Recycling and Waste Initiatives

We’ve Done It

1 Wesleyan's recycling program began in the 1980s and has been single stream on campus since 2012.  Woodframes still have dual stream recycling, though single stream will be introduced to some houses on Cross St. and Pine St. in Fall 2015.
2 The Waste Not program, run annually by Sustainability Interns and volunteers since 2009, collects unwanted reusable items from students in the spring during move-out.  Collected items are donated or sold to students in the fall.  Each year since 2013, through a partnership with Easter Seals Goodwill Industries, Waste Not diverts 20-40 tons of furniture, clothing, and other items from the incinerator, which amounts to 34% of total waste.  
3 Wesleyan purchased two cardboard balers in 2013, which improve corrugated cardboard collection and increase diversion rates.
4 Students collected and baled cardboard during 2013 and 2014 move-in, diverting 3 tons for recycling.

Wesleyan participates annually in RecycleMania with 461 colleges and universities.  In 2014, Wesleyan improved in all categories, placing:

  • 5th out of 203 schools in Corrugated Cardboard (8/161 in 2013)

  • 32nd out of 337 schools in Per Capita Classic (38/360 in 2013)

  • 60th out of 255 schools in Grand Champion (91/273 in 2013)

  • 122nd out of 149 schools in Waste Minimization (143/167 in 2013)

  • 70th out of 181 schools in Organics 

PROSHRED collects and shreds confidential documents for recycling in over 30 campus departments.  In 2013, we recycled enough paper to save 466 mature trees from destruction.

7 The Environmental Services Office recycles non-traditional recyclables, including electronics, batteries, compact fluorescent and fluorescent light bulbs, cell phones, CDs, and printer cartridges.  Electronic waste is recycled through an E-Stewards Certified vendor.
8 Wesleyan's Freecycle program provides a way for the Wesleyan community to reuse unwanted items.
9 Pre- and post-consumer composting is collected daily from Usdan and Summerfields dining halls.  In 2013-14, 17 tons of pre-consumer food scraps were sent to Long Lane Farm, and 20 tons of post-consumer scraps to Greencycle in Ellington, CT for composting. 

Since 2010, composting has been available to all student woodframes, program houses, and apartments. Students who wish to compost receive a 5 gallon bucket for household collection and are responsible for emptying the bucket into the nearest black composting bin. Dorm residents are welcome to compost on an individual level (kitchen composting bins are not available at this time).


Wesleyan joined EPA's Food Recovery Challenge in April 2013 to evaluate and reduce its food waste in Usdan dining hall.


Significant waste reduction efforts have taken place at Reunion & Commencement since 2013:

  • In 2014, Bon Appetit piloted a buffet-style all-college picnic to replace boxed lunches, which decreased waste significantly.  Sandwiches were in plastic wrap and chips in bags, but all other food items were in bulk containers (fruit, cookies, condiments). No drinks were provided to reduce waste; the Wishing Well water stations were available for hydration.  All waste was collected at centralized stations and was composted, recycled, or sent to the incinerator accordingly.
  • In 2013, students diverted about 87% of waste thrown away at the all-college picnic for recycling, composting, and donation through the use of waste collection stations instead of free-standing trash and recycling bins.  6000 reusable water bottles were purchased for R&C weekend.  Approximately 500 of these bottles were washed post-Commencement and reused for R&C 2014.

We have completed waste audits of Fisk Hall, Hewitt dorm, Usdan dining hall, and Summerfields dining hall.  The results revealed that much of what is thrown away as trash is actually compostable or recyclable.


Usdan Administration collects teen and adult winter coats for students in need from warmer climates or who simply can’t afford one.  Contact Michelle Myers-Brown at for more information.


Sustainability Office Interns and volunteers completed the first residential waste audit in 2013.  The audit revealed that 69% of what ended up in trash bins is recyclable, compostable, or reusable. 

We’re Working On It

1 Investigating ways to improve recycling diversion to increase our waste minimization rates.
2 Improving collection for Waste Not to increase waste diversion at move-out.
3 Expanding composting to residence hall kitchens, campus offices, Pi Café, Star & Crescent Restaurant, WesWings, and Red & Black Café.
4 Conducting a waste audit at Usdan dining hall to develop strategies for reducing food waste.
5 Investigating strategies to reduce packaging for lunches at the All-College Picnic during Reunion and Commencement.
6 Investigating either a third cardboard baler or ways to consolidate cardboard collection.
7 Developing a new non-conventional recycling location to replace the station removed in Exley lobby due to renovations.

Send suggestions for waste reduction initiatives to