Waste Reduction

waste montage

At Princeton, our students, faculty, and staff take many measures to reduce the campus waste stream.

Since 2006, the Office of Sustainability has worked collaboratively with students and various departments to reduce the campus waste stream. While decreasing the amount of trash the University produces, the campus has simultaneously increased the percentage of recycling across all categories: plastics, paper, “household” items, demolition and construction debris, food scraps, and more. Opportunities for student leadership and research include investigating solutions related to behavioral and campus cultural norms, consistent deployment of recycling support across all campus activities including events, comprehensive capture of donatable materials at move-out, and comprehensive waste minimization and recycling solutions for Reunions.


Reduce overall campus waste by 40 percent between 2006 and 2020.


  • paper towel dispenser

    Paper towel purchases have decreased 29 percent per capita since 2008 when hand towel dispensers were converted to non-electric proportioning versions.

  • cleaning

    The total volume of cleaning chemicals purchased has decreased by 27 percent since 2010. However, this past year, the volume increased by 28 percent.

  • STARS Silver Award

    The AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) allows metric-driven progress assessment across operations and academics for North American higher education and has recognized Princeton at the Silver leadership level

  • printer

    The University purchased about the same amount of paper per capita in 2014 as last year, and 82 fewer tons than 2008. Since 2009, when a student print quota was instituted, sheets printed in computer clusters and public libraries have declined by 31 percent, 7 percent of which occurred in the past year.

  • reusable box

    Princeton employs reusable boxes for supply deliveries from OfficeMax. This simple shift has prevented the disposal of over 17,000 cardboard boxes in the past four years.

  • More than 190 filtered “Drink Local” bottle filling stations have been installed since 2010, celebrating access to healthy (and free) local water, and contributing to 100,000 fewer bottled water purchases per year.

  • Since 2006, nearly 6,127 campus researchers have been trained by Environmental Health and Safety staff to prevent laboratory pollution, significantly reducing the amount of chemical waste generated. 

  • warehouse of used furniture

    The University Surplus Program has donated, reused, or sold more than 95 percent of discarded furniture and electronics in the past year. Year-end donations from Princeton students have risen significantly since 2008, and now include many new accepted items.

  • trash dumpsters, recycling dumpsters

    Campus waste decreased by 4 percent per capita in the past year and 28 percent per capita since 2006. The recycling rate has increased to 43 percent from 38 percent in 2006.

  • Cafe vivian chef making pizzas

    Located in the Frist Campus Center, Café Vivian (or “Viv”) offers a variety of fresh, local, and organic fare. In 2013, the café debuted a student-initiated reusable container program, making it more earth-friendly to enjoy Viv’s delicious food on the go. 

Total Waste Including Recycling Per Capita

waste graphic
waste graphic

What’s Next

  • Roll out a mixed recycling program across campus in parallel with an educational campaign and new campus labeling system to increase recycling rates.

  • Increase move-out donation options for items including clothing, food, toiletries, schools supplies and books, and increase donation opportunities through the University’s Surplus Program.

  • Determine long-term objectives for overall waste reduction on campus.