Waste Reduction Program

Reducing waste on campus brings environmental, financial, social and educational benefits to our community. Waste prevention through product reuse and reduced consumption can help prevent emissions of greenhouse gases, reduce pollutants, save energy, conserve resources, create jobs, and stimulate the development of green technologies.

The challenge of waste and waste reduction exemplifies a real-world problem requiring liberal arts approached solutions. Our waste minimization efforts engage students, faculty and staff interested in economics, environmental studies, mathematics, chemistry, engineering, social sciences, or the intersectionality of these disciplines.


All-In-One Recycling

In the fall of 2012, UNC Asheville began combining paper, bottles, and cans together into a single container.  Recyclables are picked-up from campus and taken to a sorting facility.  Single stream recycling simplifies the recycling process which increases participation and minimizes waste sent to the landfill. In the 2017-2018 school year, over 138 tons of material were diverted from the landfill through this program. Check out our recycling guide to see what items can be recycled in our single stream program.

Specialty Recycling Programs

Campus Operations also handles a wide variety of ‘hard to recycle’ items through speciality recycling programs. Contact customer_service@unca.edu for assistance with the following items: batteries, light bulbs, electronics, ink cartridges, oil/ grease/ biosolids, untreated wood, or construction/ demolition materials.


Compostables make up the highest percentage (by weight) of divertible waste at UNC Asheville. See what can be composted on campus by checking out our Composting Guide.

Compost in Dining Facilities

The UNC Asheville composting program started in the dining halls in 2010. Food waste is collected at all campus dining facilities. Many of the plates and utensils are reusable or made with biodegradable materials. Dining services offers compostable serveware and china as options for catered events on campus. Food waste is collected by Danny’s Dumpster and composted at their local processing facility. In the 2017-2018 school-year, over 190 tons of food waste was diverted from the landfill through the composting program. Check other green efforts on the dining services sustainability webpage.

Compost in Residence Halls

A composting program in selected residence halls was started in late 2014 by the Student Environmental Center. Students are responsible for collecting food waste in their rooms and emptying personal containers into larger, central composting stations. Contact the SEC to request a personal composting container.

Compost in Offices and Academic Buildings

Before the office compost program was introduced in 2014, a waste stream analysis of campus buildings showed that an average of 55% (by weight) of the waste stream could be composted rather than landfilled. Within 8 months of implementation, there was a 41% improvement in diverting office compostables from the landfill!

Food waste and paper towels are currently collected for composting in most of the academic/admin buildings on the UNC Asheville campus. Each staff or faculty member is responsible for bringing their personal compostables to centralized waste sorting stations.  A small compostable collection container is available for each office, upon request. The common area bins are collected by Housekeeping staff. We plan to continue the expansion of the program until it is available in every building.

Programs and Projects

All in the Hall

Approximately 80% of waste produced in classrooms (by weight) is recyclable or compostable. Historically classrooms have only provided trash cans, which do not incentivize proper waste disposal. One way to address this issue would be to add recycling and composting receptacles into all the classrooms. However, this would increase housekeeping responsibilities and necessitate the purchase of additional equipment. Alternatively, many colleges and Universities have seen success in waste reduction by removing trash cans from individual classrooms. Through the “All in the Hall” program, UNC Asheville classroom-users will bring disposables to centralized waste sorting stations located in the hallways. These stations include trash, recycling, and compost, making it easier to responsibly dispose of your waste.

Tiny Trash Can Program

Starting in 2014, UNC Asheville faculty and staff have the option to participate in the Tiny Trash Can program. Participants agree to replace their existing desk-side trash can with a 6″ “tiny” desk-top receptacle. The tiny cans are emptied by participants into hallway receptacles.

In addition to raising awareness about minimizing waste and developing greener habits, the Tiny Trash Can Program addresses the issue of plastic bags used to line conventional trash cans. Plastic trash liners are expensive, wasteful, and time-consuming for housekeeping staff. Eliminating the need for housekeeping staff to service desk-side trash containers will offset the increasing responsibilities associated with growing recycling and composting programs across campus. Once the Tiny Trash Can Program has been introduced to a building, individuals become responsible for their own waste stream. Desk-side recycling containers will continue to be serviced by housekeeping staff. Check out this report from Keep America Beautiful for more information on the benefits of Tiny Trash Can Programs.

UNCA Free Store

Donate to and visit the UNC Asheville Free Store operated by the Student Environmental Center. Shopping at the Free Store prevents the manufacturing of new products and enhances the UNC Asheville community.
Score some free goodies and help gently used clothes, school supplies, electronics and much more avoid the trip to the landfill!

Student Move-Out Donation Program

According to a recent Tufts University study, there is a 30% spike in the solid waste stream at most universities every April and May, when students are preparing to leave campus. To address this wasteful (and costly) issue, Housing and Residence Life at UNC Asheville has partnered with several non-profit and local organizations to collect furniture, clothes, shoes, bedding, backpacks, non-perishable food and other reusable items. During the 2018 move-out, Goodwill received over 13,000 lbs of reusable items from UNC Asheville.

Event Waste Reduction

Portable trash, recycling, and compost bins available by request via work order with Campus Operations (under the forms tab). Most items (plates, cups, napkins) provided by Catering Services are compostable. Compostable utensils or reusable china can be requested for an additional charge. Last semester, over 40 events provided compost bins.


RecycleMania is an internationally-practiced friendly competition and tool to promote waste reduction on campus. Schools across the United States and Canada report the amount of recycling and trash collected each week and are in turn ranked in various categories based on who recycles the most and landfills the least. With each week’s updated ranking, participating schools follow their performance against other colleges and use the results to rally their campus to reduce and recycle more.

Each spring since 2012, UNC Asheville has been participating in the 8-week long contest. In the 2014 competition, UNC Asheville placed 166 out of 332 colleges and universities.  In 2017 UNC Asheville ranked 11 out of 190 schools and was the highest ranked school in the state with a waste diversion rate of over 68%!