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Waste Stream Education and Student Led Initiatives

The Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling (OWRR) provides recycling, composting and trash disposal services on campus. The office provides Sustainable Carolina with data needed to carry out analyses and provides guidance for construction projects, building renovations, campus events and more.

UNC Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling interns at Sustainable Carolina’s 2023 Earth Day festival.

Waste Dashboard

Our latest analysis shows that in 2020, we prevented 3,633 tons of waste from entering the landfill. That’s a 43% diversion rate, compared to 12% in 1990.

Efforts to reuse and recycle campus waste have significantly reduced the total amount of material UNC sends to the landfill.

The University promotes campus-wide sustainable materials management and individual behavior change. This reduces the amount of waste coming from campus and allows us to recover potentially reusable resources.



Recycling History at UNC-Chapel Hill

In 1988, UNC-Chapel Hill became the first state university to hire a paid recycling coordinator, and the next year, the University’s recycling program officially began. From 1989-90, 12,358 tons of waste went to the landfill. With the introduction of an on-campus recycling program in 1990, 5,688 tons of waste went to the landfill during the 1990-91 year; 771 tons were recycled.

The recycling program expanded on campus quickly, and in 1992, the UNC Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling hosted the second annual Collegiate Recycling Conference. By 1995, 40 different types of items could be recycled in campus bins. Creation of programs like Green Games fueled student motivation and involvement in recycling.

Today, recycling bins are distributed to individual rooms in all residence halls. Recycling is also available in academic buildings, dining halls and outside on walking paths.


Waste Stories

Sustainable 3D Printing


Coffee & Composting


Sustainable Move-Out Program


Campus Partners

UNC Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling: Oversees campus recycling programs, special event recycling, composting and construction/demolition waste management.

Carolina Dining Services: The program prioritizes purchasing within 250 miles of campus, provides sustainable options for students and utilizes messaging around food waste. Its student volunteer based waste sorting program works to decrease contamination coming from the dining hall.

Carolina Housing: Provides recycling bins to students in their rooms; students can request a compost bin as well. Carolina Housing also promotes its “Don’t Ditch It, Donate It” program at the end of every school year.

BeAM@CarolinaStudents can use a new, biodegradable filament for 3D printing in BeAM makerspaces.

UNC Facilities Services: Oversees construction and renovation projects on campus while striving reuse materials.