Waste Reduction Program

Waste Reduction and Recycling operates within Campus Operations. The UNC Asheville recycling program was started in 1989 with the collection of cardboard and quickly expanded. The campus recycling program now includes collection of paper, metal, plastics, oil, batteries, light bulbs, electronics and more. Recycling and composting efforts have been combined with material reuse programs to minimize landfill waste across campus. By engaging students, faculty, and staff in waste reduction practices, UNC Asheville has demonstrated a commitment to honoring the environment while creating additional learning opportunities and reducing waste disposal costs. Check out our Waste Reduction infographic to learn more.

For any questions concerning the Waste Reduction Program, please contact the Environmental Specialist, Jackie Hamstead: jhamstea@unca.edu or 828.251.6814.

Benefits of Waste Reduction

Environmental Benefits

There are numerous environmental benefits of minimizing waste. Reducing waste extends the life of landfills, reducing the demand for future landfills. Recycling reduces pollution, energy consumption, and the strain on natural resources associated with the manufacturing of new materials.

Financial Benefits

On campus, it costs $58 per ton to dispose of materials in the landfill. In addition to saving money through lower waste removal costs, waste reduction can help minimize expenditures on office supplies, construction materials, and equipment. 

Social Benefits

Recycling and composting industries contribute to a growing labor force including materials sorters, dispatchers, truck drivers, brokers, sales representatives, process engineers, and chemists. Job creation combined with revenues created by the recycling industry generates local, state and federal tax revenue that can be reinvested in the Asheville community. 

Educational Benefits

Problems and solutions revolving around waste, waste minimization, and recycling are truly interdisciplinary. These topics provide valuable lessons in economics, environmental studies, biology, engineering, marketing, sociology, public health and more. Educating students inside and outside the classroom about waste reduction aligns with the mission of a liberal arts university to develop creativity and problem solving skills.

Preferred Purchasing

As part of the mission to minimize the campus waste stream, The Office of Waste Reduction encourages further purchasing of green products. Green products have a reduced effect on human health and the environment in their manufacturing process, use, and disposal. When possible, give purchase preference to items that are:

  • Made with recycled content
  • Highly energy efficient
  • Designed to be long lasting
  • Recyclable or compostable
  • Made from renewable resources
  • Less toxic than conventional products

Waste Stream Analyses

The Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling conducts waste stream analyses for targeted buildings and for the campus as a whole. This type of analysis involves collecting all trash for a specified time and sorting each bag of trash into three general categories:

  • Recyclables
  • Compostables
  • Landfill materials (trash)

Sorted materials are weighed to measure waste diversion rates and observe where program improvements can be made. This valuable information is used to tailor education to address specific issues and measure program success. 


History of Waste Reduction at UNC Asheville

  • 1989: The NC Solid Waste Management Act requires all state agencies to establish recycling programs for corrugated cardboard by 1992. Buncombe County Board of Commissioners implements a county-wide corrugated cardboard recycling ordinance. In June, UNC Asheville begins collecting cardboard from all buildings on campus.
  • 1990: “UNCA Recycles” is formed to coordinate office paper recycling. North Carolina prohibits the landfill disposal of motor oil, yard waste, and tires.
  • 1991: UNCA receives a $4,865 grant to construct a building dedicated to the collection of recyclables in and effort coordinated by Dr. Chris Bell PhD, professor of economics. North Carolina prohibits the landfill disposal of  anti-freeze and lead acid batteries.
  • 1992: Chancellor Samuel Schumann requests an expanded recycling program to include aluminum, glass, plastic, and newsprint. A part-time student recycling coordinator and two work-study students were hired to collect recyclables.
  • 1993: UNC Asheville Recycles receives a grant from the Dogwood Fund for “Recycling Program Expansion” to purchase permanent collection containers and to pay for a waste stream measurement.  North Carolina prohibits the landfill disposal of appliances.
  • 1994: Recycling requirements were included in the University's “Policies and Procedures” Manual. North Carolina prohibits the landfill disposal of  aluminum cans.
  • 1999: UNC Asheville Facilities Management reclassifies a Grounds position to create the staff position of “Recycling Coordinator.” 
  • 2000: UNC Asheville receives  a demonstration permit to compost pre-consumer food waste from our Dining Hall.
  • 2008: Due to budget cut backs, funding for student recycling assistance ceased. Both Housekeeping and Grounds Maintenance personnel added recycling responsibilities to their daily work requirements.
  • 2009: North Carolina prohibits the landfill disposal of plastic bottles, wooden pallets, and motor oil filters.
  • 2010: Student Environmental Center sets up a  food waste composting program at the Dining Hall and expands the campus "Free Store." 
  • 2014: A waste minimization program pilot called the "Waste Reduction Challenge" begins. The Composting program is expanded to included select residence halls and academic buildings.
  • 2015: The Ash-Fill-It-Up and food donation programs are started.
  • 2016: Composting is available at all on-campus dining facilities and compostable serveware is introduced to the dining facilities at Highsmith Student Union.