Waste at McGill

Waste management at McGill involves rethinking the way we buy, reuse, and recycle materials throughout the university. 

For a comprehensive look at all waste reduction initiatives, visit Waste Reduction at McGill.

Jump to Waste HierarchyHow to Sort Waste at McGill - Frequently Asked Questions

Waste Reduction and Diversion Strategy (2018-2025)

Waste reduction and diversion strategy 2018-2025 document cover
Waste management remains a complex issue that falls under the responsibility of several units on our campuses. To better coordinate these efforts, the Waste Management Task Force, co-chaired by the Director of the Office of Sustainability and the Director of Utilities and Energy Management, created the Waste Reduction and Diversion Strategy to improve McGill's non-hazardous waste system. 



The Waste Hierarchy

How do you become a waste system champion? Always followed the waste hierarchy before you throw something away:

Can I Reduce it?

Do you really need to buy that item? Could you get a waste-free version instead? At-source reduction is the most important step to reducing our waste footprint. Remember: The best way to use the waste system is to avoid using the waste system.

Can I Reuse it?

Could you reuse or repair the item instead of disposing of it? Could you purchase a used version?

Can I Recycle it?

Could your waste be converted into new usable material instead of heading to the landfill?

How to sort it

At McGill University, non-hazardous waste is sorted into four streams. Please see the tabs below for more information on how to sort your waste. 


Compost: Is the item organic waste (food leftovers, paper towel, tissue, certain plastics marked “compostable” or ‘#7 PLA’ or cardboard food containers)? If so, where it’s available, put it into the compostables bin.



  • Fruits and veggies
  • Meat and fish
  • Leftovers
  • Tea bags and coffee grounds
  • Carboard containers, paper plates and pizza boxes
  • Plastic marked “compostable” (#7 PLA)
  • Newspaper, napkins, tissue and paper towel
  • Disposable coffee cups which are not marked as compostable
  • Inorganic material
  • Chemical products (including paper towel soiled with chemical products)
  • Liquids
  • Animal waste

Currently, McGill has Eco Stations for compostables located in Carrefour Sherbrooke, New Residence, Bishop Mountain Hall, Douglas Hall, and Royal Victoria College dining halls. Visit McGill Food and Dining Service's Composting website for more information.

McGill is working hard to expand composting operations across the campus. Stay tuned! 


Paper/ Cardboard: Clean and dry paper and cardboard should go into the blue stream.



  • Paper
  • Cardboard (flatten boxes)
  • Newspaper
  • Magazines
  • Egg cartons and coffee trays
  • Disposable coffee cups
  • Paper products which are dirty or wet
  • Paper products stained with food or grease (these should go in the compost bin!)

Recyclable Containers

Recyclable containers: The yellow stream is for mixed recycling: Plastic, metal and glass. For plastics, look for the Mobius triangle (triangle made up of three arrows) on the bottom to find the number.




  • Plastics #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7
  • Metal cans
  • Glass bottles
  • Milk or juice containers (“Tetrapack”)
  • Tin foil
  • Disposable coffee cups
  • Plastic #6
  • Plastic cutlery or plates
  • Plastic beer glasses
  • Plastic coffee creamers
  • Styrofoam
  • Any other plastic not marked with a number
  • Broken glass


Landfill: The very last option. However, remember that it’s better to throw something away than to potentially contaminate a whole bag of well-sorted recycling. If recycling is too contaminated, it will not be picked up. When in doubt, throw it out.



  • Any item that you are not sure about
  • Disposable coffee cups
  • Food waste (when there is no compostables bin)
  • Plastic #6
  • Plastic that has no number (utensils, plates, creamers etc)
  • Styrofoam
  • Anything else that that is not recyclable
  • Compostable or recyclable materials
  • Hazardous waste (see below)

Hazardous Waste

Hazardous Waste: Hazardous Waste Management(HWM) provides a full hazardous material disposal service to the McGill community at both Macdonald and Downtown Campus. Disposal of waste is free of charge to internal departments, provided the waste is coming from research activities and presented in a proper manner.



  • Batteries: Battery collection bins can be found in the main areas of major buildings on both campuses, including residences.
  • Electronics: The Macdonald Campus community can bring theirold computersat theUniversity Archivesbefore any boxes are shipped or destroyed.For other electronics contact Hazardous Waste Management

Contact Hazardous Waste Management for any inquiries

Frequently Asked Questions

Does McGill have compost collection throughout campus?

Currently, McGill collects compost in residence cafeterias: Royal Victoria College, Bishop Mountain Hall, Carrefour Sherbrooke, Douglas Hall, and New Residence. Some other individual units have also organized compost collection, namely AUS Snax, Première Moisson, Starbucks Carrefour, the Faculty Club, Midnight Kitchen, Thompson House and the MORE houses.

Some pilot projects are also underway to help spread organic waste collection across the campus more widely. Stay tuned!

The recycling in my building is not being disposed of properly. Who should I call?

If your waste is not being properly recycled, you should contact your building porter (you can find their phone number here). If your building has no porter, your district supervisor will be able to help you.

I have electronic waste like batteries and old cell phones. Where should I dispose of these items?

McGill Hazardous Waste Management Services offers special battery collection bins in the lobbies of most major buildings on campus. Otherwise, batteries can be sent using internal mail service to ‘Recycling of materials, Hazardous Waste Management, McIntyre Medical Building, Room 129’. You can find the list of battery bin locations here. Old cellphones can be dropped off or mailed to any Bell World, Espace Bell or Bell Mobility store, where they will be refurbished and donated to women’s shelters. For any other inquiries regarding e-waste, you can contact McGill Hazardous Waste Management at 514-398-5066.  

What can I do to reduce waste at McGill?

There are many ways to reduce waste at McGill. As an individual, you can bring reusable containers, mugs, and water bottles with you to avoid purchasing food and beverages in single-use packages. If you work at McGill, consider going through the Sustainable Workplace Certification process, which will challenge you and your team to reduce your waste and improve your overall sustainability. If you work in a wet lab, you can also check out the Sustainable Labs Guide. Lastly, you can host more sustainable events by working with the Sustainable Events consultants. They will walk you through several measures you can take to make your events more environmentally friendly, accessible and inclusive.

Can I get compost collection in my office?

While McGill is working on eventually moving towards a campus-wide organic waste collection system, there is currently no centralized organic waste pick-up system like there is for landfill and recycling. However, some units have organized their own collection through a small contract with Compost Montreal. Alternatively, if you have compost collection services at home, you can always collect your organic waste in a container throughout the day and then dispose of it in your brown bin when you get home in the evening.

Do I put paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum cans in the same recycling bin?

Unlike the single-bin system you probably have at home, paper should not go into the same bin as plastic, glass and aluminum on the McGill campus. McGill separates their recycling into two streams- there is one bin for paper and cardboard and a second bin for plastic, metal and glass. This ensures that any food or drinks left on recycled containers do not contaminate clean paper, making it unrecyclable.


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