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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

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

Sustainability 3S03 students ensured the pilot was a great success, and the Trash to Treasure project lives on despite the pandemic. Request your pick-up, for which fees are waived under the conditions outlined below.

Additionally, an e-waste collection event is planned for October 22, and a separate student-oriented reuse event will follow a few weeks after.

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



E-waste 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 e-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 of IT waste, and the challenge was presented to sustainability students in Fall 2019. McMaster’s SUSTAIN 3S03 students successfully completed the pilot, and the Trash to Treasure project lives on with the continued aim to serve the Hamilton community and reduce waste by reimagining the lifecycle of the university’s IT. By working with Facilities Services, University Technology Services, and local charities, the project will continue collecting, sanitizing, refurbishing, and donating desktop and laptop computers to Hamilton children in need. A broader selection of IT equipment will be made available to McMaster students twice a year.

PLEASE NOTE: Standard rates apply to pick-up of e-waste, which will be waived if:

  • Items fit within a mail bag (and are shipped in one)
  • Pick-up occurs within two weeks in advance of a collection event
  • Desired items are included

Alternatively, Facility Services accepts drop-off at the receiving area. The outdoor e-waste collection bins at building loading docks have been removed due to too much other waste; the indoor ones are being enhanced to also handle batteries and toner.

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 – contact EOHSS
  • Bio & Hazardous Waste/Sharps – contact EOHSS
  • Liquids and Chemical Waste – contact EOHSS
  • Air Conditioners, Fans, Power Tools – recycled via the metal bin, once Freon is removed
  • Household Hazardous Waste – contact EOHSS
  • Gas Powered Equipment – recycled via the metal bin
  • Electrical Motors – recycled via the metal bin