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Reducing Waste

Accelerating a zero-waste future

A zero-waste future requires a systemic approach. At Harvard, we aim to sustainably manage all waste streams—including plastics, electronics, recyclables, and organics, as well as construction, demolition, and hazardous waste—while prioritizing waste prevention and reduction.

Compost sign with symbols and text for food, compostable containers, and other items.

How is Harvard reducing waste? 

Harvard is taking a systemic approach to waste prevention and reduction, aiming to ensure the materials that the University purchases and handles are used effectively and for as long as possible. Harvard is also strategically preventing waste throughout our value chain, while minimizing on-campus municipal solid waste (or trash) and sustainably managing other waste streams. 

We are focused on piloting solutions on campus to reduce waste. The Office for Sustainability is developing guidance and resources to help Schools and Business Units create their own zero-waste plans and goals. 

Harvard aims to measure and report data annually for Harvard’s major waste streams and develop a strategic zero-waste plan by the end of 2024, including guidance and resources to help Schools and Business Units create their own zero-waste plans and goals.  

Reuse, Recycle/Compost, and Sustainably Manage

  1. First Reuse: Harvard’s first focus is on reusing and repairing products/materials on campus
  2. Second, Recycle and Compost: Harvard has a robust process for recycling and composting across campus.
  3. Third, Sustainably Manage all waste streams.
"Harvard Recycles" sign on a red bookshelf.

Piloting Solutions to a Zero-Waste Future

New life for Harvard’s compost

Compostable materials collected on Harvard’s campus are used to produce energy.

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Save that Stuff trucks deposit collected organic waste on the warehouse floor.

Harvard uses a vendor that processes compost to produce energy.
Pink illustrated graphic of a wrench and screwdriver.

Freecycle and Fixit Clinic events are planned throughout the year, and the Harvard Surplus Center.
Recycle arrows icon in dark green.

Harvard’s recycling program has grown tremendously since it started ~30 years ago.