UW-Whitewater Sustainability



We will post updates here weekly on our performance against other campuses across the U.S. and Canada, as well as a comparison between UW-and other Wisconsin institutions participating and our on-campus competition between residence hall complexes.  

What is RecycleMania?

RecycleMania is a friendly competition and benchmarking tool for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities.   Educating the campus community about the proper recycling procedures helps increase the recycling rate and reduces the contamination of the recycling stream, which is an important method to help defray landfill costs.  Reducing the overall amount of trash that enters either waste stream can also have a positive net impact on the cost of this service and to litter in our local environment.

UW-Whitewater has competed against hundreds of schools across the U.S. and Canada each year since 2009, although the history of the event goes all the way back to a head-to-head matchup in 2001.  Other schools in the UW System participate in this event as well.  You can see how we stack up this year below, or by visiting our RecycleMania scoreboard online to look at the various categories.

Recycling Guidelines and History

You can download our current recycling guidelines flyer here.   We have additional signage resources available for campus use, including signage, flyers, presentations, and bin labels. Additionally, recycling magnets are periodically given to incoming freshman to explain the basic guidelines for recycling on campus. This message is reinforced through ongoing education by the Sustainability Office, University Housing, and the UW-Whitewater Earth Initiative sustainable living campaign.

Historical data for the recycling performance of the UW-Whitewater campus can be found here, updated periodically.  Each year an average of 1,000 tons of waste is generated by our campus and approximately 30% of this waste stream is recycled.  

Recycling at UW-Whitewater started with the passage of 1987 Wisconsin Act 292 and, for many years, existed as a mult-stream system which collected paper separate from mixed containers.  Eventually, sorting technology advanced to allow the waste haulers to separate materials in a more automated fashion and collect all municipal recycling together.  While this eased anxiety about proper sorting, it created bigger problems with trash contamination in the recycling bins.  John's Disposal currently estimates 10% of the recycling stream is actually trash thrown into the wrong bin.  To help combat this issue and continually educate students, staff, and faculty, the Sustainability Office makes recycling education a cornerstone of our overall messaging.

The current guidelines and collection schedule issued by John's Disposal (our contracted waste hauler) can be found on their website.  They have been an excellent partner to help us better communicate the value and process of recycling to our students.  They are willing partners in special events like RecycleMania or Game Day Recycling and strive for personalized service at a low cost.  Enjoy their videos created to help explain the recycling process to anyone interested.  Unfortunately, they no longer allow tours of their facility due to safety concerns.

Recycle Video from Johns Disposal on Vimeo.

JohnsNewRecycle from Johns Disposal on Vimeo.

Questions are always welcome if you're not sure about something!  Please contact us via email or by phone at 262-472-6709.

Waste Diversion and Minimization

Our campus needs to utilize a variety of different materials to ensure a smooth operation and also find ways to manage the volume of waste generated by the campus community in classrooms, laboratories, offices, and residence halls. A wide variety of different materials must be considered and the Sustainability Office strives to ensure materials are diverted from the landfill whenever fiscally appropriate or if the material poses a particular hazard to the environment.

Campus recycling operations through FP&M include:

  • Fluorescent light bulbs and tubes are recycled due to mercury content with a state-approved vendor. Scrap metal is sold to a local recycler by the pound.
  • Standard pallets are collected and sold to a recycler and non-standard sized pallets are donated to local businesses, employees, and the general public.
  • Motor oil and tires are recycled responsibly with a local contractor.

The campus has an active surplus program where furniture and other miscellaneous equipment are sold bi-weekly to a variety of customers at very affordable rates. Surplus sales are held on the first and third Fridays of every month from 9 AM to 12 PM. The location is at the receiving docks of the General Services building, found here.

Food Waste

Food waste is a significant contributor to the overall weight of any trash destined for the landfill due to its water content. Food waste is also responsible for the release of methane gas from landfills, which makes them smelly neighbors and significant contributors of this potent greenhouse gas to our atmosphere. UW-Whitewater Dining Services strives to combat this issue in several ways.

At least once per year, Dining Services engages in the Project Clean Plate program to audit post consumer food waste in our All You Care to Eat Dining Facilities. For a series of 3-4 weeks, during the lunch meal period once per week students are asked to scrape their food waste into trash bins rather than returning their dirty plates to the dish carousel. The waste is weighed and reported in total pounds and pounds per person. The program is also designed to raise awareness of hunger in our community. By reducing food waste in our these facilities over the specified period, a donation is made to the locally run and self-sustaining food pantry in Whitewater. If customers are able to reduce their food waste compared to the baseline, Chartwells donates the weight difference in food to the Whitewater Food Pantry.

In addition, all pre-consumer food waste and a significant portion of post-consumer food waste in dining halls is sent through an industrial grinder and into the wastewater treatment system. The wastewater treatment plant for the City of Whitewater has an anaerobic digester system that creates digested sludge that can be applied to agricultural fields directly in a liquid form. Biogas produced by the digesters is flared (burned and released to the atmosphere) at a waste gas burner and steps are being taken to harvest this biogas for electricity generation.

Being able to prevent food waste from happening is also part of the strategy. This includes careful menu planning and attempts at incorporating unused food into menu planning whenever possible. The trayless dining system used across all facilities on campus is primarily known for its reduction of water consumption for dishwashing, but also discourages customers from taking more food than they could possibly eat by limiting the amount they can carry at a time.

Finally, adopting environmentally-friendly options for disposable containers helps reduce problems waste can create when left in the environment. Compostable containers are used for hot beverages across campus and are used for cold fountain beverages in our retail areas. Compostable plates are used at Uno due Go. These items also have an added benefit of being compatible with an industrial composting program if the university ever decided to embark on that project. To encourage reusable containers, a discount on brewed coffee and tea is provided to customers making a purchase with a reusable mug.


Finding ways to prevent reusable items from being sent to the landfill is of particular interest to University Housing. They have partnered with Goodwill Industries coordinate a collection event as part of the move-out activities. These events have been very successful and productive to help reduce the amount of waste generated, although specific numbers have not been tracked at this point. However, the value to Goodwill prompted them to place two permanent on-site collection bins near each residence hall area to facilitate year-round collection.

Construction and Demolition Waste Diversion

The construction of Hyland Hall was a significant project because it involved tearing down three existing buildings that were all residence halls at one time. When they were torn down, Baker Hall and Salisbury Hall served various academic and administrative functions and Sayles Hall was still a functioning residence hall that made up a complex with the currently empty White Hall. The demolition waste generated over 14,000 tons of debris and nearly 98% of it was recycled! The construction of Hyland Hall itself generated another 869 tons of debris and Miron Construction, the general contractor for this project, was able to recycle about 66% of this waste stream. The full WasteCap Wisconsin report can be viewed here.  This project received recognition as the WasteCap's 2007 Big Diverter Award in the demolition category for the highest recycling rate for the three residence halls. We were also chosen as a site to host WasteCap Wisconsin's Talk and Tour Series in 2008

Starin Hall was the first residence hall built on campus in nearly 50 years and was the first building to achieve LEED certification on our campus (more project details can be found on the Buildings page). The waste diversion effort by JP Cullen, the general contractor for this project, was truly exceptional and represented some of the best practices for the construction industry at this time. Of the 732 tons of construction waste generated in total, nearly 90% was recycled. The vast majority of this effort involved recycling concrete, but included other materials. This detailed report includes specifically accounting for the amounts deposited at different recycling locations on different dates. More details about this aspect of the Starin Project can be seen by reviewing the Waste Management Plan and Final WasteCap Report.

Laurentide Hall was originally constructed in 1972 as Carlson Hall, a 77,000 square foot classroom building that served the College of Business and Economics. After Hyland Hall was completed and the College moved into that facility, the project to completely refurbish Carlson Hall for office space for the College of Letters and Sciences started to move forward. Laurentide continued this tradition of sustainable building practices by pursuing LEED-NC certification (more project details can be found on the Buildings page). Specifically, the project diverted 83% of the building's construction waste stream through a waste reduction and recycling program. Since this was a significant remodel, it is also important to note that over 86% of the structural frame and shell was salvaged.

Hazardous Waste Management

If you have suspected hazardous wastes or other safety concerns, please report them to Environmental Health, Risk Management, Safety & Loss Control. If you'd like to learn details about our hazardous waste policies, you can explore our most recent STARS report on this credit and/or visit the UW-Whitewater Hazardous Waste Mini-Guide and Hazardous Waste Management Policy.

The Hazardous Waste Management Policy is established to aid the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in achieving and maintaining compliance with the hazardous waste regulation, NR 661 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code. The NR 661 requirements include locating the waste sources on campus, evaluating the waste characteristics and controlling the substance from generation to final treatment and disposal.

Electronic Waste

With the implementation of Act 50 in 2009, Wisconsin State Law prohibits certain types of electronic devices to be thrown into the municipal waste landfills and required them to be recycling properly. For our campus, this poses a particular challenge because many types of electronic devices now exist in our daily life and many of them have relatively short lifespans. However, the materials used to create modern devices are not only harmful to the environment but can also be quite valuable to recover. At UW-Whitewater, there are several programs in place to capture this type of waste.

One of the primary sources of institutional e-waste comes from computer equipment. The Surplus Equipment Processing policy is implemented by IT Services to remove unwanted technology equipment from campus offices, labs, and classrooms. Once removed, the items are evaluated to see if they can run all current versions of software used. If they can, they will be added to the stock to re-deploy in other areas on campus. If they no longer meet campus needs, the equipment is recycled as part of the TREE (Technology Repurposing & Electronic E-cycling) program. The intent of the surplus process is to ensure that computer equipment is not removed from campus while still having a useful purpose, and can be redeployed or put to use on campus for temporary needs or special projects. Occasionally, IT Services will host a surplus sale where functioning but unwanted equipment is sold to the public. Items that cannot be salvaged is processed by Universal Recycling Technologies (URT), which is a recycler certified under the e-Stewards standards, among several other certifications that verify their ethical and responsible operation.

The institution also participates in various small electronic, battery, printer cartridge, and light bulb recycling. Some of these programs are only available for materials purchased and used on-campus. For example, Facilities Planning and Management's Stores and Receiving operates a battery recycling program covering lead-acid batteries used on campus, which are recycled in accordance with a state-approved recycling vendor. The light bulb recycling program covers fluorescent, low-pressure sodium, high-intensity discharge (such as metal halide and mercury vapor), and incandescent bulbs.

The Sustainability Office has some programs and partnerships in place to serve the campus community with personal electronics recycling needs. At the centerpiece of this effort is a collection bin for cell phones, rechargeable batteries, printer cartridges, and CD/DVD media located next to the Information Desk in the University Center. Any rechargeable batteries or devices that contain rechargeable batteries (such as cell phones) are recycling with Call2Recycle for free. Printer cartridge recycling programs pay a small amount for returning these items for reuse, which allows us to pay URT to recycle alkaline batteries collected with the rechargeables. Please note that alkaline batteries now have many mercury-free varieties that are not considered hazardous waste and can be thrown in municipal trash safely, but we still recycle them because they can be problematic in concentrated quantities.

Residence Hall front desks also collect similar small e-waste items for recycling. 

Additional Resources

Recycling is often the first awareness many people have about sustainability in their everyday life and can also be one of the most confusing topics!  We will continually add resources here that provide relevant and specific information for those living or working in Whitewater.

Wisconsin DNR:  E-Cycle Wisconsin Program