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Zero Waste

The Sustainability Office strives to engage the campus community and beyond in zero waste initiatives. Macalester currently uses the definition of zero waste as prescribed by the Zero Waste International Alliance. According to this definition, Macalester will be considered Zero Waste when the college regularly diverts 90% of all waste from a landfill or incinerator. Since implementing campus-wide composting in 2014, our campus diversion rates have improved from a 19.1% diversion rate in 2007 to a high of just over 80% in 2015 and 2016. The following is a list of current efforts the campus is doing to strive towards the goal of zero waste:

Ramsey County Zero Waste A-Z Sorting Guide

What Can I Recycle?

  • Appliances Managed by Facilities Services , located on the lower level of the Music Building. Contact them at  with any questions
  • Bon Appetit All disposable wares from food prepared by Bon Appetit are compostable, including catering, to-go containers, and chop sticks. This does NOT include commercially packed items sold by Bon Appetit
  • Compost Compost anything that was once living. Visit the Composting page for more information.
  • Electronic Waste (E-Waste) Collected primarily at the ITS Help Desk located in 316 Humanities on campus.  For financial and liability reasons, Macalester does not accept e-waste or styrofoam that is generated off campus.  E-waste or styrofoam generated by employees ‘at home’ will not be accepted. Small items such as radios, cell phones, and computer components, can be brought to the e-waste recycling bin located in the Mail Room on the lower level of the Campus Center.
  • Events The Zero Waste Event Guide (coming soon) can help make any on-campus event zero waste
  • Light Bulbs  It is unlawful to throw away a fluorescent bulb in the trash
    • Broken Broken fluorescent bulbs of any kind are hazardous and dangerous; please contact Facilities Services immediately for safe clean up. Call 651-696-6278 or Email
    • Fluorescent Light, CFL Intact CFL bulbs can be placed into the collection bin located in the Mail Room in the lower level of Campus Center
    • Fluorescent Light, Tube Intact fluorescent tubes are collected by Facilities Services and should not be left for collection in any public location
    • LED bulbs go in the collection bin in the Mailing Room in the lower level of the Campus Center
    • Incandescent bulbs go in the trash
  • One-sided Office Paper Drop-off in labeled bins in the Library (and other places) to be up-cycled into a notebook for their Onesies project. If you would like to request a collection bin for the Onesies projects, you may contact the library
  • Plastic Bags and Film Clean and dry plastic bags (including ice bags from the LC) and film can be deposited into plastic bag collection bins located near the Janet Wallace entrance, the entrance to the Library, Mailing Services, and the Leonard Center.
  • Recycling Bins located in and around all campus buildings. Recycle aluminum cans and foil, unsoiled cardboard, broken or whole glass, unsoiled paper, plastics numbers 1,2,4,5,7, steel and tin cans.
  • Special Disposal See Special Waste Disposal table below

For financial and liability reasons, Macalester does not accept e-waste or styrofoam that is generated off campus.  E-waste or styrofoam generated by employees ‘at home’ will not be accepted.

  • Styrofoam:
  • Polystyrene This plastic is flexible and does not break easily when stressed, it is usually black in color and labelled #6PS.  Polystyrene is not recyclable and must be thrown in the trash. It is commonly used for disposable coffee cup lids.
  • Expanded Polystyrene Foam This styrofoam is rigid and breaks easily when stressed, it is usually white in color and labelled #6PS.  Polystyrene is recyclable (only in specialty recycling) if it is clean and free of any contaminants.  Drop off at the Facilities Services  desk, located on the lower level of the Music Building.

Special Waste Disposal

WasteWaste TypeDrop off location
Batteries, Computere-wasteITS Help Desk, Humanities 316
Batteries, HouseholdspecializedCampus Center Mail Room, Lower Level
BooksspecializedLibrary, First Floor
Electronic wastee-wasteITS Help Desk, Humanities 316
Fluorescent Bulbs, CFLhazardousFacilities Services, Lower Level Campus Center
Fluorescent Bulbs, tubularhazardousFacilities Services
Fluorescent Bulbs, brokenhazardousContact Facilities Services for cleanup
Paper, one-sidedspecialityOnesies collection bins throughout campus (The sustainability office and other locations)
Plastic film or bagsspecializedPlastic film containers throughout campus (The sustainability office)
Polystyrene (Styrofoam)specializedFacilities Services, Lower Level of the Music Building

Steps Taken Toward Zero Waste

  • Implementing campus-wide composting
  • Switching to compostable dishware and utensils for single-use needs
  • Offering specialty recycling for items such as styrofoam, e-waste, padded mailing envelopes, plastic bags, and rechargeable batteries
  • Creating the Mac Free Swap
  • Producing a Zero Waste Event Guide
  • Starting the SustainaCup program, providing free menstrual cups to all students who request one
  • Supporting food recovery from our dining services
  • Offering Sustainable Scot Training to all incoming students during Orientation to introduce them to zero waste and other sustainability and environmental justice efforts on campus
  • Collaborating with the Post Landfill Action Network to create a new zero waste strategic plan that moves beyond diversion rates toward broader systems change needed for true sustainability and environmental justice
  • Sponsoring Macalester students for the Zero Waste Atlas Fellowship
  • Partnering with mutual aid organizations in the Twin Cities to find new homes for items donated during Move-Out
  • Partnering with Facilities Services and Bon Appétit to implement a reusable take-out container program in Café Mac