Reducing Waste

Learn more here about recycling, the Freecycle reuse program, campus composting programs, the free WesThrift store and rental program, Sew What tailoring program, and the annual Waste Not collection and tag sale.  

If you have a missing bin or issues with waste on campus, call Physical Plant Customer Service at (860) 685-3400.

Zero Waste Bronze Certification

Wesleyan earned Post Landfill Action Network's Bronze Zero Waste Certification in 2023.  Read PLAN's assessment report to learn more!


Download recycling and trash posters for your reference. To report missing wall or bin stickers in your area or to request 11x17 versions of these posters, please email Jen Kleindienst.

Download trash or recycling posters via the 4 links below

Recycling Poster - Public/Office   

Recycling Poster - Residential/Dorm

Trash Poster - Public/Office

Trash Poster - Residential/Dorm

Want a recycling bin for your dorm/house?

You can now check out recycling bins for the year from WesThrift, the same way you would check out a book from Olin! Come by WesThrift (in the basement of the COE, 284 High St.) during our open hours (MWF 12:00-1:30pm) and ask to check out a recycling bin! For more information, refer to WesThrift's Rental Project. 

What We've Done

  • Responsible Purchasing
    1. All departments are required to purchase paper with at least a post-consumer recyclable content of 50%. Nearly one-third of paper purchases are 100 percent recycled, including most paper for student computer labs.
    2. Wesleyan purchases recycled or recycled content material for office renovations, seeking office furniture and cubicle components that meet these standards:
      • Steel has a 25% recycled material content
      • Hardboard has a 90% recycled material content
      • Fiberglass has a 20% recycled material content
      • Corrugated packaging has a 74% recycled material content
      • Aluminum is 100% recycled content
      • Plastics have a 21% recycled material content
      • 100% of the fabric is from recycled materials
    3. Wesleyan’s contract with SMG prohibits petroleum-based cleaners, polishes, and dressings or cleaning materials that leave an oily residue. The contract also specifies products that are Green Seal certified unless an alternate product has been approved. SMG uses products manufactured by Diversey, which are all Green Seal Certified and may also carry EcoLogo or GREENGUARD certifications. In FY 2019, 87 percent of cleaning product purchases were for Green Seal and/or EcoLogo certified products.
    4. Wesleyan has pledged to purchase EPEAT standard computers and imaging equipment. Manufacturers who conform to EPEAT standards are strongly preferred. Where possible, Wesleyan strives to purchase equipment models that meet EPEAT Gold requirements.   EPEAT® (Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool) is the definitive global rating system for sustainable electronics. The EPEAT system combines strict, comprehensive criteria for design, production, energy use, and recycling with ongoing independent verification of manufacturer
      claims. EPEAT was developed through a stakeholder consensus process and is managed by the non-profit Green Electronics Council. Wesleyan's data center equipment purchases have gone down considerably as processes have continued to virtualize and move to the cloud.
    5. The Cardinal Technology Store has taken great strides to sell sustainable products. They sell reusable bottles and mugs, LED light bulbs, 100 percent recycled paper, and 35 percent post-consumer recycled content notebooks.
    6. Wesleyan's Procurement Policy includes a section on buying locally-produced goods and services to reduce emissions associated with transport.
    7. WB Mason offers sustainable and recycled content alternatives for many office supplies through the “Swap and Save” program. The Purchasing Office and Sustainability Office work with WB Mason to offer sustainable products to offices and reduce shipping packaging.
    8. Wesleyan has reduced the number of days WB Mason makes office supply deliveries from five to two days per week. 
    9. A centralized purchasing portal launched in 2019 and highlights vendors from historically underrepresented groups through the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council.  See tips for how to purchase goods sustainably here.
  • Reduce and Reuse
    1. Wesleyan does not distribute plastic bags in any on-campus location, and has mostly eliminated the use of all disposable bags.  Weshop sells only reusable bags; Cardinal Tech offers paper bags with a $0.10 charge in line with a City of Middletown ordinance
    2. In Spring 2015, Eco Facilitators conducted a successful pilot project to determine the effects of paper towel removal in the Butterfields A and C dormitories.  In Fall 2015, paper towels were removed from all residential buildings, with the exception of “guest” restrooms, which will retain paper towels.  Paper towels were reinstalled in Fall 2020 to address COVID-19 health concerns.
    3. High-efficiency hand dryers are currently installed in selected restrooms in Usdan University Center, 41 Wyllys Avenue, Freeman Athletic Center, and other locations where noise is not a concern. (Note: Paper towel dispensers were installed in Fall 2020 to address COVID-19 health concerns.)
    4. In offices, trash and recycling collection has been reduced to one day a week.  Facilities is working with offices to reduce the number of individual trash containers to reduce waste, reduce the number of liners needed, and save custodians time.
    5. In all student computer labs, printers print double-sided by default.  Students pay for all copies, with discounts for double-sided printing, to encourage waste reduction.  
    6. Wesleyan employs a campus print solution that allows its community to print to any device on the system. Individuals release jobs when they are at the device. This has resulted in a reduction of the multi-function fleet as well as reduced waste on repeated printing.  
    7. Since 2009, the student-run Waste Not program has collected unwanted reusable items during move-out.  Nearly everything, including clothing, linens, food, furniture, appliances, electronics, is donated to local organizations or sold at a fall tag sale. Each year since 2013, through a partnership with Goodwill and local organizations, Waste Not has diverted 20-40 tons of furniture, clothing, and other items from the incinerator, which amounts to 34% of total move-out waste. 
    8. Usdan Administration collects winter coats for students in need from warmer climates or who have financial need.  Contact Michelle Myers-Brown for more information.
    9. The WesThrift free store has both everyday and business wear clothing, as well as dorm essentials, available to students in need.
    10. Big Brothers/Big Sisters has three bins on campus year-round for clothing and small item donation.
    11. Since 2007, an active Freecycle listserv has connected students and employees who wish to give or get items for home or campus.
    12. Since 2014, Bon Appetit has served a buffet-style the Reunion & Commencement All-College Picnic to replace boxed lunches, which decreased waste significantly. All waste was collected at centralized stations and over 90% was composted or recycled.  R&C waste reduction efforts began in 2013.
    13. Beginning in Fall 2013, Admission converted to an all paperless admission review process. Accepted and wait-listed students receive paper decisions on their applications.  Since December 2009, the Admission Office has sent out only electronic decision notifications to students denied admission.  Admission has also created an all-online notification process for wait-listed students.
    14. The Green Office Certification program includes shared office supply locations to reduce purchase of infrequently used office supplies.
    15. The Center for the Arts has an art supplies "Freecycle" cabinet, outside of the woodshop, where people can drop off unwanted art supplies for others to reuse.
  • Recycle
    1. Wesleyan's recycling program has been single stream on campus since 2012.  One hundred fifty student houses retain curbside pickup, but replaced small recycling bins with 90 gallon recycling carts.
    2. In FY 2019, 83 percent of construction and demolition waste was reused or recycled.
    3. 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.
    4. The Sustainability Office manages several Terracycle waste collection programs in dorms and outside Pi Cafe; learn more on the recycling page.
    5. Big Belly solar trash compactors and recycling bins are in multiple outdoor locations to reduce litter, improve recycling diversion, and decrease pickups. 
    6. Wesleyan began collecting plastic film recycling in 2019 via the Trex collection program.  Public collection locations are available outside Pi Cafe and by the Usdan mail window.
    7. Two cardboard balers, purchased in 2013, improve corrugated cardboard collection and increase diversion rates. Students collect and bale cardboard annually during move-in, diverting 3 tons for recycling on new student arrival day alone.  This collection is also available during move-in for all students living in locations with centralized waste collection. 
    8. Over 30 campus offices use PROSHRED to shred sensitive documents. Through this partnership, Wesleyan has recycled over 120 tons of shredded paper, or the equivalent of 2000 trees. If your department is interested in having a ProShred box, please contact Olga Bookas.
    9. Wesleyan participates in Keurig's K-Cup coffee pod recycling program. Pre-paid shipping boxes to recycle k-cups are available in WesStation.
  • Compost
    1. Since 2013, food waste has been collected daily from Usdan and Summerfields dining halls.  In 2019-20, nearly 90 tons of food scraps and compostable dinnerware from dining halls, residences, and public locations were composted. 
    2. Residential composting has been available since 2010 to all student woodframes, program houses, and apartments. Students who wish to compost receive a bucket for household collection and are responsible for emptying the bucket into the nearest black composting bin. Eco Facilitators manage composting in most dorms. Several offices also compost through a voluntary program.  
    3. Public compost collection locations are now available in high-traffic locations at Usdan, Olin, and Exley, as well as in several outdoor locations.  
    4. Red & Black Cafe and WesWings began pre-consumer (kitchen) composting in Spring 2020. Story & Soil cafe in the bookstore began compost collection in 2021.
  • Bottled Water
    1. In 2012, the Wesleyan Student Assembly passed a resolution requesting the removal of bottled water from vending machines, dining establishments, and offices.  Subsequently, Wesleyan ceased the sale of bottled water in all university-controlled locations and catered events.
    2. Office water coolers have been replaced with water filtration systems in all but two campus offices (where piped water access is not available). Water filtration stations are also available in several public locations, including Woodhead Lounge.
    3. Water bottle filling stations and/or drinking fountains are available in nearly every campus building. In collaboration with the Sustainability Office, Oliver Goodman ’18 and Lianne Yun ’18 created a water fountain and bottle filling station map so that locations without suitable water access can be identified.
    4. Offices wishing to purchase reusable water bottles for events and guests may do so through the Purchasing Office, which attempts to consolidate orders for better pricing.  If a department wishes to purchase bottles in small quantities (<50), the Sustainability Office has extra bottles for sale for $1 each. Contact Jen Kleindienst to inquire.
    5. Beginning in 2013, Reunion and Commencement has been bottled water free with the help of reusable bottles and recyclable or compostable cups.  Unwanted bottles are washed and reused.
    6. Don't have a reusable water bottle?  They can be purchased at Usdan and Pi Cafés, Cardinal Technology Store, and the Wesleyan bookstore. Don't forget to bring your bottle with you!
    7. Facilities has worked with students to install "gooseneck" bottle filling stations in dorm kitchens to make bottle filling easier.  

What Happens to Our Waste

  • Trash

    The trash that gets picked up by the City Sanitation District or All Waste goes to a private transfer station in Middletown owned by Murphy Road Recycling (80 Industrial Park Rd.). 

    Bulk waste (construction, move-out, etc.) goes to Murphy Road Recycling Transfer Station at 143B Murphy Rd. in Hartford. 

    From either transfer station, they can bring to any permitted facility in state (incinerator) or out of state (landfill or incinerator).

  • Recycle

    Curbside recycling from the Sanitation District goes to Murphy Road Recycling in Berlin, CT.

    Recycling from academic buildings, offices, dorms, and from move-out goes to Capitol Recycling located at 135 Murphy Rd in Hartford.

  • Compost

    Wesleyan works with compost waste hauler Blue Earth to manage all of its compostable waste. 

    • All residential and dining hall food waste is sent to an industrial anaerobic digestion facility, Quantum Biopower in Southington, CT.  There it is converted into methane used to provide electric power and finished compost to use as soil amendment.
    • Public composting (Usdan Cafe, Pi Cafe, etc.) is sent to an industrial composting facility, 360 Recycling in Westfield, MA.  There it is broken down into finished compost to use as soil amendment.

    Long Lane Farm manages a composting system in consultation with the Compost Interns for its farm waste and some campus food scraps.


Jeff Sweet, Associate Director, Facilities Management (waste management questions)
Jen Kleindienst, Sustainability Director (compost and general waste questions)