The University of Ottawa: Leading the Way in Campus Waste Reduction

Student life
cartoon image of the University of Ottawa with wind turbines in the background
In the North American Campus Race to Zero Waste, the University of Ottawa has claimed the top spot in waste diversion for large campuses! We also ranked in the top 5 of all institutions for waste diversion, meaning how much we keep from going to a landfill. Through a combination of recycling and compost programs as well as our campus commitment to reduce overall waste, the University of Ottawa is a leader in waste reduction.

To achieve this success, the University of Ottawa has implemented more than 20 reuse and recycling programs, including over 350 standardized recycling stations across campus with source-separated recycling and organics collection.  Our policy is to collect recycling and organics everywhere we collect waste. 

Tracking waste reduction makes us stand apart

The University of Ottawa has been tracking its waste and recycling since 2008 in efforts to increase the percentage kept out of the landfill. We actually weigh most of our waste! In fact, these weights were submitted to the Campus Race to Zero Waste to compare our waste diversion rate with over 100 other universities and colleges. The University of Ottawa achieved a waste diversion rate of 60.941%, ranking first amongst its division of large universities and in the top 5 of all institutions.

Race to zero waste chart showing uOttawa's results in the competition.

Organics collection is one of our major successes

The amount of organic waste campus users create is pretty astounding. Our Dining Hall composts over 100 tonnes of organic waste per year and our medical research labs compost 60 tonnes per year of animal bedding. We also have paper towel collection in washrooms and coffee-cup collection in key sites like CRX as these are two of the most common sources of compost on campus.  These compost programs have important environmental benefits. Organic waste that makes its way to a landfill creates methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas, therefore composting is an important tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The University has also implemented many paper recycling programs including blue bins in every office for paper recycling and textbook recycling boxes across campus. The Free Store is a re-use powerhouse, collecting and redistributing donations from students and staff. On our campus, we don’t want to send items to a landfill, we divert as much as possible for re-use, recycling and composting!

Our goal is to become a Zero-Waste Campus by 2050

We aim to become a Zero-Waste Campus by 2050 and to reduce our overall waste by 30 % by 2035. From pallets to take-out containers, we need to find creative solutions and new partnerships to address all areas of campus waste. Each semester Facilities works with CSL student placements to improve recycling infrastructure and develop fresh solutions to deal with our waste. The uOttawa Zero Waste Subcommittee is also currently working on a roadmap for achieving these goals. We thank our university community for helping us achieve this top rank.

Follow the Office of Campus Sustainability at Facilities to learn what comes next or how you can help!

Visit our Waste diversion site