Waste Diversion



Universal and E-Waste Materials: Universal Waste including E-waste, that is not damaged should always be reused/recycled.  EH&S offers free-of-charge Universal Waste Pick-up service for electronics and other Universal Waste items that can be requested by filling out the Universal Waste Pickup Request Form. For certain qualifying, good working order items, Universal Waste can also be re-sold at USC’s Surplus Store. University departments may use any university-approved IT recycling vendor. Many of USC’s larger university departments use human I-T. For more information related to IT recycling, please visit the FAQ page. For details about Universal Waste pickup, please view the Universal Waste Management Fact Sheet, or contact hazmat@usc.edu or (323) 442-2200.

Request a Recycling Bin: Email Gina Whisenant at USC Facilities Management Services, gwhisena@usc.edu. Or for any additional questions regarding recycling, and the removal of large or unusual trash items (i.e., lumber, bricks, glass, etc.), please contact the Customer Resource Center (CRC) for your campus:

University Park Campus – (213) 740-6833 
Health Sciences Campus – (323) 224-7001

Or visit FMS Service Request Page.

Battery Recycling/Disposal: USC Environmental Health & Safety distributes, pre-labeled battery recycling containers that can be found across UPC and HSC campuses. For more information and to find a container near you, view the EH&S Battery Recycling Locations Fact Sheet and Map.  

For batteries larger than D-size please request a hazmat pick-up online by filling out the  Universal Waste Pickup Request Form , or for more information contact hazmat@usc.edu.

Toner/Ink Cartridge Recycling: USC Business Services has partnered with WeCare, Inc., to offer a convenient option for recycling used ink and toner cartridges by simply packaging and dropping in your department’s outgoing mail, using the provided labels. For further information on procedures, and for a list of excluded items please visit Mailing and Materials Management Services or see link below.

Note excluded items include:

  • Toner bottles, tubes and tanks
  • Printer ribbons or Dye cartridge
  • Liquid ink tubes, bottles or jugs

For additional information please contact mail7777@usc.edu or call (213) 821-1200

Additional resource: USC Sustainability Office Waste Disposal Guide

August 2019 Update

USC’s waste diversion practices have changed significantly since 2018 due to the new Los Angeles waste franchise agreement. Under RecycLA, USC now must separate waste on campus, rather than have our trash haulers separate it at an off-site materials recovery facility (MRF). Also, compostable materials (other than food waste) were not accepted at the local composting facility until recently.

These changes have resulted in a dramatic decrease in USC’s waste diversion rate from 54.21% in 2015,  to 27% currently. Based on this, FMS projects that USC will achieve a 40% waste diversion rate by the end of 2020, as opposed to the Sustainability 2020 Plan goal of 75% waste diversion rate.

For the period of August 2018 to May 2019, USC’s overall waste diversion rate was 27%. This does not include waste diverted through the USC Surplus Store, construction and demolition, or paper shredding. Waste diversion by location was as follows:

    1. University Village – 45%
    2. UPC – 36%
    3. USC Housing (off -campus) – 22%
    4. CAL building (off campus) – 47%
    5. HSC – 19%



Working to Make Waste History at USC
As part of its Sustainability 2020 Plan, USC adopted the goal of diverting 75 percent of waste from local landfill. We’re working hard to achieve that target – a major improvement from our previous average of 52 percent diversion over the past few years. With this goal, USC aligns itself with the City of Los Angeles’ recycLA mandate of 90 percent waste diversion by 2025.

RecycLA, LA Sanitation’s new waste initiative, provides waste diversion services for all industrial, commercial, and multi-family accounts. In partnership with RecycLA, USC has contracted with Republic Services to manage our campus recycling and landfill disposal. USC and Republic are employing proven waste diversion tools such as recycling, composting, and metrics analysis to help achieve our 75 percent goal.

Reduce > Reuse > Recycle

Reduce and Reuse: Stop Trash Before It Starts
China’s recent ban on imported recyclables is having an enormous negative impact on landfill and the market for recycled materials. Given this recent change, it is critical that Trojans re-think our approach to trash.

The most effective way to minimize landfill is to stop trash before it starts. An easy way to do this is by eliminating single-use disposable items such as plastic water bottles, paper and plastic bags, plastic utensils, paper hand towels, and straws. Also, minimize use of plastics – choose glass packaging (or no packaging) instead of plastic whenever possible.

Recycle Right: Wish-cycling and Contamination
“Wish-cycling” – putting non-recyclable items in the recycling bin – is worse than not recycling at all. Greasy pizza boxes, foil wrappers and left-overs will “contaminate” a recycling bin; just a few wrong items results in the entire bin going to landfill. A good rule of thumb: when in doubt, throw it out.

This fall, USC is launching a major campus-wide waste diversion education campaign, including new bin signage that explains what goes where.

Waste in landfills produces greenhouse as emissions, so waste diversion efforts reduce USC’s greenhouse gas footprint. It’s estimated that a 1% increase in recycling could provide an annual net savings equivalent to 200,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Sending waste to landfills is also expensive. Since 2001, average landfill rates in LA have almost doubled from $34 per ton to $54 per ton. By diverting our campus waste from landfill, USC saves money.

USC Waste Diversion Efforts 

  1. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum: The Coliseum, home of the USC Trojans football program, has won the Pac 12’s Zero Waste Bowl in 2016 and 2017. The stadium diverts more than 90 percent of Trojans and Rams football game-day waste from local landfills through recycling and composting. Since 2015, the Coliseum has diverted over 1,000 tons of waste from the landfill.
  2. Academic and Administrative buildings + outdoor spaces: In 2018-2019, USC installed 106 trash bins, 84 recycling bins, and 15 composting bins at UPC and USC Village. Bin signage will provide “Trojans Recycle Right” instructions.
  3. USC Housing: On-campus residents, including the USC Village, sort waste into blue recycling and black landfill bins in-room. Bins are emptied in separate trash chutes and transferred to dedicated dumpsters. Off- campus residents separate recycling and trash as well. USC Housing also recycles old furniture with IRN, and gives used carpets to a recycling vendor.
  4. USC Administrative Offices: USC office occupants sort waste into blue recycling bins, black mixed-waste bins, and various e-waste receptacles.  Waste is deposited in the appropriate container at each office building’s external waste enclosure.
  5. USC Hospitality: Hospitality does not utilize trays in Residential Restaurants, which reduces food waste by discouraging plate overloading. Hospitality separates recyclables in all venues. Starting in 2018, Residential Restaurants began banning straws and composting food, with Parkside, EVK, and USC Village now committed to composting all pre- and post-consumer food waste. This diverts food waste from the landfill which minimizes our carbon footprint and detriment to the environment.
  6. USC Hydration Station Map: USC has installed 178 water bottle refill stations located on the UPC campus, with 12 exterior stations, and 166 interior stations around UPC.
  7. Cardboard recycling: FMS collects, sorts and recycles cardboard from all buildings on both campuses.
  8. Styrofoam recycling: FMS runs a Styrofoam recycling program at the Health Sciences campus, running Styrofoam through a densifier to minimize storage and provide a higher value commodity.

Composting at the Coliseum
The Coliseum is a controlled environment that allows for optimizing waste diversion including composting, which results in our “Zero Waste” (above 90 percent) diversion rate.

  1. Upstream in the waste process, 200+ food and beverage concessionaires
    have committed to using compostable containers, wrappers and service
    ware, which means very little foil, plastic or non-recyclable/compostable
    products contaminate the waste stream.
  2. Midstream, the Coliseum’s custodial services provider facilitates a low-fi but efficient waste separation process that operates back-of-house during football games and events.
  3. Downstream, the Coliseum’s waste hauler Republic Services ensures that waste separation is maintained throughout pickup, delivery, re-sort, recycling or composting disposal, and metrics reporting.


With the exception of the Coliseum, USC composts food on an ad hoc basis on campus. Dining areas compost food in their enclosures, the School of Religion composts in its kitchen, and all University Village retail outlets have composting facilities with staff at each location being trained in appropriate practices.

State and Local Waste Regulations

CalRecycle and RecycLA are great sources of information about waste diversion regulations and programs in Los Angeles. Pertinent regulations that shape USC’s efforts include:

  • SB 1383 – Short-lived Climate Pollutants, Methane Emissions, and Landfill Organic Waste Reduction (2016)
    • January 1, 2018: State Air Resource Board to implement a strategy to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants to achieve a reduction in methane by 40%, hydrofluorocarbon gases by 40%, and anthropogenic black carbon by 50% below 2013 levels by 2030. Also established specified targets for reducing organic waste in landfills.
    • Read SB 1383
  • AB 341 – Mandatory Commercial Recycling (2012)
    • A business that generates four cubic yards or more of commercial solid
      waste per week or is a multifamily residential dwelling of five units or more
      shall arrange for recycling services.
    • Read AB 341
  • AB 1826 – Mandatory Organics Recycling (2014)
    • The mandatory organics recycling law requires a business that meets the waste generation threshold to engage in organic recycling activities.
    • January 1, 2019: Businesses that generate 4 cubic yards or more of commercial solid waste per week shall arrange for organic waste recycling services.
    • Summer/Fall 2021: CalRecycle may expand to cover businesses that generate 2 cubic yards or more of commercial solid waste per week.
    • Read AB 1826

Planning for Sustainability 2028

As the university begins developing our Sustainability 2028 Plan, we are exploring the feasibility of achieving net zero waste in partnership with all partners in our campus waste management ecosystem. Vendors, custodial teams, the City-mandated waste hauler, and end-users are all crucial stakeholders. Options currently under consideration include:

  • A comprehensive recycling program on HSC campus
  • Zero waste programs in Heritage Hall and the Galen Center
  • Centralized paper shredding to increase recycling uptake
  • Pilot food composting initiatives in areas with heavy food prep and consumption

Join Our Team and Help Make Waste History at USC!
The Sustainability Office is hiring students this fall to work on a number of campaigns, including the Trojan Trash Talkers – student ambassadors who engage fans about recycling during campus tailgates. Contact us at sustainability@usc.edu to get involved!