In 2010, AU adopted a Zero Waste Policy for reducing campus waste and diverting the university's waste stream from landfill. AU's waste management system aims to utilize renewable materials, enhance the campus environment, and protect the health of the University community. The Zero Waste team in Facilities Management tracks and audits waste metrics, develops strategies to improve sustainable purchasing, and engages with the community.
Review the sorting guides below to understand what items go into which waste bin on campus: Landfill, Compost (Organic Waste), and Mixed Recycling. Please note that American University follows Zero Waste DC's guidelines for recycling.
Plastic Bags & Wrap
- Waxy Paper Cups
Wooden Stir Sticks
Paper Towels & Napkins
Soiled Paper & Cardboard
Oil-Stained Paper Bags
Paper Tea Bags
Only when clearly labeled compostable: Cups, Lids, Straws, Cutlery
Clothes & Textiles
Glass Bottles and Jars
Plastic Solo Cups
Yogurt and Margarine Tubs
Laundry Detergent Bottles
Aluminum or Tin Pans
Coffee Cups, Sleeves & Lids
Heavily Soiled Items
Plastic Bags & Wraps
Clothes & Textiles
Items Labeled Compostable
Items Containing Liquid
Items Smaller Than 2"x2"
- All recyclables including paper, bottles, cans, and plastics can be recycled in one container called Mixed Recycling.
- This single-bin process mirrors recycling programs in the DC region, and makes AU's recycling program more efficient.
- Landfill and Compost are separate bins, and trash and compostable materials should be sorted into those containers, respectively.
- Compost has been up and running across campus since 2017. Bags that are too contaminated may be diverted to landfill, so we need the entire campus community to commit to properly sorting 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, along with organic waste in the orange bins across campus.
- All compost is sent to the Price George's County composting facility in Maryland.
- The Zero Waste Club offers an opt-in compost program by giving out free individual compost bins to students living in residence halls. This compost should emptied into 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.
- Certain items are collected in special bins across campus and should not be placed in the landfill, recycling, or compost 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, Bender Library, and lobbies of residence halls.
Plastic Bags and Wraps: Recycling locations are in Bender Library, Mary Graydon Center, and Spring Valley Building. Includes plastic wrapping on things like paper towels and water bottle packages.
Cell Phones: Recycling locations are in the Mary Graydon Center, Bender Library, and lobbies of residence halls.
E-Waste: Includes laptops, printers, and any other electronics. Faculty and staff should contact the Helpdesk. Students can participate in periodic campus e-waste drives.
Furniture: Faculty and staff members looking to dispose of old or excess furniture should contact 2Fix. Students can donate dorm room items to the Zero Waste Club during Project Move Out at the end of spring semester.