Waste and Recycling

Waste Reduction and Diversion

Striving to be a zero-waste campus

The University of Calgary's Institutional Sustainability Strategy confirms our commitment to become a zero waste campus and community. Each year, the university measures and reports on total waste generated and diverted.

Our Commitment to be a Zero Waste Community

Sustainability has been a long-term foundational commitment for UCalgary. Through the Framework for Sustainability in Administration and Operations, the University of Calgary’s Institutional Sustainability Strategy provides a roadmap to inform the development of sustainability practices across our administrative and operational endeavours. The framework outlines UCalgary’s commitment to be a zero-waste community by reducing total waste generated and working toward a waste diversion goal of 90%. 

Initiatives to reduce the use of disposable plastic on campus include: 

  1. Offering reusable plates/cups/cutlery in residential dining 
  2. Encouraging the use of reusable coffee mugs through discounts at select campus vendors 
  3. Offering sustainable options such as biodegradable straws and containers 
  4. 4-stream waste and recycling bins installed throughout campus 
  5. Ongoing planning work to eliminate the use of plastic carrier bags, cutlery, and foodservice ware in compliance with federal Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations 
2282 tonnes of total waste generated in 2022-23
62% daily waste diverted from landfill in 2022-23

All Waste Has Its Place

Achieving our waste diversion goal is a community effort. Nearly 90 per cent of the daily waste we produce can be recycled or composted if placed in the correct bin. Currently, more than half is going to the landfill. By properly sorting your recycling and waste, you are helping keep UCalgary green as we strive to be a zero-waste community. 

No more hunting for the right bin to dispose of your waste – UCalgary has implemented four-stream waste stations with bins for compost, mixed recycling, refundable beverage containers and trash across campus. Everyone can help sort it out by using the bins to properly dispose of waste. 

UCalgary took further steps along this journey by implementing standardized washroom bins across campus for disposal of paper towels only. This initiative enables the university to compost paper towel waste from our washrooms and ensures waste reduction continues to be a priority.

Know what goes where and get garbage out of the landfill by using the recycling, compost and trash bins correctly.

Textile, battery and ink toner recycling

UCalgary Campus Textile Program was started by a group of students in hopes to decrease the harmful effects of fast fashion and textile production on our planet, and to promote responsible consumption. Help decrease the negative effects of throwing heavy metals in the landfill by properly disposing and recycling cartridges and batteries at the various locations across UCalgary campuses.

More details and locations can be found through the link below.

Blue Bucket Lab Waste Program

As part of the University’s effort to keep everyone safe, the Blue Bucket Program was introduced several years ago, which applies to all University of Calgary laboratories across the three campuses (Main, Foothills, and Spyhill). This program is meant to ensure the safe collection of materials and objects that should not enter into the garbage or recycling waste streams where they could puncture the bags and present a hazard to our Caretaking employees.

Blue Bucket Lab Waste UCalgary

Metal Pails Recycling Program

Caretaking has introduced a new stream of recyclable materials – metal pails produced by labs on campus.

Labs can submit an Archibus Work Request, when they have six or more clean metal pails. In ARCHIBUS, under the Problem section, select “Caretaking Programs” and the Problem Type “Other Caretaking.” In the Description section, specify that you are requesting pickup for the metal pails.

Lab users will need to ensure that the metal pails are:

  • Clean (Free of any substance (liquid or solid), washed, dried and/or autoclaved).
  • Product label and hazard label must be removed or defaced (mark over the name and/or symbol pertaining to the hazardous material).
  • Date the metal pail was cleaned clearly marked on top of the metal pail.

*Important Note – Metal pails are not accepted in the Blue Bucket Program. You need to submit a work request for pickup. 

If you have any questions with regards to the Metal Pails Recycling Program, please contact Ana Pazmino, Recycling and Waste Coordinator, at acpazmin@ucalgary.ca. For questions regarding hazardous waste disposal and procedures, please follow the Hazardous Materials Disposal Manual.

Metal Pail Recycling

Styrofoam Recycling

UCalgary students initiated a polystyrene (often referred to by the brand name Styrofoam) recycling pilot program at Foothills campus in March, 2022 which has now expanded to Main campus. Styrofoam can be recycled at specific collection bins locations for the appropriate disposal of type #4 (low-density polyethylene) and type #6 (Styrofoam/expanded polystyrene).

Recycling bins can be found in the following locations:

  • Foothills campus loading dock
  • Main campus, Science Theatres loading dock
  • Main campus, outside PF1130 main doors
Recycling bins located at Foothills campus loading dock. Three bins in a row.

Recycling bins located at Foothills campus loading dock

Courtesy Micky Ahn and Daniel Castaneda Mogollon

Towards a Zero Waste Community

UCalgary is in the process of developing a Zero Waste strategy. This document provides clear objectives and operational procedures that focus on improving reducing, reusing and recycling practices. Our vision is to become a zero waste leader across Canada’s post-secondary institutions, for waste minimization and diversion.

Waste avoidance, reduction, diversion and repurposing has come to the forefront and is now a global priority. A call to action is paramount to address environmental and human health problems associated with waste pollution and the harmful effects of single-use items. Increasingly, governments at various levels are introducing reduction strategies single-use items, and some are calling for outright bans. Globally, in 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which provide a robust set of goals and actions to “end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030”. As the University continues to align with current market and political drivers in an ever-changing landscape, this strategy provides a path to conform to new standards and regulatory requirements.

Help Sort It Out. What Goes Where?

Waste Bins


  • Plastic grocery bags, coloured plastic bags and black plastic items go in the trash even if they have #1-7 recycling symbols. 
  • Cellophane wrappers, chip bags and plastics that don't stretch go in the trash.
  • Straws and beverage cup lids go in the trash; separate recyclable cups and dispose of them in the mixed recycling bin, or the composting bin if they are compostable (BPI certifed - not biodegradable).
  • Miscellaneous plastics like plastic cutlery and used pens go in the trash.
  • Latex gloves also go in the trash.

Refundable Beverage Containers

  • Aluminum cans, plastic and glass drink containers are all refundable.
  • Milk and juice cartons, along with tetrapacks and drink pouches, also go in the refundable beverage containers bin.
  • The Students’ Union (SU) administers the collection of refundable beverage containers on campus. The collection draws about $40,000 in revenue annually and is used to employ nine part-time special needs staff and nine case workers from the Developmental Disabilities Resources Centre of Calgary.
  • Emptying containers before you recycle helps keep the bins clean and pest free.

Mixed Recyclables

  • All clear plastic containers with recycling symbols #1-7 count as mixed recyclables. Black plastic items, even those with #1-7 symbols, go in the trash. 
  • Disposable (empty) coffee and beverage cups can go in the mixed recyclables bin, but lids must go in the trash. 
  • Clear plastic bags (like sandwich bags) and any clear plastic that stretches, like cling film, can be recycled; plastic wrappers that don’t stretch are likely cellophane and go in the trash. Plastic grocery bags go in the trash.
  • Paper, cardboard and non-refundable glass containers go in the mixed recyclables bin.
  • Empty your containers of leftover food and drink as best possible into the compost bin before recycling; you do not need to wash containers to recycle.


  • Compostable food/plant waste includes: meat, fruits and vegetables, flowers, dairy, egg shells, grains, nuts and flour; coffee grinds and tea bags and bones, fat trimmings, oil and grease are also compostable.
  • Used paper towels and napkins, wet/soiled cardboard and paper products are compostable (like pizza boxes); even wooden chopsticks can go in the compostables bin.
  • Don't forget to compost your food container at MacHall; all vendors use compostable clamshell containers.
  • Compostable cutlery goes in the compostables bins, but plastic cutlery goes in the trash.
  • Forty-three per cent of our landfill materials are comprised of organic food waste that could be composted.
86% of construction and demolition waste was diverted from landfill in 2022-23

Waste and recycling at UCalgary

Take Action

Reusable Mug

Enjoy your coffee from a reusable mug and get a discount at participating campus vendors.

Waste Bin

No waste bin in your classroom or conference room? Find a nearby four-stream waste bin and help us sort it out!

Textbook Consignment

Help your old textbooks find a new home with Bound and Copied's book consignment service.

Learn more

Questions about waste and recycling? Contact us