Questions on Recycling


The University of Alberta's recycling program began in the 1970s with paper. Recycling of beverage containers began in the 1990s. In the past decade, new bins and the construction of an on-campus transfer station allowed the university to collect multiple streams of recyclables.

This Classic Recycling system was rolled out to most buildings on North Campus. This system will continue to be used until the transition to Zero Waste is complete.

Why sorting is important

Recycling bins are available in convenient locations in every campus building. Please sort your items into the correct bin. When five per cent or more of the materials are is sorted improperly, the whole bin must be sent to the landfill.

Why do recycling and composting matter?

Because they're some of the most important ways to take action for the environment and future generations.

Conservation: Recycling reduces the amount of resources (like trees) needed to make new products, such as paper or milk cartons.

Climate change: Material that is not recycled or composted is sent to the landfill. Landfills produce methane, a gas that contributes to climate change 21 times more intensely than carbon dioxide (CO2). It is estimated that one fifth of greenhouse gas emissions are tied to landfills.

Valuable resources: Compost is a nutrient-rich material that helps grow healthy plants right here on campus, reducing the need for synthetic chemical fertilizers.

How can we make composting work?

Collecting organic waste should not result in odours and or attract flies. The same waste was previously going into a landfill bin. If you do notice a serious issue please report it to the Maintenance Desk at 780-492-4833.

Why is the university’s system different than my system at home?

The University of Alberta is part of the institutional, commercial and industrial sector, which means it is not part of the municipal waste system you have at home. Instead, the university must have its own waste contractors who collect and process waste and recycling. People living in an Edmonton residence pays taxes which support municipal services like waste management.

What happens to everything that’s put in the bins?

All materials are picked up by a contracted hauler and sorted. If there is a market for the materials, items will be recycled. Organic items will be composted. Anything else is sent to the landfill.

About Zero Waste

The University of Alberta is committed to taking a Zero Waste approach to waste management. Through recycling and composting and other diversion methods, the university can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, reduce the demand for natural resources and avoid the social and environmental impacts of landfills.

To support the Zero Waste approach, the university is introducing a new system of bins. These will simplify sorting and allow for the collection of organic material. By including organics, the university can provide 1,500 tonnes of organic waste each year to the anaerobic digestion facility at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre. Once Zero Waste is implemented across the whole campus, the university will be closer to diverting 90 per cent of waste from landfill.

The following definition of Zero Waste is widely used and accepted and reflects the aspirations that guided the development of the university's waste diversion target.

Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.

Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.

Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.

Zero Waste International Alliance, 2009

Tips for recycling and composting

Disposable coffee cups are waste. They cannot go into the recycling, organics or beverage container bins.

Paper coffee cups (like the ones you receive at Starbucks or Tim Hortons) have a plastic liner on the inside. This makes them non-recyclable and the lid is also made of non-recyclable, low-grade plastic. The best thing you can do is use a reusable travel mug (which will also get you a discount at most on-campus cafes).

University-owned computers and furniture can be recycled.

Have something you think you can't recycle? Don't be so sure! The university has recycling programs for all types of electronics including computers, surplus furniture, batteries and printer cartridges.

UAlberta has been recycling since the 1970s, starting with paper and cardboard.

Four decades later, recycling is everywhere and new solutions are developing every year. The Sustainability Plan sets a goal for the university to divert 50 per cent of all waste from the landfill by the end of 2015 and we are well on our way to hitting the target.

Live off-campus?

Take the guesswork out of sorting your waste at home. Let the City of Edmonton's WasteWise app put answers to questions at your fingertips.

Event Bookings

You can rent recycling & organics collection bins for your indoor and outdoor events. Whether a small, club event or a campus-wide outdoor celebration, you can ensure participants have somewhere to put their paper napkins, plastic cutlery and more.

For more details, read about outdoor site bookings. Email with questions.

More information

Questions? Please email

For other concerns with your building, please contact the Facility Services Manager or phone the Maintenance Desk at 780-492- 4833.