GW has adopted a Zero Waste approach — reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills while increasing recycling, reuse and composting. Although GW faces many significant challenges as an open campus situated in an urban environment, it is working diligently to accomplish the aims laid out in the GW Roadmap to Zero Waste, which was published in fall 2016. In 2021, GW announced its commitment to eliminating single use plastics from its campuses. 

Trash, Recycling, and Compost at GW

graphic of trash


  • Dirty Food and Drink Containers
  • Food Scraps
  • Straws and Plastic Utensils
  • Tissues, Paper Towels, Napkins
  • Plastic Wrap, Plastic Bags
  • Styrofoam
  • Candy and Snack Packaging

Recycling graphic


  • Plastic Cups and Containers
  • Flattened Cardboard, including Pizza Boxes
  • Milk, Juice, and Soup Cartons
  • Newspapers, Magazines and Books
  • Junk Mail and Office Paper
  • Plastic Bottles and Lids
  • Steel and Aluminum Bottles, Cans, and Containers
  • Glass Bottles and Jars

GW Compost

Divert food waste from the landfill by participating in GW’s compost drop-off program. During the Fall 2022 Semester, compost collection will occur six days a week in Kogan Plaza (Tabling Row) with the following schedule: 

Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Tuesday and Thursday 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Saturday 11:00 AM -12:00 PM

Acceptable materials for composting are organic products including:

  • fruit and vegetable scraps
  • bread
  • eggshells
  • meat
  • bones
  • dairy products
  • tea bags (without staples)
  • pizza boxes
  • soiled cardboard (without tape)
  • any product labeled acceptable for industrial composting facilities.

If you are unsure that an item can be composted through our program, bring it to the compost collection table, where trained volunteers will be happy to answer any questions. As always, when in doubt, we encourage that questionable materials be thrown out to avoid contamination of our compost stream. 

For more information on composting in Washington D.C., check out our D.C. Compost Guide (PDF).


Eliminating Single-Use Plastics

Past Plastic



Plastics pollute our oceans and our environment, impacting animals and human health. GW is committed to eliminating single-use plastics from campus, and has made the following changes:

  • Installation of at least one bottle-filling station (aka “hydration station”) in each building and in convenient pedestrian outdoor locations.  All will be easily identified with branding for the initiative.
  • All vending machines have been converted from plastic bottled beverages to canned or glass beverages, which can be recycled indefinitely.
  • policy to inform members of our community about the university’s guidance regarding single-use plastics, including with respect to procurement, has been approved and will be effective July 1, 2021.

All members of the GW community are encouraged to commit to eliminating personal use of single-use plastics as well.  Learn more about how to take action, access resources, and browse the FAQ on the Past Plastics webpage.

Managing Waste at GW

Recycle Bin

  • Solid waste (trash)
  • Single-stream recyclables (mixed paper, cardboard, glass, metal and plastic containers)
  • Ferrous metals
  • Document shredding
  • Electronic waste
  • Hazardous waste
  • Clothing and household goods
  • Furniture, laboratory and classroom equipment and office supplies
  • Yard waste
  • Food waste 

GW is committed to managing waste responsibly in collaboration with our faculty, students and staff.

The university categorizes solid waste as follows and then manages it through a transfer station, waste-to-energy facility or via proper reuse and recycling channels.







GW creates new degree for green chemistry

Chemistry Lab


In 2018, GW celebrated the first graduating class from its new Master of Science in Environmental and Green Chemistry. The coursework for this program is unique to GW, with a proactive approach to addressing toxicity and learning how to apply state-of-the-art processes and technologies to evaluate environmental impact. A capstone project gives students an opportunity to work with organizations such as the Environmental Working Group and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Green Move Out

Green Move Out


Each May, students have the opportunity to donate, rather than dispose of, items they no longer need. Green Move-Out makes the residence hall move-out process more environmentally and community-friendly through a multifaceted donation drive. During move-out, students drop items, such as bedding and linens, non-perishable food items, clothing and books, in boxes in residence halls labeled with a Green Move-Out sticker. These items are then bagged and donated to local charity partners. Between FY14 and FY17, nearly 75 tons of usable items were donated through the program, which is made possible through an unprecedented partnership of students, staff and faculty volunteers and sponsors.


Textiles Are Not Trash

According to the Council for Textile Recycling, each year the average American throws out about 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles like sheets and towels. To keep textiles out of the waste stream, GW students should recycle unwanted textiles in the clothing donation bins found in Thurston Hall, South Hall, Shenkman Hall, and DW Clock Tower.  Items do not need to be in good enough condition to be resold, but should be clean, dry, and odorless.  Remember, textiles are not trash!  

You can practice good habits to reduce textile waste.  Consider where an item comes from before purchasing textiles.  Shopping secondhand or holding a clothing swap with friends or hallmates are great options. Pay attention to clothing labels that indicate how to properly wash and dry your items. When an item has worn out, extend the life of your clothing and other textiles by repairing or repurposing. 

Sustainable GW partners with ReThread DC, the local government's initiative to reduce textile waste, in addition to partners across campus like GW Facilities Services, the GW Museum and Textile Museum, the Innovation Center, and student groups to address the impacts of fast fashion.