Whether you're new to recycling, composting, and reducing waste or you are a zero waste champion, this is your one-stop-shop for waste information.  Learn more here about recycling, the Freecycle reuse program, campus composting programs, 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.

Learn more about what we've done and what we plan to do through the 2016-2021 Sustainability Action Plan (SAP) below. See pages 51-55 in the SAP for more details.

Did you know?

Wesleyan's trash goes to a waste-to-energy incinerator in Hartford and the waste ash gets landfilled. Wesleyan's recycling goes to MIRA in Hartford.  

What We're Working On

  • Reduce and Reuse
    1. Continue to replace paper towel dispensers with high-efficiency hand dryers in academic and administrative locations that have justification for replacement - ongoing
    2. Get buy-in from departments and offices to opt out of individual office trash collection - ongoing through Green Office Certification program
    3. Eliminate individual office waste and recycling liners for buildings with centralized trash stations - ongoing
    4. Create shared office supply locations in three pilot offices - ongoing through Green Office Certification program
    5. Default to double-sided printing - not possible on individual computers per ITS
    6. Develop and pilot a social marketing strategy to reduce vandalism - no longer pursuing
    7. Develop a program to encourage students to bring less to campus - complete via packing list
    8. Discourage individual mailings for campus-wide events - ongoing, much reduction has taken place
    9. Research the environmental impact of replacing kiosks and bulletin boards with electronic units - not started
    10. Increase use of the Wesleyan Freecycle listserv - complete
    11. Promote Big Brothers/Big Sisters collection bins - complete
    12. Increase donations to the Waste Not program - complete
  • Recycle
    1. Develop a social marketing strategy for recycling programs - ongoing
    2. Increase the placement of BigBelly waste stations on campus - ongoing
    3. Consolidate woodframe trash, recycling, and food waste collection in the Fountain/Pine neighborhood - complete
    4. Expand move-in cardboard collection to all students - complete, with exception of neighborhoods without centralized waste collection (will not pursue for those neighborhoods due to logistical limitations)
  • Compost
    1. Install an on-campus composting or anaerobic digestion system to accommodate all food waste - no longer pursuing, as Wesleyan has developed a successful working relationship with an external food waste hauler
    2. Expand food waste collection to all catered events - in progress
    3. Increase collection rates of post-consumer food waste - ongoing
    4. Develop and launch a social marketing plan to increase residential composting participation - in progress

What We've Done

  • Reduce and Reuse
    1. Wesleyan ended the sale/use of all bottled water in 2012 at all dining halls, vending machines, and at catered events.  
    2. 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.
    3. 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 will be reinstalled in Fall 2020 to address COVID-19 health concerns.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. Many campus departments use PROSHRED to shred sensitive documents; PROSHRED recycles all of the waste paper. In 2019, we recycled nearly 10 tons of paper through this program.
    8. 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.
    9. In 2013, two cardboard balers were installed at Exley and Usdan loading docks.  They ensure a financially viable and clean cardboard recycling program.
    10. Since 2013, student volunteers have collected cardboard during freshman move-in, diverting about 3 tons of waste each year on this day.
    11. 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 Easter Seals/Goodwill Industries, Amazing Grace Food Pantry, or other local organizations or sold at a fall tag sale. Each year since 2013, through a partnership with Goodwill and local organizations, Waste Not diverts 20-40 tons of furniture, clothing, and other items from the incinerator, which amounts to 20-40 tons, or 34% of total move-out waste. To increase donations, "sweepers" are now posted in each dorm to collect leftover items.
    12. Usdan Administration collects winter coats for students in need from warmer climates or who simply can’t afford one.  Contact Michelle Myers-Brown for more information.
    13. Resource Center operates a business wear clothing drive each year for low income students in need of interview-appropriate clothing.  Contact therc@wesleyan.edu for more information.
    14. Big Brothers/Big Sisters has three bins on campus year-round for clothing and small items.
    15. Since 2007, an active Freecycle listserv has connected students and employees who wish to give or get items for home or campus.
    16. Wesleyan joined EPA's Food Recovery Challenge in April 2013 to evaluate and reduce its food waste in Usdan annually.
    17. Sustainability Office Interns and volunteers completed the first residential waste audits in 2013.  The audit revealed that 69% of what ended up in trash bins is recyclable, compostable, or reusable. Bi-annual audits continue in Usdan and Summerfields dining halls.
    18. 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.
    19. Admission's wait-list notifications were transitioned to online rather than paper mail format.
    20. The Green Office Certification program includes shared office supply locations to reduce purchase of infrequently used office supplies.
  • 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. Big Belly solar trash compactors and recycling bins are in multiple outdoor locations to reduce litter, improve recycling diversion, and decrease pickups.  
    5. 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.
    6. Wesleyan purchased two cardboard balers in 2013, which improve corrugated cardboard collection and increase diversion rates. Students collected and baled cardboard annually during move-in, diverting 3 tons for recycling on freshman move-in day alone.
    7. Wesleyan participates annually in Recyclemania.  In 2019, Wesleyan improved in most categories except waste minimization, placing:
      • 10th out of 89 schools in Corrugated Cardboard 
      • 21st out of 215 schools in Per Capita Classic 
      • 16th out of 158 schools in Diversion 
      • 24th out of 149 schools in Organics 
      • 183rd out of 253 schools in Waste Minimization 
  • Compost
    1. Since 2013, food waste has been collected daily from Usdan and Summerfields dining halls.  In 2018-19, 100 tons of food scraps from dining halls were composted on and off campus. 
    2. Residential composting has been available since 2010 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. Eco Facilitators manage composting in most dorms. Several offices also compost through a voluntary program.  In 2018-19, 2.5 tons of residential food scraps were sent to Long Lane Farm.
    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.


Jeff Sweet, SAGES Recycling Subcommittee Chair
(860) 685-3763