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.


  • cleaning

    The total volume of cleaning chemicals purchased has decreased by 31 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

  • More than 200 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 7,000 campus researchers have been trained by Environmental Health and Safety staff to prevent laboratory pollution, significantly reducing the amount of chemical waste generated. 

  • 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.