing feedback.

9. Use reusable coffee cups, water bottles and utensils. BYO!

  • Compostables alternatives are great in a pinch, but are not better than reusables.

New Zero Waste Pilot Recycling and Composting Guidelines and Labels


Single Stream Recycling

Look for blue recycling bins in centralized locations. All recyclables: paper, cardboard, plastic containers, glass jars and bottles and metal cans and aluminum foil can go in the same bin. Make sure to remove any food. Plastic bags are not recyclable in single stream recycling bins. 


Corrugated cardboard must be flattened and either placed in or next to the blue recycling bins. 


Look for compost bins with green lids in centralized locations, as well as kitchens, breakrooms, and restrooms. Food scraps, soiled paper, paper towels, and "compostable" plastics can all be composted. 


Place all unrecyclable plastic packaging, human and animal waste, ceramics and non recyclable glass in the centralized landfill bins.  Be sure to keep recyclable and compostable items, electronics, batteries and CFL lightbulbs out of the landfill bin.

Special Events

Event planners for campus events can place orders for recycling, composting, and landfill receptacles for events.  The Cardinal Green Events Program provides green event guidelines for student events and catered activities and encourages the use of certified compostable serviceware.

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, 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.


Stanford’s battery collection system meets the campus’ 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.

Property reuse

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

Buildings Participating in Pilot as of March 1, 2021

  • Encina Commons
  • Encina Hall East
  • Encina Hall West
  • Encina Central
  • Chem-H/Neuro
  • Y2E2
  • Huang Engineering Center
  • Green Earth Science

My Cardinal Green

You can earn rewards for participating in the Zero Waste Pilots through My Cardinal Green, Stanford's main sustainability engagement portal. Complete new Zero Waste Building Pilot waste sorting to earn points in the online platform. Once you earn 100 points you'll receive a $75 reward!


TAKE ACTION NOW    READ THE responsible purchasing GUIDELINES


Julie Muir, Zero Waste Systems Manager, Office of Sustainability (