Upcycle, BYOC, Compost, and Recycle. Environmentalists throw a lot of terms around, but the goal remains the same: divert as much as possible from the trash stream. Emerson employs multiple strategies and engages the entire community to progress toward a zero-waste campus. It starts with refusing what it does not need and reducing what it does need. The College strives to reuse or repurpose what it consumes and utilizes recycling and composting as a last option.

Looking to get rid of an item?

Zero-Sort Recycling

Emerson contracts with Waste Management to make recycling easy. Using single-stream recycling allows the College to collect the most common items in one bin, reducing the need for sorting. All hard plastics, paper, cardboard, glass, and aluminum go directly into the blue bins. Once collected, Emerson’s recyclables get processed throughout the United States into usable material. This usable material becomes new items such as new glass bottles, T-shirts, and newspapers.

Neither Emerson nor Waste Management sorts recyclables out of the trash. Therefore, Emersonians need to work together to ensure their waste gets into the appropriate bin.

K-Cup Recycling

K-Cups combine organic material and recyclable materials, making them a challenge to recycle. While it’s more environmentally friendly to skip K-Cups, Emerson recognizes that its community uses them daily. The College participates in the Grounds to Grow On program to divert Emerson K-Cups from incineration. Find a collection box in over 19 participating campus offices.

Batteries and Bulbs

Batteries are collected for recycling in designated clear cylinder bins found in the lobbies of each residence hall. Look for the wall poster and the distinctive box. The Campus Services team safely recycles bulbs. Please put in a work order to have your lightbulbs collected by using your ECNet username and password. (This is the same place you submit a work order when you have a problem with your room or office.)

  • 2+

    tons of waste diverted from the biannual Swap & Shop events


The IT Help Desk supports e-waste (also known as electronic equipment) recycling at Emerson. Please bring computers, monitors, printers, electronics, and cell phones to the IT Help Desk (located on the fourth floor of the Walker Building) to have them safely discarded.


Anyone in the Emerson community can anonymously and confidentially dispose of unused, expired, and unwanted prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications, free of charge, 24/7 in the hallway at 114 Boylston Street.


Every year, 21 billion pounds of textiles are thrown away in the United States. 45% of these textiles can be reused, 30% can be turned into wiping cloths, and 20% can be recycled into new products. Any community member can drop off clothing, shoes, towels, linens, and pillows at the white Bay State Textile collection box in Allen's Alley.


Emerson recycles both toner and ink cartridges through WB Mason. WB Mason accepts empty cartridges upon delivery, free of charge and without notice.

Paper Shredding

Throughout campus, secure gray toters collect paper for shredding. Emerson’s vendor shreds paper offsite and recycles the shreds by turning it into pulp.

Biannual Swap & Shop

Sometimes people just have items that are no longer needed or wanted, such as jackets, gently used mini-fridges, and plastic drawer units. Fortunately, green-minded students created an action plan to divert these items from the landfill. During move-out, Emerson provides collection zones in each residence hall for students to donate unwanted items and shop for free stuff. Anything leftover goes to local nonprofit organizations. Keep a lookout for information on how to get involved, donate, or find great free stuff.

“The Shop & Swap allows students who want to be sustainable but don't know where to begin a chance to do so. If you bring clothes to trade with others or simply put clothes in the collection bins around Emerson you are participating in sustainable fashion!”

Biannual Clean Out Your Office Day

Staff and faculty sometimes overbuy office supplies or no longer use certain items, such as books, gently used decor, and paper reams. The biannual Clean Out Your Office Day promotes sharing resources by creating an environment where individuals can donate and take office supplies, books, and office decor. Anything left over goes to local nonprofit organizations or gets recycled.

Nonperishable Food

The Office of Student Success oversees Emerson’s food pantry, where individuals may donate nonperishable food throughout the year. Similarly, everything is free and available to members of the Emerson community in need. Reduce Emerson’s environmental footprint while helping a peer? Win-win!

All Food/Compost

Emerson’s compost goes through an anaerobic digestion process, which means all food, including dairy and bones, goes into the compost bin. Compost bins are located at dining areas throughout campus.

Located on the fourth floor of the Ansin Building, the Food Cam is a food donation and pickup hub for the Emerson community. Follow the Food Cam on Instagram, Twitter, and Slack @EmersonFoodCam to find out when food is available for pickup.

Tiny Thrift Store

The Tiny Thrift Store is an initiative to reduce clothing waste and improve campus life by providing a place for community members to donate and pick up clothing, free of charge. The Tiny Thrift Store is currently located in a cabinet in the Colonial Building basement, between the mail and laundry rooms. Student Eco-Ambassadors monitor and maintain the space, ensuring it remains tidy and functional. Students also run the @ectinythrift Instagram account, posting updates on what is in the store.

Campus Waste Sorting Guide 

Looking for a quick overview of what goes in what bin? Check out the information below. 


Our recycling is zero-sort. Everything goes in one bin. Once collected, Waste Management sorts the recycling at a regional facility and ships the sorted items to a process facility for recycling. You can recycle: 

  • Paper 
  • Cardboard 
  • Glass
  • Aluminum 
  • Hard Plastics 


Waste Management collects our organic waste and brings it to a process facility in Boston. The waste is broken down using anaerobic digestion, which produces energy. You can compost: 

  • All food, including meat
  • Plant scraps
  • Dirty paper plates and pizza boxes 
  • Napkins and paper towels 


Emerson’s trash is incinerated by Waste Management. When our bins of recycling and compost are contaminated, they must be added to the trash as well. Throw these items in the trash: 

  • Flexible plastics 
  • Foam
  • Wrappers and packaging