Waste Reduction

The more you know, the less you need

Every year, UGA sends about 10 million pounds of materials to the landfill, equivalent to a mountain the size of the Miller Learning Center. Thoughtful action by each member of the UGA community to Reduce, Reuse, then Recycle and Compost will significantly reduce this waste.

1. Reduce

Think before you buy or accept an item. The best way to reduce waste is to never generate it in the first place. Give feedback to suppliers when they use excessive, one-way packaging that you have to landfill.

2. Reuse

Before you buy new, look for items to reuse instead. When you’re through with an item, donate it for someone else to use. Email property@uga.edu to join and share state property with others on campus. If you must buy new, buy durable and repairable products.

3. Recycle

Georgia’s industry is second only to California in manufacturing products using recycled materials. Your plastic bottle could become carpet in North Georgia. Don’t landfill materials that Georgia businesses need. View a list of recyclable materials at UGA and Athens-Clarke County.

4. Compost

UGA compost is used to restore campus soils and grow wholesome food for community members in need. Break room coffee grounds and dining hall organics can feed someone else! See more information about UGA compost programs below.

have a landfill or recycling container that needs servicing? Submit a maintenance work request. 
Have an upcoming special event that needs waste management support? Submit a Non-Maintenance Work Request.

The FMD Work Request Center will make sure your request makes it to the right UGA team members who can help! 

Submit a Work Request

Exterior landfill and recycling Containers

A goal of Waste Reduction Services is to provide and maintain convenient exterior containers for students and staff to properly dispose of waste streams from campus facilities. Campus customers may request additional containers to better serve their facility or special event by submitting a Work Request
Please note: Containers are currently in high demand and requests will be fulfilled based on available equipment and staffing.

Request new deskside bins for your office or department!

Take responsibility for the materials in your office environment so FMD staff can focus on more critical facility needs.

Bin Request Form

The UGA Deskside Waste Reduction Program

A gray waste bin labeled "Mixed Recycling" with a smaller, black side-saddle bin labeled "Landfill"
This two-bin system replaces a legacy trash can for convenient self-management of office waste.

Each UGA unit is encouraged to take responsibility for managing waste within their office environments to enable FMD staff to focus on increased cleaning and disinfecting of restrooms and common areas. Participants receive new deskside recycling and “side saddle” trash bins and commit to empty them into nearby common area bins. Bins are provided free of charge to Resident Instruction facilities and are available for purchase by Non-RI units. (Map of RI versus Non-RI buildings.)

There is a simple 3-step process to get started.

  1. UGA departments can submit a request directly to their Building Services Supervisor or complete a UGA Deskside Waste Reduction Program Form. Note: Coordinated departmental responses are preferred. If requesting for multiple participants, please complete and keep a Participant Log with names and room numbers to assist your Building Services Supervisor with distribution of the bins.
  2. The FMD Building Services Supervisor will coordinate delivery of the new bins to participating employees, and remove old bins as needed.
  3. Participating employees commit to manage their own deskside materials, empty their deskside bins into nearby common area recycling and trash receptacles, and clean their deskside bins as needed.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Deskside Waste Reduction System

People who choose to not participate will notice that personal waste inside of individual office trash cans may not be collected each day. Due to state reductions in funding and the heavy need for public areas to have increased cleaning frequencies, our cleaning staff will be prioritizing their time to ensure high-touch traffic areas, public restrooms, and other common areas are sanitized.

We strongly encourage employees to place any food, food wrappers, wet or sticky items directly into common area landfill bins with plastic bag liners. Similar to standard single-stream recycling bins on campus, the deskside recycling bins can receive clean paper, plastic, metal or glass. See detailed guidance at the Athens-Clarke County web site.

Individual employees are responsible for cleaning out their own deskside bins. The first and best strategy is to be mindful of what you put into the bins. If your bin needs to be cleaned, a paper towel with warm water and hand or dish soap from a nearby restroom or break room should be sufficient.

Additional common area bins can be requested through your Building Services Supervisor.

1. It saves time for FMD staff, allowing them to focus on more critical cleaning tasks.

UGA Facilities Management Division is operating with reduced Building Services staffing due to state budget cuts. This relatively minor process change will enable FMD staff time to be redirected to increased cleaning and disinfecting of common areas and restrooms. Collectively, UGA Building Service Workers spend approximately 29,000 hours per year emptying deskside waste bins (or the equivalent of 14.5 full-time employees). Each occupant who manages their own office waste materials creates valuable time for frontline staff to ensure safe and healthy indoor environments.

2. The program reduces waste and associated costs.

When individuals take an active role in their deskside waste management, they gain greater visibility of the materials they generate. This typically results in better informed choices, less waste, and decreased landfill tipping fees for UGA.

3. The program reduces plastic in the environment.

UGA purchases and landfills more than 173,000 deskside trash bags annually. The Deskside Waste Reduction System eliminates the use of plastic liners, which reduces material costs to UGA and helps keep plastic pollution out of the environment.

Recycling at UGA: Know Before You Throw

UGA sends recycled materials to the Athens-Clarke County Recovered Materials Processing Facility. ACC uses single stream recycling, which allows UGA to collect clean paper, plastic, cardboard, metal, and glass together in one recycling bin. Visit ACC Recycling Division for a complete list of recyclable materials. 




Departmental Compost Program

The Office of Sustainability runs a departmental compost program in which food scraps from campus break rooms (coffee grounds, fruit peels, etc.) are collected weekly by student interns on an electric trike, processed at UGA’s Bioconversion Center, and eventually returned to UGArden and other campus and community gardens. Email compost@uga.edu to join the program. Download a flyer of the compostable items accepted in this program (PDF).

Event Composting

UGA Campus Catering composts at each event they serve. Departments that host large events can borrow compost bins from the Office of Sustainability and deposit compostable materials at Athens-Clarke County compost drop-off locations. Email sustain@uga.edu or call 706-542-1301 to reserve a bin for your event.

Dining Hall Compost Program

UGA Dining Services leads by example, capturing pre-and post-consumer organic materials from each UGA Dining Hall. Get details and updates on the Dining Services web site.

Zero-Waste Event Guidelines and Resources

  • Discuss your zero waste goal with all planning team members and challenge each person to look for opportunities to prevent waste.
  • Contact event partners early to establish logistics so your event will run smoothly.
  • Use an RSVP system such as Eventbrite to avoid over-ordering food and other items.
  • Prior to your event, confirm which disposal bins will be required (i.e. reusable wares collection, compost, recycling, landfill).
  • UGA Campus Catering offers both reusable and compostable service wares (and they can create a customized menu with local and sustainable food).
  • If your event is being catered by an external vendor, ask the caterer if they can provide reusable or compostable wares and if there are other ways they can help reduce plastic waste at your event.
  • If you are providing your own food service wares, make every effort to avoid single use items. ACC Recycling Division offers free use of Zero Waste Event Kits which contain reusable cups, plates, utensils, and more for up to 150 people (note: ensure that there will be people and resources to thoroughly clean and return the reusable items).
  • If reusable items are not an option, consider BPI certified compostable food service wares, which are available in UGAMart (search for “compostable”). If you are planning to recycle food service wares, please note that items with food residue are not recyclable.
  • For the food itself, consider buffet-style service, finger foods, and bulk drink and dressing containers to reduce packaging and the need for utensils.
  • Plastic water bottles, while very common, are a symbol of wastefulness. Consider them a last resort to be used when there is no other way to provide drinking water for guests. Use pitchers and reusable, compostable, or recyclable cups instead.
  • Set up clearly labeled, co-located collection stations that are convenient for guests to use and easy to understand: Compost, Recycling, Reusable Service Wares.
  • Note: Compostable materials from your event can be dropped off free of charge at ACC Compost Dropoff locations.
  • If your department hosts frequent events and would like to have your own bin to use and manage, contact your FMD Building Supervisor to request a compost bin and bags.
  • Email information in advance rather than printing handouts for each attendee. During the event, provide necessary information on a poster or screen versus individual handouts. When printing is necessary, do it double-sided and facilitate and encourage paper recycling at the event.
  • Giveaways can enhance—or detract from—your brand. Make sure you’re creating a positive message with thoughtful, useful items. If you can’t afford quality products, don’t cheapen your event and your brand with giveaway items that will likely end up in the trash.
  • If decorations are needed, select items that have a specific and useful next life.

Hard to Recycle Materials

Hard to Recycle Materials are technically recyclable but require special handling that is beyond the scope of the single stream sorting facility. Many of these items can be taken to the Athens-Clarke County Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM), some are handled internally by UGA, and some have other options. If you need help with large items or large quantities, you may request a pick up through the FMD Work Request Center.

Surplus state property must be properly managed through UGA Asset Management, or you can use the Surplus Property Listserv (email property@uga.edu to join) for direct state property transfer between UGA personnel.

Household items should never be brought to campus for disposal.

Batteries are collected in a “Universal Waste” container for recycling. Ask your Building Services Supervisor for the location of the battery recycling bucket in your building. Note: If you have large batteries - such as UPS batteries - that wil not fit into a standard battery recycling bucket, please submit a routine maintenance Work Request for collection and recycling.

It costs UGA money to recycle batteries, so it is not appropriate to dispose of household batteries on campus. See the CHaRM for information on household battery disposal.

Electronics that are state property should be managed by your departmental IT staff and/or through UGA Asset Management, or shared with UGA peers through the Surplus Property Listserv.

Personal electronics should be taken to the CHaRM.

Clean film plastics such as shopping bags, deflated air bags from shipped packages, and shrink wrap can be consolidated and brought to the CHaRM, placed in the appropriate container at most supermarkets, or placed in a Bag the Bag bin in most UGA Housing residence halls.

Film plastics should never go in the single stream recycling bins.

UGA Facilities Management Division provides recycling removal service for #2 and #4 film plastic for participating UGA Athens departments that opt into this program. Participants are responsible for material collection, preventing contamination, and requesting removal.

UGA FMD Film Plastic Collection Program (PDF)

Furniture that is state property should be mangaged through UGA Asset Management or shared with UGA peers through the Surplus Property Listserv.

Three percent of UGA’s total FY2018 landfill tonnage was discarded furniture that could not be sold or donated. If you need furniture for your workplace, please look for used options on the Surplus Property Listserv first. If you must buy new, buy durable.

Hardcover books are accepted at the CHaRM.

If you have a large quantity, box them up and get them to your building’s loading dock. Submit a request for pickup through the FMD Work Request Center.

PLA (polylactic acid) printing filament scraps from 3D printers on UGA campus can now be composted via a partnership with Athens Clarke County Commercial Composting Facility. 

PLA is different from petroleum-based plastics, as it is derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch, and is often referred to as a “bioplastic.” The unique nature of this material allows it to be diverted from landfills and composted instead. 

UGA Facilities Management Division provides composting removal service for PLA printing filament scraps associated with our campus Maker’s Spaces and other campus areas with 3D printers. Participants are responsible for material collection, preventing contamination, and requesting removal. To opt in, contact your Building Services Supervisor and notify them that your department plans to begin PLA scrap collection and will be requesting their support to coordinate removal. 

Please note: it is of utmost importance that only PLA printing filament scraps are included in this collection and kept free of other types of 3D printer filament.  

Additional program details are described here:  UGA FMD PLA Filament Scraps Composting Program (PDF)

Polystyrene that is clean and free of tape and other materials is accepted at the CHaRM and Publix supermarkets. Athens Clarke-County has more detailed guidelines here.

If you regularly receive shipments containing polystyrene packaging, consider reaching out to the supplier to tell them you would prefer that they switch to an alternative packing material.

UGA Facilities Management Division provides recycling removal service for #6 polystyrene (a.k.a. Styrofoam) for participating UGA Athens departments that opt into this program. Participants are responsible for material collection, preventing contamination, and requesting removal. To opt in, contact your Building Services Supervisor and notify them that your department plans to begin Styrofoam collection and will be requesting their support to coordinate removal. 

Additional program details are described here: UGA FMD Polystyrene Collection Program (PDF)

Shredded paper must always be put in a clear plastic bag and tied closed so that it does not make a mess. Most buildings on campus have a paper roll cart (typically labeled “Office Paper Only”). These carts are collected separately from the other mixed recyclables. Bagged shredded paper can also be taken to the CHaRM.

The first and best option is to use the package and included return mailing label that came with your replacement cartridge to send the empty one back to the manufacturer. Otherwise, you may send cartridges to Campus Mail where it will be recycled.

Athens Clarke-County lists a number of other options here.