SP0286: Improving McGill's Waste Systems to Achieve Zero-Waste

Status: In Progress  October 2021 -  


Our project aims to standardize and increase the waste infrastructure and waste education between the Macdonald and downtown campuses for interior and exterior high traffic locations.


Project Number





Downtown, Macdonald


PDF icon SP0286 Application


Full Project Description

This project aims to address the University's low waste diversion rate by addressing key challenges in waste infrastructure and education on campus. Two key interventions will be made: 1) Expanding core waste infrastructure by purchasing over 230 indoor and outdoor multi-stream sorting stations for key areas on the downtown and Macdonald campuses, and 2) launching a comprehensive waste education program to actively engage our students, faculty and staff on how they can take part in reducing waste and maximizing waste diversion.

1) Expanding Core Waste Infrastructure: Over 475 new multi-stream waste sorting bins have been installed over the past year on the downtown campus due to a monumental capital investment from FMAS. However, given the challenges in securing all the funding needed, expansion to the southwest sector of the downtown campus and the Macdonald campus will not be possible in the near future. Instead, this would have to be implemented slowly over several years, in an ad-hoc fashion as alternative funding is identified. However, if funded is provided by the SPF, this project would prioritize the immediate installation of multi-stream sorting bins to these key areas on our campuses.

This would include installing 36 new indoor sorting stations in high traffic areas of major academic buildings at the Macdonald Campus, 159 indoor sorting stations at the downtown campus, and 39 outdoor sorting stations across both Macdonald and downtown campuses. The funding would also cover the installation of 5 Smart Bin systems in high traffic academic buildings. The Smart Bin system was developed by a student group called the Recycling Pioneers and works by retrofitting a series of sensors that together provide the user with data about how full each bin is via a screen mounted above the waste sorting station. This investment would remove barriers to behavior change and provide support to McGillians as they endeavor to properly sort their waste and make sustainable choices.

2) Launching a Comprehensive Waste Education Program: In complement to the new infrastructure, a strong waste education program is needed to help engage the McGill community in waste sorting best practices to maximize the impact of the infrastructure upgrades. While there have been several waste education programs over the past few years across the University, for example, through Food & Dining and Buildings & Grounds, there is a need for a centralized suite of educational and training materials, resources dedicated to identifying engagement opportunities (e.g., events and tabling locations), and a cohort of dedicated student volunteers excited to engage with their peers.

If funded, this project will develop and institutionalize a comprehensive waste education program, to be stewarded by the Office of Sustainability. Supervised by a Sustainability Officer, a Waste Education intern will be hired to help with the development and coordination of the program. In partnership with the Sustainability Officer, the intern would help take stock of existing resources, contribute to the development of waste education materials (e.g., volunteer training materials, waste-sorting module), organize and conduct waste audits, as well as coordinate volunteer engagement opportunities. Since peer-to-peer training is very effective, a volunteer brigade of waste education consultants will expand the reach of the program across both campuses and offer in-person advice near sorting stations. Once developed, this program will be able to be maintained in the long term as an engagement program in the Office of Sustainability, in complement to the Sustainable Event Consultants program and the Sustainability Ambassadors program.

Overall, this project truly focuses on providing essential support mechanisms (infrastructure, education) that will create a solid start to becoming zero-waste by 2035, one of the University's key long-term targets.

Connect with this project

Project Lead

George Lazaris 


lauren.macdonald3 [at] mcgill.ca (Lauren Macdonald)
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