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Zero Waste Building System Transition

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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.

Pilot Buildings & Early Adopters

Our initial pilot, which began in April of 2021, saw dramatic increases in recycling rate across all of the participating buildings, see chart below. Even the most sustainable building on campus, Y2E2, saw an increase from 60% to 89% almost achieving zero waste. After the pilot period, the final waste system changes will remain in pilot buildings and be systematically rolled out in additional buildings campus-wide. At this time, only volunteer buildings, or early adopters, are implementing the Zero Waste Building System. 

Graph showing increased rates of waste diversion from Encina, Chem H/Neuro and Y2E2 buildings that participated in the pilot program


With the start of a new contract, Peninsula Sanitary Service, Inc. (PSSI) will no longer provide interior collection services that require emptying thousands of recycling and composting bins inside academic/office buildings. This non-standard industry practice is inefficient since it requires drivers to exit their vehicles and enter nearly 300 buildings. The new Zero Waste Building System:

  • Achieves compliance with new state laws regarding waste management by ensuring collection of food waste
  • Helps Stanford achieve its Long-Range Vision goal of zero waste by 2030, defined as 90% diversion from the landfill and continue Stanford’s leadership in sustainability
  • Modernizes Stanford’s buildings with state-of-the art waste management systems that reduce materials going to landfill and avoid emissions that contribute to climate change 
  • Reorganizes responsibilities so that custodial workers become responsible for interior waste collection (standard industry practice) and the waste vendor is responsible for exterior waste collection (at no additional cost to the custodial contract)
  • Achieves significant cost savings on the waste contract


The key changes of the new system are:

  • Adding centralized waste stations, including daily collection from custodial staff in lieu of emptying deskside bins in most buildings, and reducing the number of pickups of deskside bins in those that opt-out of the deskside self-service model 
  • Streamlining recycling. All recyclable material will now be collected together in the blue bin (combining paper, cardboard, plastics, metal, and glass). Cardboard must be flattened and placed in or next to centralized stations.
  • Adding compost collection. Food scraps, paper towels, and compostable food service ware will now be collected in green bins daily in break rooms, kitchens, and in restrooms.

How to Participate

  • Educate yourself on the new system: Zero Waste Pilot Waste Sorting Guidelines
  • Put recyclables in new single-stream recycling bin (no food).
  • Flatten cardboard and put in or next to recycling bin.
  • Put compostables (food and plant material, food soiled paper, and compostable plastics) in compost bin.
  • Put paper towels (only) in the compost bin in the restroom.
  • Put items that don’t go in the recycling or compost bin in the centralized landfill trash bins.
  • If you use them, empty your deskside trash and recycling bins into centralized bins on daily basis.
  • 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.
  • Use reusable coffee cups, water bottles and utensils. BYO! Compostables alternatives are great in a pinch, but are not better than reusables.
  • My Cardinal Green: You can earn rewards for participating in zero-waste efforts through My Cardinal Green, Stanford's main sustainability engagement portal. Once you earn 100 points, you'll receive a $75 reward!

Participating Buildings as of April 2023

  • 315 Bonair Siding
  • 319 Bonair Siding
  • 321 Bonair Siding
  • 327 Bonair Siding
  • 333 Bonair Siding
  • 340 Bonair Siding
  • 341 Bonair Siding
  • 357 Bonair Siding
  • Arrillaga Center for Sports & Recreation
  • Arrillaga Family Sports Center
  • Arrillaga Hall
  • Arrillaga Outdoor Education & Rec Center
  • Athletics Maintenance Shop
  • Avery Aquatic Center/Band Shak
  • Baseball Clubhouse/Sunken Diamond
  • Bechtel International Center
  • Bing Concert Hall
  • Birch
  • Burnham Pavilion
  • Cagan Stadium/Locker Rooms
  • Center for Academic Medicine (CAM1)
  • Center for Educational Research (CERAS)
  • Central Energy Facility (CEF)
  • Chem Admin Moduar
  • ChemH/Neuro
  • Cordura Hall (CSLI)
  • Denning House
  • Distirct Work Center - Memorial Day
  • Distirct Work Center - South Service Rd
  • District Work Center - Campus Drive
  • District Work Center - Lasuen
  • Educational Farm - Huffington Barn
  • Encina Commons
  • Encina Hall Center
  • Encina Hall East
  • Encina Hall West
  • Environmental & Energy Building (Y2E2)
  • Field Hockey Stadium & Clubhouse
  • Field House
  • Football Ticket Office
  • GSB/Botha-Chan/Faculty Bldg East
  • GSB/Gunn Building
  • GSB/MBA Class of 1968 Building
  • GSB/McCllelland Building
  • GSB/Patterson Building
  • GSB/Zambrano Hall/Charlie Munger Building
  • Hansen Exptl Physics Lab - South
  • Hillel - Ziff Center
  • Hillel Koret Pavilion
  • Huang Engineering Center
  • Juniper
  • Maples Pavilion
  • Nora Suppes Hall
  • Oak
  • Poplar
  • Press Building
  • Red Barn
  • Redwood Hall
  • Rugby Stadium & Clubhouse
  • Softball Field House
  • Softball Stadium
  • Taube Family Tennis Stadium
  • Varsity Golf Clubhouse/Hitting Bay
  • Ventura Hall

Zero Waste Building System - Recycling and Composting Guidelines and Labels

Zero Waste Pilot Waste Sorting Guidelines

Single-Stream Recycling

Look for blue lidded 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

For more information, check out the waste initiatives or contact the Office of Sustainability: Julie Muir, Zero Waste Systems Manager (