Waste Diversion

Request E-waste Pick Up: USC Environmental Health & Safety collects e-waste at no cost. Fill out the Universal Waste Pickup Request Form to arrange service. (323) 442-2200 or ehs@usc.edu for more information.

Request a Recycling Bin: Email Gina Whisenant at USC Facilities Management Services, gwhisena@usc.edu.



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 > Landfill

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.

Landfill is expensive and produces Green House Gas emissions. 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.

In addition, waste diversion has the added benefit reducing USC’s carbon 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.

USC Waste Diversion Initiatives

  1. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum: The Coliseum, home of the USC Trojans football program, has won the Pac 12’s Zero Waste Bowl for the last two years. The stadium diverts more than 90 percent of Trojans and Rams football game-day waste from local landfills through recycling and composting.
  2. Academic buildings + outdoor spaces: This year, USC will install 215 new landfill and recycling bins in most classroom buildings on UPC. An additional 200+ recycling bins will be co-located with outside trash bins across campus, starting at University Village this fall. 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 dining halls, which reduces food waste by discouraging plate overloading. And starting in this fall, Residential Dining will begin composting food and banning straws. Hospitality separates recyclables in all venues.
  6. Cardboard recycling: FMS collects, sorts and recycles cardboard from all buildings on both campuses.
  7. 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.


With the exception of the Coliseum, USC employs food composting as a waste diversion tool 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.

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.

Because of the waste diversion management “lessons learned” at the Coliseum, USC Hospitality now is working to achieve zero waste in Residential Dining by 2020, and USC Athletics is studying the feasibility of going zero waste in Heritage Hall and the Galen Center.

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!