"Recycling and Waste Management: The University shall develop policies and programs that work toward achieving zero waste and will comply with the provisions of the NC General Statute 130A-309.14 regarding recycling and waste management." - UNC Policy 600.6.1

UNCW aims to comply with the UNC System Recycling and Waste Management Policy by integrating several aspects of waste management into everyday operations. Although the rules and regulations of waste management are constantly changing and evolving, UNCW is dedicated and driven to meet the challenging goal of sending less than 10% of our generated waste to the landfill, thereby achieving the designation of a Zero Waste Campus.

This goal is an ambitious one that will take creativity and dedication to attain. The most significant hurdle is the ways and means to measure and quantify this goal. We are diligently working on updating and streamlining the collection process on campus to acquire more detailed data with which to work.

Waste is a complex topic that is continuously changing.

What is considered "recycling" is different in each municipality and possibly even more specialized in micro-communities, like at UNCW. This change in rules and regulations as a result of the availability of the local facilities that are capable of recycling that specific material. The accepted materials can also be a result of the cost of recycling of that material at the time, as the markets have fluctuated for various reasons. UNCW Recycling's website answers all of your questions about what is available on campus.

Composting is another aspect of waste management that has different, sometimes contradicting, instructions. What can be composted in one's backyard pile is more restricted than what can be broken down in an industrial-scale facility, like at New Hanover County.

Of course, there is also an always-developing culture of the first two Rs of waste, reducing, and reusing. From re-thinking your present wrapping, sending old sneakers off to be shredded and made into sports surfaces, or emailing Amazon to ask for minimal packaging the first two R's are emerging and expanding.

Regardless, UNCW is diligently pursuing the Zero Waste designation. We will continue to implement waste minimization, and waste diversion techniques as the opportunities present themselves. As the UNC System’s Coastal University, we strive to be stewards of the natural spaces in which we work and play.

 Below is some data from 2018-19 academic year, please note that the landfill waste is extrapolated from averages.

Waste Minimization

Goal: Less than 10% of waste goes to the landfill 



  • UNCW Surplus Property department facilitates the interdepartmental transfer of state property such as office furniture, décor, and office supplies.  
  • University-wide publications are limited in run and frequency.  
  • Course Catalogs are located on the university website. 
  • The University Directory is virtual as well. 
  • All students are allowed only 100 free copies on campus-wide iPrint stations. A fee is assessed for each copy after their allotment.  
  • “Think Before You Print” Campaigns encourage faculty and staff to reduce their printer ink and paper usage.  

Dining and Catering  

  • UNCW encourages campus businesses to minimize their usage of single-use plastics such as bags, straws, and condiments. 
  • UNCW Campus Dining implements a dynamic inventory-based ordering system that relies on locally sourced products which reduce waste but ensures availability.  
  • Two of three dining halls on campus utilize reusable service ware for dine-in meals.  
  • One dining hall offers half portion option for meals to patrons.  
  • Participating locations offer a “BYO CUP” discount for beverages. Two locations offer special “BYO CUP” refill pricing. 


  • Gold Talon Events is a program that encourages the UNCW community to reduce their environmental impacts when hosting meetings, conferences, and events by minimizing the waste generated from these types of functions.  
  • Weigh the Waste is a bi-annual event that weighs the food remaining on patrons' plates at the end of their meal. The data is compiled and released to campus to call attention to food waste occurring in dining facilities by faculty and staff. 
  • Waste Audits are performed across campus to assess trends, target problem trash, identify contamination issues, and evaluate the effectiveness of sustainability campaigns across campus.  

Hazard Waste Management 

  • Practice “Green Chemistry” whenever possible in campus lab classes 
  • Sources non-hazardous substitutes for class lessons 
  • Offers other departments the use of hazardous materials before disposal 

Action Plan Steps 

  • Create an education campaign targeting the UNCW campus community 
  • Define Zero Waste for the university? 
  • What can faculty, staff, and students do to help achieve the goal? 
  • Promote reusable beverage containers across campus  
  • Work with departments on action plans to reduce waste generation 
  • Educate departments on the role of Surplus Property in the operations

Waste Diversion

Goal: Less than 10% of waste goes to the landfill 



  • Source separated traditional recycling program 
  • Dedicated recycling facility to capture and process materials 
  • Unique and Unusual Recycling program 
    • Styrofoam 
    • Rigid plastics 
    • Plastic film 
    • Electronics 
    • Batteries 
  • Campus dining facilities recycle fryer oil  
  • Motor pool recycles oil motor oil  
  • 24/7 Recycling Depot for traditional material drop-offs 
  • TerraCycle recycling program 
    • Cigarette butts 
    • Rubber gloves 
    • Candy wrappers 
    • Chip bags 
    • Snack wrappers 

Surplus Property 

  • Collects unwanted state property and prepares items for sell to the public for reuse or repurposing 
  • Facilitates and maintains scrap metal recycling 
  • Mitigates construction & demolition waste  


  • Functioning dehydrator that converts food scraps to nutrient-rich soil amendment 
  • Primary dining halls offer only compostable containers as take-away options  
  • One dining hall processes all organic waste – pre- and post-consumer- for county compost programs 
  • Gold Talon Events encourage the use of compost bins to divert food waste from events from landfill 

Hazard Waste Management 

  • Collection and disposal of all hazardous materials generated on campus 
    • Light bulbs 
    • Paint 
    • Chemicals 
    • Aerosol cans 

Action Plan Steps 

  • Form a “Waste-Not” crew 
  • Place my trouble item recycling bins across campus 
  • Create education signage to target specific locations  
  • Incorporate a pizza box composting program 
  • Create a recycling map for campus 
  • Increase recycling presence during Move-In events 

Hazardous Waste Management


  • The Chemistry and Biochemistry Department practices "green" chemistry, reducing or eliminating the use of hazardous waste.
    • After a lab clean-out, the chemicals that have not reached their expiration date are offered to the entire department as surplus.
  • Environmental Health & Safety recycles all hazardous materials created by the university including light bulbs, paint, and chemicals.