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Key Objective: 5.3.1 Zero Waste Messaging Campaign

The iCAP 2020, objective 5.3.1 is: “Develop a comprehensive Zero Waste messaging campaign by FY21 and achieve a cumulative total of 10,000 'Use the Bin' pledges by FY24.” The responsible campus unit for championing this objective is F&S. Progress is tracked in the iCAP Portal project page for the Zero Waste Messaging Campaign.

Associated Metric


Individual behavioral change is integral to a successful zero-waste program. Therefore, we plan to launch a Zero Waste messaging campaign to ensure that students, staff, and faculty members are aware of and enthusiastic about zero waste. Outreach may include digital channels (e.g., web pages and social media), competitions and contests (e.g., creating art from recyclable materials), reuse workshops, and events coordinated with global and national initiatives like the Earth Day Network and America Recycles Day. As discussed in Objective #5.3, we can also incorporate zero-waste elements into high-profile campus events like Illinois sports (e.g., an annual zero-waste football game).


One theme we will communicate through digital channels is the importance of recycling on the Urbana campus. The improved labeling system will help educate the public on the nuances of what can and can’t be recycled. Additionally, many opportunities exist for waste diversion of personal items including electronics, cell phones, textiles, household goods, appliances , furniture, and other items students bring to campus that are often abandoned and fed into the waste stream. A recycling-focused information campaign might draw particular attention to the Waste Transfer Station, one of our campus's recycling facilities.


Efforts to recycle can be impeded by public health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic; we will navigate these challenges with a focus on equipping individuals to stay informed and do their part.


First-year student engagement

To ensure that our message hits home with students, we will communicate best practices for zero waste when it counts: at the beginning of their Illinois careers. For example, distributing information about campus recycling during first-semester courses and first-year orientation events can help instill zero-waste practices into students’ daily lives.


Ethics training 

Our zero waste initiatives should directly engage staff and faculty members as well as students. A current project that originated from a SWATeam recommendation is the effort to incorporate zero-waste elements into the annual ethics training, which is approved by the Office of the Executive Inspector General and taken by all University of Illinois System employees. This training will provide an iCAP overview as well as departmental guidance on zero-waste protocol, specifically regarding recycling. In its first year (2020), it will be presented as an optional module that individuals can visit following the mandatory ethics training. The module will then be reevaluated to potentially become a mandatory inclusion in the ethics training. The video and survey will be available year-round on the iSEE website and may be shown in various capacities such as intro-level courses, office trainings, or for anyone who wishes to brush up on campus sustainability best practices. Additionally, the training can be expanded in the coming years to highlight other relevant topics (e.g., energy efficiency) and reach wider audiences.


Campuswide outreach 

One way to strengthen the campus's collective approach to zero waste is through developing a program in which student coordinators collaborate with departmental contacts to increase sustainable practices, with an emphasis on waste reduction. We plan to work with Resident Advisors of campus residence halls to communicate these initiatives.   


Dump & Run

To bolster campus and community engagement with waste prevention, F&S partnered with the University YMCA to provide resources and leadership to expand the Dump & Run program. This program gathers household goods (e.g., furniture, kitchenware, small household appliances and electronics, school and office supplies, nearly-new clothing, books, toiletries, lawn and garden items, artwork, vinyl and CDs, musical instruments, and sporting equipment) which find new homes at the annual sale in August during student move-in. University Housing also provides staff and drivers to help move the items. Dump & Run reiterates the notion of a circular economy, whereby materials are reused through their useful life before entering the waste stream. 

Associated Project


Project History