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.


  • annual waste generation chart

    This chart shows the amount of waste generated by the Department of Chemistry, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the life sciences (Molecular Biology, Geosciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Integrative Genomics) between 2006 and 2012.

  • chemistry solvent waste

    As the Chemical Engineering and Chemistry departments continued to grow in 2011-12, the use of organic solvents increased. This chart shows the quantity of solvent waste produced between 2006 and 2012. Additionally, both total waste generation and the ratio of waste to active research projects have increased. 

  • 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

    Due to its Print Less initiative, the University purchased 92 fewer tons of paper in 2013 compared to 2008, and 11 fewer tons than last year. The reduction is due to administrative transitions to paperless processes and a student print quota.

  • 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 170 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.

  • lab waste bins

    Since 2006, nearly 4,200 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

    Since 2006, Princeton has decreased its total campus waste by 25 percent per capita and increased its rate of "household" recycling from 38 to 43 percent. All major construction and demolition projects are required to meet a 95 percent recycling rate.

  • Cafe vivian chef making pizzas

    Located in the Frist Campus Center, Café Vivian (or “Viv”) offers a variety of fresh, local, and organic fare. This spring, 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

graph shows decline of waste
graph shows decline of waste

Since 2006 the University has steadily reduced the amount of garbage diverted to landfills by preventing waste production and increased diversion to recycling.

What’s Next

  • In partnership with student GreenLeaders, pilot a single-stream recycling program and compare it with the existing sorting system to determine if there is resulting behavior change and increased recycling rates.

  • Further 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.

  • Evaluate campus labeling system for recycling and implement changes.