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Three dumpster labeled landfill, compost, and recycle

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

Benefits

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

Services

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. People with disabilities may need an accommodation for the deskside self-service aspect of the program. Anyone that needs an accommodation should reach out to zerowaste@stanford.edu. We will then work with the individual to make sure this program is accessible.
  • 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.
overview - 5 desks surrouning centralized waste stations blue for recycling, green for compost, black for landfill. All recyclables in one blue bin, food and papertowels in green bin, blue owl with flattended cardboard in blue recycling bin

How to Participate

  • Educate yourself on the new system: 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.

Early adopters of the Zero Waste Building System inlcude:

  • Stanford Redwood City
  • Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE)
  • Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (DAPER)
  • Graduate School of Education (GSE) 
  • Graduate School of Business (GSB) 
  • Information Technology (IT)
  • Student Affairs
  • Childcare centers
  • SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
  • Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability

Full List of Participating Buildings as of August 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
  • 408 Panama Hall
  • Administration and Engineering Building
  • Arrillaga Center for Sports & Recreation
  • Arrillaga Family Sports Center
  • Arrillaga Hall
  • Arrillaga Outdoor Education & Rec Center
  • Arrillaga Recreation Center
  • Arrillaga Science Center
  • Athletics Maintenance Shop
  • Attneave House
  • Avery Aquatic Center/Band Shak
  • Bambi Modular 
  • Baseball Clubhouse/Sunken Diamond
  • Bechtel International Center
  • Beckman Center for Mol & Gen Med
  • Bing Concert Hall
  • Birch
  • Black Community Center Addition
  • Black Community Services Center
  • Braun Corner (Geology Corner)
  • Building 310 - Main Quad
  • Building 360 - Main Quad
  • Building 590/Nitery
  • Burnham Pavilion
  • Cagan Stadium/Locker Rooms
  • Center for Academic Medicine (CAM1)
  • Cetner for Clinical Sciences Research (CCSR)
  • Center for Educational Research (CERAS)
  • Central Energy Facility (CEF)
  • Central Laboratory (CL)
  • Central Lab Annex
  • Chem Admin Moduar
  • ChemH/Neuro
  • Clubhouse
  • Collider Experimental Hall (CEH)
  • Computer Building (SCS)
  • Controls Building
  • 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
  • E.D. Stone - Alway Building
  • E.D. Stone - Edwards Building
  • E.D. Stone - Grant Building
  • Educational Farm - Huffington Barn
  • Encina Commons
  • Encina Hall Center
  • Encina Hall East
  • Encina Hall West
  • Environmental & Energy Building (Y2E2)
  • Environmental, Safety & Health Building at SLAC
  • Field Hockey Stadium & Clubhouse
  • Field House
  • Fire Truck House
  • Football Ticket Office
  • Ford Center
  • Forsythe Hall
  • Frost Amphitheater
  • Galvez Modular
  • Geology Rock Storage (Restroom)
  • Green Earth Sciences
  • Graduate School of Business (GSB)/Bass Center
  • 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
  • Hagey Pediatric Regenerative Med
  • Hansen Exptl Physics Lab - South
  • Harmony House
  • Hillel - Ziff Center
  • Hillel Koret Pavilion
  • Huang Engineering Center
  • Juniper
  • Kavli
  • Laboratory Offices and Ships (LOS)
  • Li Ka Shing Center for Learning (LKSC)
  • Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) Far Hall
  • LCLS Near Hall
  • LCLS Office Building
  • Littlefield Center
  • Lokey Stem Cell Research Building (SIM1)
  • Maples Pavilion
  • Mariposa House
  • Medical School Office Building (MSOB)
  • Med School Lab Surge/Mag Res Spectr (MSLC-LUCAS)
  • Men's Restroom - Main Quad
  • Men's Restroom - Main Quad
  • Nora Suppes Hall
  • Northwest Data Center and Comm. Hub
  • Oak
  • Old Union
  • Operations Support Building
  • PEP Interaction Region 2 (IR-2)
  • Pine Hall
  • Plant Maintenance & Utilities
  • Polya Hall
  • Poplar
  • Press Building
  • Psychiatry Academic and Clinic Building
  • Puichon Building
  • Red Barn
  • Redwood Hall
  • Research Support Building
  • Rogers House
  • Rugby Stadium & Clubhouse
  • School of Medicine Central Loading Dock
  • Science & User Support Building (SUSB)
  • Sherman Fairchild Science Building
  • SLAC Guest House
  • Softball Field House
  • Softball Stadium
  • Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lab (SSRL)
  • Student Services Building
  • Taube Family Tennis Stadium
  • Test Laboratory
  • Tresidder Memorial Union
  • Varsity Golf Clubhouse/Hitting Bay
  • Ventura Hall
  • Windhover
  • Women's Restroom - Main Quad

Zero Waste Building System - Recycling and Composting Guidelines and Labels

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. 

Cardboard

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

Compost

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. 

Landfill 

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.

Batteries

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: Sustainable Stanford Contact Form