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Key Objective: 5.2.1 Install Appropriate Infrastructure

The iCAP 2020, objective 5.2.1 is: “Install appropriate waste collection infrastructure throughout the University District, with new indoor bins placed in at least 150 buildings by FY24.” The responsible campus unit for championing this objective is F&S. Progress is tracked in the iCAP Portal project page for Install appropriate waste collection infrastructure.

Associated Metric



One of the clearest indicators of a unified waste collection infrastructure is the appearance of our indoor and outdoor bins. In addition to performing a vital function, our waste and recycling receptacles embody the time, attention, and resources devoted to campus sustainability.

By renovating and improving our bins’ presentation, we can ensure that we are capitalizing on every available opportunity to recycle and that waste that must be disposed of is handled correctly. This will also provide a visible signal to students, staff, faculty members, and visitors that our campus prioritizes sustainability and is committed to making zero-waste behaviors accessible to all.

To operationalize a formally designed, campuswide waste collection plan, we will develop a Facilities Standard for indoor and outdoor waste management containers.

Indoor bins

Our plan to place new indoor bins in at least 150 campus buildings by FY24 will ideally be completed as soon as possible. We will begin with an inventory of existing bins to capture current bin locations, bin quality status, and where additional bins are needed. Based on that data, we will evaluate funding solutions for completing this plan by the target year, focusing on installations for new and retrofitted buildings.

In addition to standard areas (e.g., academic buildings and highly trafficked hubs like the Illini Union), we want to provide waste diversion opportunities in less-trafficked locations like mail rooms, copy rooms, break rooms, and department kitchens. 

Outdoor bins

Outdoor bins require high levels of coordination to install. Our anticipated timeline for renovating and updating these bins is outlined below: 

  • By FY22, we will complete updates to existing outdoor bins, including labeling and signage improvements.

  • By FY24, we will finalize optimizing bin locations and their collection process.

  • By FY25, we will incorporate drop-off bins specifically for cardboard and disseminate a list of campus locations.


Tailgates pose a unique challenge for waste collection. The high volume of individuals, reliance on disposable materials (e.g., single-use food service items), and lack of adequate receptacles over acres of space result in large quantities of landfill waste.

As large gatherings are reconfigured to resume safely, we plan to transition these events to operate more sustainably as well. We propose that blue recycling bags be distributed at all tailgating parties so tailgaters can separate aluminum, cardboard, and plastics from general waste — individually, efficiently, and on-site. Individuals will deposit the blue bags alongside the usual receptacles for the F&S recycling truck to pick up after the event.

Special recyclables

In addition to commonly recycled items such as paper, plastic, and cardboard, we want to provide our community with easy-to-understand programs to recycle specialized materials like non-rechargeable batteries, glass, electronics, and industrial waste produced on campus (e.g., vehicle batteries, scrap metal, wires, concrete, tires). Overwhelmingly, we’ve found that individuals are willing to take steps to recycle items responsibly when they are presented with the resources to do so.

The Illini Union Bookstore began a plastic bag recycling program in 2019 through its vendor. The store posted signage encouraging patrons to bring their own bags to divert this plastic from the waste stream. Expanding this program by adding other collection points on campus will help educate our community and reduce plastic waste. Once it is safe to resume use of reusable shopping bags, we plan to investigate plastic bag fees for other on-campus vendors to dissuade customers from using single-use bags.

Additionally, while glass is not an accepted material in our campuswide recycling program, it is collected from catering operations and periodically hauled to a local vendor for recycling.   


Project History

  • 2/12/2021

    The Zero Waste SWATeam met on Friday, 12 February to discuss the following:

    • Presentation on Northwestern Reusable Dining Operations
    • Plastic Bag Recycling
    • CO2 Canister Recycling
    • Hardhat Recycling
  • 7/2/2019

    These are the meeting minutes of the July 2, 2019 Illinois Climate Action Plan Working Group.  Several SWATeam recommendations were assessed in this meeting.