Zero Waste

American University is committed to strive for zero waste sent to landfill and incineration.

We're On Our Way to Zero Waste

In 2010, AU adopted a Zero Waste Policy mandating implementation of strategies for reducing waste and diverting the University's waste stream from landfill. Management of waste at AU aims to utilize renewable materials, enhance the campus environment, and protect the health of the University community. The Zero Waste project team tracks and audits waste metrics, develops strategies to improve sustainable purchasing, and engages with the community.

  • All recyclables including paper, bottles, cans, and plastics can be recycled in one container called Mixed Recycling
  • The "Paper," and "Metals, Plastics, Glass" recycling bins in each building will be transitioned to the new Mixed Recycling bins beginning November 2017; this transition is complete.
  • The old recycling bins will be reused by adding new side panels and lids to reflect the change to mixed recycling.
  • This change to the Zero Waste Program was made to make communicating what goes in each bin easier, to mirror recycling programs from the region, and make AU's waste and recycling program more efficient.
  • Landfill and Compost will stay the same and should have the same materials placed in them as before the recycling transition. 
  • After overcoming challenges, compost across campus has been up and running since August 2017. Bags that are too contaminated may still be diverted to landfill, so we need the entire campus community to commit to sorting their waste.
  • Food waste created while preparing food at the Terrace Dining Room (TDR) and coffee grounds from the Davenport Coffee Lounge and the Bridge Cafe are composted with Veterans Compost in Virginia.
  • Organic waste in the orange bins across campus is composted with Prince George's County composting facility in Maryland.  
  • Beginning fall 2017, the Zero Waste Club offered an opt-in compost program by giving out free individual compost bins for students living in the residence halls to encourage personal composting. This compost should be brought to the compost bins near the vending machines in each residence hall.
  • Students who live off campus and wish to compost can contact the Zero Waste Club and also receive a bin to bring compost to campus.
  • For more information on how to sort waste and what belongs in the compost bin look at our sorting guide below. 

Sorting Guides

Click through the sorting guides below to find more information about what items go in which bin.

Chip Bags
Candy Wrappers
Plastic Wrap
Plastic Cutlery
Condiment Packages


Organics/Compostable Items


Food Waste
Wood: Stir Sticks, Toothpicks
Paper Towels, Tissues, Napkins
Wet/Soiled Paper & Cardboard
Tea Bags, Coffee Filters
Only when labeled Compostable: Cups, Lids, Straws, Cutlery



Glass Bottles and Jars
Plastic Bottles
Paper Cups
Yogurt and Margarine Tubs
Aluminum or Tin Pans and Foil
Plastic Clamshells
Coffee Cups, Sleeves, and Lids
Junk Mail
Sticky Notes 


Plastic Cutlery
Plastic Bags
Heavily Soiled Items
Items Labeled Compostable 

These items are collected in special bins placed across campus and should not be placed in the landfill, recycling, or organics bins. 

Batteries – Battery recycling tubes are located in central areas in most buildings on campus. Look for tall clear tubes near entrances and exits.

Ink Cartridges – Recycling locations are in the Mary Graydon Center, Library, and lobbies of residence halls.

Plastic Bags and Wraps (the plastic on things like paper towels and water bottle packages) – Recycling locations are in the library and Mary Graydon Center

Cell Phones - Recycling locations are in the Mary Graydon Center, Library, and lobbies of residence halls.

E- Waste: Laptops, printers, and any other electronics – Faculty and staff, contact the helpdesk. For students E-Waste collection takes place in the fall and spring at special events.