A table with single-use plastic water bottles. An icon reads "Zero-Waste," with a blue-teal gradient overlaid

Zero-Waste at McGill

McGill aims to become zero-waste by 2035 by attaining a diversion rate of 90 percent, based on the internationally recognized standard. 

In order to achieve this target, McGill will have to make changes in the campus infrastructure, supply chain, programs, and bolster education and engagement initiatives.  

To meet a midterm goal of a 60% diversion rate by 2025, the University will install integrated waste sorting stations, expand compost collection and reduce the amount of waste generated.  

The scope of the target includes day-to-day waste produced on both the downtown and Macdonald Campus. The target does not consider hazardous waste, or construction and demolition waste.  

McGill’s zero-waste target is based on benchmarking from U15 universities as well as internal contextual elements. Among McGill’s 15 research-intensive peer institutions in Canada, five universities have committed to reaching an 80% waste diversion rate or more. 

Learn more about waste reduction at McGill

Progress to Zero-Waste


45% is McGill's current diversion rate






Get involved in Zero-Waste at McGill

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does McGill aim for a 90 percent diversion rate?

This percentage is based on the internationally recognized standard that zero-waste means achieving a diversion rate of 90% or higher, per the Zero Waste International Alliance. In 2019, the University’s waste diversion rate was 37.6% compared to an estimated 15% in 2016.

What does diversion rate mean?

A diversion rate is the percentage of waste diverted away from landfill. At McGill, this means the percentage of waste composted or recycled.

Where can I dispose of my organic waste on McGill's campuses?

You can find sorting stations with compost streams in 27 academic buildings on the downtown campus:   

  • 680 / 688 Sherbrooke  
  • Arts 
  • Brown Building 
  • Old Chancellor Day Hall 
  • Durocher 3465  
  • Education 
  • Elizabeth Wirth Music  
  • Ferrier  
  • Frank Dawson Adams  
  • Gelber 
  • Genome 
  • James Administration 
  • Leacock 
  • Life Sciences Complex - Animal Centre 
  • Life Sciences Complex - Cancer Centre 
  • Life Sciences Complex - Bellini  
  • Ludmer  
  • Martlet House  
  • McConnell Engineering 
  • McIntyre Medical  
  • McTavish 3610  
  • Penfield 1085 
  • Penfield 1086 
  • Pulp and Paper 
  • Redpath Library 
  • Rutherford Physics 
  • Trottier 

You can find sorting stations with compost streams in eight buildings on the Macdonald campus:  

  • Barton 
  • Centennial Centre 
  • CINE 
  • Macdonald-Stewart 
  • Parasitology  
  • Raymond 
  • Technical Services 

Organic waste disposal is also available in McGill’s dining halls on the downtown campus. There are Eco Stations for organic waste located in Carrefour Sherbrooke, New Residence, Bishop Mountain Hall, Douglas Hall, and Royal Victoria College dining halls.  

Learn more about Food Services’ sustainability initiatives. 

Why is composting not available campus wide? When will it be available everywhere?

McGill’s long-term goal is to offer organic waste collection at buildings across its campuses—an important step in the journey to zero-waste by 2035.    

However, pilot locations must first demonstrate ongoing success. With continued education, we hope to see a shift in campus culture and awareness. Once contamination is consistently below the allowable threshold at pilot locations, we will be able to better advocate for campus-wide organic waste collection.

How can I properly dispose of organic waste if compost isn't collected in my building on campus?

As organic waste collection expands, the University will continue to evaluate the location of bins on campus. Until then, please dispose of all organic waste in the closest building that does have compost collection.

What happens to compost generated at McGill?

Organic waste generated at McGill is either processed at the composting facility at Dépôt Rive-Nord or at a city compost site in the Southwest borough of Montréal.   

Some of the compost produced at the Dépôt Rive-Nord facility is redistributed to local municipalities--many of which use the compost for landscaping. In other municipalities, compost is sold or given away to citizens, or placed back on agricultural land.    

The remaining compost from the Dépôt Rive-Nord facility is used directly on the landfill at Dépôt Rive-Nord. After covering 40 meters of compacted garbage with clay, the facility places composted topsoil on the top and revegetates it.   

Most of the compost processed by the city in the Southwest borough is redistributed to Montréal’s residents, community gardens, and neighbourhoods through projects in urban agriculture and public works horticultural projects. 

What can I compost at McGill?

Any organic waste item can be composted on campus. That includes leftover food, paper towel, tissue, and cardboard food containers. Please refer to the following list for additional guidance.

Yes No
Fruits and veggies Liquids
Meat and fish Inorganic material
Leftovers Disposable coffee cups which are not marked as compostable
Tea bags and coffee grounds Chemical products (including paper towels soiled with chemical products)
Cardboard containers, paper plates and pizza boxes Animal waste
Newspapers, napkins, tissue and paper towel Plastics marked "compostable", "biodegradable", or "#7 PLA" 

Why can’t I compost or recycle plastics marked “compostable,” “biodegradable,” or “#7 PLA” at McGill?

The composting sites that receive waste from McGill do not have the infrastructure required to breakdown plastic #7 (PLA).  

In a compost pile, a PLA package could take up to 1000 years to decompose. Plastic #7 (PLA) is not recyclable either. In Montreal, the recycling centers do not currently have a method to reuse PLA products. Therefore, PLA products are destined for the landfill. 

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