Waste Reduction

Established in 2011, U-M’s 2025 Ann Arbor campus waste reduction goal focuses on pursuing purchasing, reuse, recycling and composting strategies toward long-term waste eradication.
2025 Goal
Reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills by 40 percent below 2006 levels.
Status
17%
reduction in waste sent to landfills
Zero waste campus events

Members of the U-M community can help reduce waste by hosting a zero waste event, where at least 90 percent of waste is diverted from the landfill via waste prevention, recycling and composting. The Office of Campus Sustainability provides guidance and compost collection service to students, faculty and staff to make their campus events zero waste. OCS supported more than 1,200 zero waste events in fiscal year 2020.

Other Highlights
Waste bin standardization

In 2020, U-M finished standardizing waste bins across campus with clear signage identifying where to throw items to make it easier to reduce, recycle and compost. 

Composting expansion

Compost service continues to expand across U-M and a growing number of events are zero waste. In 2020, U-M expanded composting to 50 new buildings, bringing the total to 150—including all residence halls and all 22 on-campus cafes. In addition, over 600 staff kitchens are composting.

Composting and recycling on the medical campus

University of Michigan Health System collects pre-consumer compost at the patient food kitchen of C.S. Mott Children’s & Voigtlander Women’s Hospital and vendor-operated cafeterias. UMHS also collects post-consumer compost (leftover food from patient trays) in University Hospital and Children’s and Women’s Hospital. In 2020, UMHS expanded its single-stream and construction and demolition recycling upon partnering with a new recycling vendor for the main medical campus. UMHS also recycles blue wrap (a polypropylene-based sterilization wrap used in operating rooms) in C.S. Mott Children's and Von Voiglander Women's Hospital and the Cardiovascular Center Hospital.

Diversion rate improves

Since 2006, when the goals were established, U-M building square footage has increased by more than 9 million square feet, offsetting overall waste reduction. Yet the university has increased its diversion rate (the percent of waste diverted from the landfill by recycling or composting) from 29% in fiscal year 2016 to 45% in fiscal year 2020.

Reducing waste at Children’s and Women’s Hospital

Blue wrap recycling is a multi-year sustainability initiative that came to fruition in December 2019. Blue wrap is a #5 polypropylene plastic used to maintain the sterility of surgical instruments. U-M Health System partnered with a vendor to reprocess the blue wrap to create medical-grade plastic products. 

Goal data reflects temporary pandemic-related impacts and may not accurately convey the overall trajectory of progress.

For more information about U-M’s sustainability goals, visit the Office of Campus Sustainability.