Skip to McMaster Navigation Skip to Site Navigation Skip to main content
McMaster Logo McMaster logo


To continue towards increasing the percentage of diverted waste on campus, McMaster University has developed a waste reduction plan and a new waste labeling criteria aimed at enhancing waste diversion and reducing cross-contamination between different types of recycled waste. The outcome of the new bin-labeling system is currently being evaluated by Facility Services and necessary changes will be made to continue to further enhance the diversion rate at McMaster.

News and Events

Please be advised that the Trash to Treasure IT Reuse project coordinated by the Academic Sustainability Programs Office has been postponed at this time due to COVID-19.

From Trash to Treasure – IT Collection, Reuse, and Donation (Postponed)

Sustainability 3S03 students ensured the pilot was a great success, and the project lives on. Click here to request your FREE pick-up once the project resumes, or drop off any IT equipment at UTS in BSB 245. More details here.

Additionally, a collection event and a separate reuse event are planned once the project resumes. More details to follow.

Changes to Waste and Recycling Bins

Click here to view the new and improved recycling poster! We have now moved to a program where recyclables will be commingled and later sorted and separated. This will help to reduce the amount of contamination from improper placement of waste. The current bin stickers will be replaced throughout the summer.

Waste Reduction Plan

Check out McMaster University’s Waste Reduction Work Plan (Waste Reduction Work Plan-Schools) This plan was implemented to reduce waste and improve our Diversion Rate. The Diversion Rate is the amount of waste that is diverted from the landfill by recycling/composting compared to the amount of waste that reached the landfill. Please see (McMaster University 2019 Waste Audit)


Water Fountain Retrofits

One water fountain in each academic and administrative building on campus has been retrofitted to include a bubbler for drinking, a goose-neck spout for refilling and a chiller to provide cool water. Remember–refill, don’t landfill!


Composting is the process where organic waste is broken down by micro-organisms, decomposed to produce rich soil-like product called humus. Humus has many applications that can contribute significantly to soil texture and fertility, beneficial for horticultural and agricultural processes.


  • Divert organic waste from landfill.
  • Pilot two different composting systems to determine best application
  • Make recommendations for expansion and further diversion.

Where does McMaster’s composting go?

All organic material is taken away daily by composting hauler, Planet Earth, to the Walker Environmental Group Compost facility in Thorold, Ontario. The end product of high quality soil blends, compost, and mulches are used by the agricultural and landscaping industries.

Program Updates

McMaster has successfully expanded its composting program to many of the buildings on campus in both kitchens and common areas such as the libraries, Student Center, most residence buildings and other various locations around campus

Ready to start composting in your office?

Championing organics waste disposal in an office area is a great way to promote sustainability and engage students and staff in an initiative to decrease waste production.

To start, you must identify at least one champion to lead this initiative in your area, which will involve communication with other student and staff members in the office as well as emptying the green bin on a frequent basis. Communicating and obtaining feedback and support from all students and staff in the office is important to effectively facilitate the program. Providing educational and support material to staff and students will also support an effective and successful program.

For more information about how to champion this initiative in your area, including request for educational material please contact the Office of Sustainability at We will be able to assist you in moving further with your composting goals.

Acceptable Items:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat, including bones
  • Dairy
  • Soup and sauce
  • Bread products
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Waxed paper
  • Cooking Fat
  • Paper plates
  • Napkins
  • Paper towel
  • Milk cartons
  • Paper coffee cups
  • Wooden Skewers
  • Popcorn Bags

Unacceptable items:

  • All plastics
  • Saran wrap
  • Styrofoam
  • Metal
  • Glass
  • Floor Sweepings



IT Collection, reuse, and recycling is an important area of focus because electronics not only contain harmful chemicals, such as cadmium, mercury, and lead, but  e-waste has become the fastest growing part of the world’s domestic waste stream.

Since 2009, McMaster has been reducing university-generated IT waste through twice-annual collection and reuse events. Any items not collected for reuse during those events were recycled. The university wants to enhance the program with a greater focus on reuse, and the challenge was presented to sustainability students in Fall 2019.

McMaster’s SUSTAIN 3S03 students successfully completed the pilot, and the project lives on with the continued aim to serve the community and reduce waste by reimagining the lifecycle of the university’s IT. By working with Facilities Services, University Technology Services, and formerly with the social enterprise SLSH greenBYTE, the project is intended to continue collecting, sanitizing, refurbishing, and donating computers to Hamilton children in need.

PLEASE NOTE: The e-waste collection cages positioned at some building loading docks are in service, but the drop-off location for IT is BSB 245. IT waste continues to be picked up free of charge (if it can be done by one person with a dolly).


Frequently Asked Questions

  • What happens to the information on the collected hard drives?
    UTS assumes the responsibility of fully sanitizing the collected hard drives, including hard drives from computers collected by Facility Services as well as those brought to collection events.
  • What is sanitization?
    Sanitization, also known as data erasure or wiping, is a secure means of erasing data on magnetic media, such as hard drives in computers. Other methods, such as reformatting or directory removal, are not sufficient to securely erase data; it will still be recoverable. Ensure your data is securely sanitized by taking advantage of this project.
  • Are personal devices accepted?
    We are collecting both university-generated IT waste and personal devices. Yes, this means you can bring in your old laptop(s) or home computer(s), or those provided by friends, family, or acquaintances. If you are a business looking to increase IT reuse, we refer you to SLSH greenBYTE. Equipment pick-up and hard drive sanitization by UTS continue to be free of charge.
  • Are mobile devices such as phones and tablets “IT equipment”?
    Yes, but due to the difficulty in guaranteeing secure data erasure, we ask that you reset your mobile device to factory settings before donating. Otherwise, they will be recycled.
  • Suggestions or questions about this initiative?
    Send an email to

Acceptable Types of Batteries

  • Cell Phone/Laptop Batteries
  • Rechargeable Batteries
  • Lithium Ion
  • Nickel Metal Hydride
  • Sealed Lead
  • Desktop Copiers

View RMM 506 – Battery Recycling and Disposal Program for information on responsible recycling. Additional information can be found by visiting Human Resources waste website.

Unacceptable items for e-waste recycling

  • Mercury switches and thermostats
  • Bio & Hazardous Waste/Sharps  
  • Liquids and Chemical Waste
  • Air Conditioners, Fans, Power Tools
  • Small Household Appliances
  • Smoke Detectors with Radiation
  • Household Hazardous Waste
  • Gas Powered Equipment
  • Electrical Motors
  • Monitors above 39”