Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 66.51
Liaison Aurora Sharrard
Submission Date Feb. 28, 2021

STARS v2.2

University of Pittsburgh
OP-18: Waste Minimization and Diversion

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 5.27 / 8.00 Will Mitchell
Senior Manager of Custodial Services
Facilities Management
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Figures needed to determine total waste generated (and diverted):
Performance Year Baseline Year
Materials recycled 1,268.56 Tons 1,518 Tons
Materials composted 111.09 Tons 178.54 Tons
Materials donated or re-sold 250 Tons 112 Tons
Materials disposed through post-recycling residual conversion 0 Tons 0 Tons
Materials disposed in a solid waste landfill or incinerator 2,349.13 Tons 3,876 Tons
Total waste generated 3,978.78 Tons 5,684.54 Tons

A brief description of the residual conversion facility:

Start and end dates of the performance year and baseline year (or three-year periods):
Start Date End Date
Performance Period Jan. 1, 2020 Dec. 31, 2020
Baseline Period July 1, 2007 June 30, 2008

A brief description of when and why the waste generation baseline was adopted:

Fiscal Year 2008 was the first year for which reliable, university-wide materials diversion data was available -- and has been used by the University as a baseline for reporting progress for other purposes.

Figures needed to determine "Weighted Campus Users”:
Performance Year Baseline Year
Number of students resident on-site 7,891 6,700
Number of employees resident on-site 18 0
Number of other individuals resident on-site 0 0
Total full-time equivalent student enrollment 26,730.20 23,689
Full-time equivalent of employees 13,047.40 10,744
Full-time equivalent of students enrolled exclusively in distance education 168 0
Weighted campus users 31,684.45 27,499.75

Total waste generated per weighted campus user:
Performance Year Baseline Year
Total waste generated per weighted campus user 0.13 Tons 0.21 Tons

Percentage reduction in total waste generated per weighted campus user from baseline:

Percentage of materials diverted from the landfill or incinerator by recycling, composting, donating or re-selling, performance year:

Percentage of materials diverted from the landfill or incinerator (including up to 10 percent attributable to post-recycling residual conversion):

In the waste figures reported above, has the institution recycled, composted, donated and/or re-sold the following materials?:
Yes or No
Paper, plastics, glass, metals, and other recyclable containers Yes
Food Yes
Cooking oil Yes
Plant materials Yes
Animal bedding No
White goods (i.e. appliances) Yes
Electronics Yes
Laboratory equipment Yes
Furniture Yes
Residence hall move-in/move-out waste Yes
Scrap metal Yes
Pallets Yes
Tires No
Other (please specify below) Yes

A brief description of other materials the institution has recycled, composted, donated and/or re-sold:

The University of Pittsburgh has a robust construction and demolition recycling program (described in detail in Credit OP-19, but the numbers are not included above because it would skew the totals). Beyond single stream recycling, the University also recycles batteries, carpet, chemicals, corrugated cardboard, electronic equipment and devices, fluorescent light bulbs, mattresses, surplus items (including white goods), textiles, toner and ink cartridges, Keurig K-Pods, pharmaceuticals, and gloves (2019 pilot and several laboratories).

The University also has a robust Surplus Property operation that collects used items from University departments and resells or donates the items to other University departments, local organizations, and the public. The program handles items including office furniture, lab equipment, musical instruments, computers, and even vehicles, diverting 14,608 items from the landfill in FY17. Since then, Pitt Surplus has helped the University keep at least 60,000 and 70,000 pounds of white goods alone out of landfill annually through reuse."

Pitt’s most innovative new materials diversion offering is textile recycling, which now has 28 locations across campus for Pitt community members and the public to drop off unusable textiles meeting acceptability guidelines. This program is documented in Credit IN-47. Learn more about textile recycling: https://www.sustainable.pitt.edu/textile-recycling/

Another robust programmatic offering is the Food Recovery program coordinated by Pitt's Food Service provider (Compass) and the Pitt chapter (Pitt Recovery Heroes) of the Food Recovery Network.

Materials intended for disposal but subsequently recovered and reused on campus, performance year:
48.52 Tons

Does the institution use single stream recycling to collect standard recyclables in common areas?:

Does the institution use dual stream recycling to collect standard recyclables in common areas?:

Does the institution use multi-stream recycling to collect standard recyclables in common areas?:

Average contamination rate for the institution’s recycling program:

A brief description of any recycling quality control mechanisms employed:

Service audits are routinely conducted by our composting hauler routinely. Service audits are also performed by the general waste and recycling haulers upon request.

A brief description of the institution's waste-related behavior change initiatives:

In 2019, Pitt revamped its campus-wide materials diversion signage. The new signage covers all recycling streams, is color coded, and provides visual examples of what commodities can be diverted from the landfill. These visual cues aid the university community in the determining what can be recycled at the user level. Commonly used signs are easily downloaded by the Pitt community online for easy use: https://www.sustainable.pitt.edu/zerowaste/waste-signage/

As it's often the first question people ask about campus sustainability, Pitt's Sustainability team also does regular education for various campus communities about materials diversion (included as part of student orientations, employee trainings, and regular on-campus speaking engagements).

A brief description of the institution's waste audits and other initiatives to assess its materials management efforts and identify areas for improvement:

2014 CAMPUS-WIDE WASTE AUDIT: As part of a negotiation for the University's waste and recycling contract, a comprehensive waste audit was conducted in September 2014. More than 30 team members consisting of representatives from the University's current waste and recycling contractor, Pitt employees, and student volunteers visited each campus building to evaluate the current container sizes, pull frequencies, and collection processes; the team then made recommendations for improvements, which were incorporated into the final contract. Relatedly, on September 1, 2015 the University converted its recycling streams into a single stream recycling program. The conversion includes all campus facilities and cost centers.

COMPOSTING: The University’s diversion of compostable has ramped up dramatically since 2014. Due to the University community’s tremendous interest in composting, the Pitt Student Office of Sustainability (SOOS) rolled the provision of compost collection into the Pitt Green Event application process starting in 2018. Materials diversion streams from Pitt Green Events are regularly audited by SOOS to ensure our compostable stream remains clean. Additionally, compostable collection is visualized in the Pitt Sustainability Dashboard by month and building so the Pitt community can follow along with our diversion success: https://www.sustainable.pitt.edu/dashboard/.

RECYCLEMANIA WASTE AUDITS: As part of Pitt’s annual Recyclemania / Campus Race to Zero Waste participation, students complete a partial waste audit of single stream recycling bins from select campus locations.

DINING WASTE AUDITS: Since 2016, Pitt has been performing food waste audits in its residential dining halls every semester. This information is tracked, reduction of food waste is written into our Dining contract, and it is also visualized on our Pitt Sustainability Dashboard to help educate the Pitt community about food waste: https://www.sustainable.pitt.edu/dashboard/.

A brief description of the institution's procurement policies designed to prevent waste:

Pitt encourages sustainable purchases that include durable, reusable, refillable, and rechargeable items; products that are made from recycled or remanufactured materials; products that were made using environmentally sound practices; products whose transfer or shipping process includes minimal packaging waste; products that avoid air shipping if possible; and products that can be disposed of in a manner safe to people and the environment at their end of life (if they cannot be reused or recycled).

Pitt Purchasing has also worked with service providers and vendors to reduce waste related to packaging and transportation. For example, cardboard boxes were replaced by reusable paper bags for delivery of office supplies -- and nearly all to-go food packaging through Dining Services has shifted to compostable items (or are encouraged to be taken in a reusable container as part of Pitt’s Choose to Reuse program). Learn more about Choose to Reuse: https://www.sustainable.pitt.edu/choose-to-reuse-is-back/

Additionally, Pitt’s Office of Facilities Management collaborates with Pitt Purchasing to write specifications and negotiate contracts for waste and recycling contracts with local providers. Qualified providers are asked to present their recommendations for maximizing diversion rates while providing efficient and effective service levels. In the past 3 years, the Purchasing has worked to help create a single campus-wide composting agreement with our largest vendor that is currently awaiting signature.

A brief description of the institution's surplus department or formal office supplies exchange program that facilitates reuse of materials:

Pitt’s Surplus Property Department provides students, faculty, and staff of the University with an economical way to both donate and purchase good quality used office furniture and equipment, thus reducing the amount of new items purchased while also diverting usable products from going to landfills.

Pitt Surplus is a convenient way for the university community to dispose of unwanted items including electronics, furniture, miscellaneous items, and even vehicles. Surplus Property collects used items from across the University, refurbishes them if necessary, and sells them at a much reduced price to both internal departments, individuals, and even the general public. Financial credits are then provided back to the sourcing departments. Items that cannot be reused internally or sold externally are often donated to local charitable organizations. In FY17, Surplus Property was responsible for the reuse of 14,608 items. Since then, Pitt Surplus has helped the University keep at least 60,000 and 70,000 pounds of white goods alone out of landfill annually through reuse.

Learn more about Pitt Surplus: http://www.pittsurplus.com/

A brief description of the institution's platforms to encourage peer-to-peer exchange and reuse:

SURPLUS: The University's Surplus Property department diverts University equipment and materials.

THRIFT: The University also has a student-run on-campus thrift store, the University of Thriftsburgh: http://www.universityofthriftsburgh.com/

OFFICE SUPPLIES: During 2020 Recyclemania, Pitt also had a March 2020 Clean & Swap Day that was employee-focused. Clean & Swap Day was created to responsibly re-purpose unwanted office items. After employees swapped items, the remaining 728 pounds of office supplies were donated to the Educational Partnership Program, a local nonprofit that provides resources for public school teachers.
Pitt 2020 Clean & Swap Day Event details: https://www.sustainable.pitt.edu/clean-swap/

LAB EQUIPMENT: The University’s Office of Research has a peer-to-peer program where faculty can submit laboratory equipment for reuse to their curated database. The listed equipment then can be shared across campus with other departments at no cost, thus encouraging reuse and reducing the amount of new equipment being purchased for research.
Learn more: https://www.engineering.pitt.edu/Research/Office-Of-Research/Shareable-Research-Equipment/Equipment-Shareable-by-Faculty

CHEMICALS: Pitt’s Environmental Health & Safety department runs a Chemical Redistribution program that provides faculty and staff with the opportunity to obtain chemicals free of charge. This program is currently available to University laboratories located on the Pittsburgh campus. The Chemical Redistribution Program can reduce expenses for both purchasing and waste disposal. The program emphasizes the University's commitment to the environmental protection by reducing the overall volumes of chemical waste generated.
Learn more:

A brief description of the institution's limits on paper and ink consumption:

PRINT STATIONS & DEFAULTS: When Pitt students need to print, they send their documents to any one of a number of self-service printing stations across campus. Over the years, these stations (located in/outside of all campus computing labs, campus residence halls, the student union, and other heavily traveled areas) have helped to cut down on the quantity of sheets of paper that are printed and then discarded. Before documents are printed, the student must physically go to the station and swipe his or her Pitt ID card (or entering the University username and password). At both Pitt Print stations and departmental multifunction devices or printers, all print jobs are set to print double-sided as the default.

PRINTING QUOTA: Currently registered students and faculty receive $63 per semester for printing. This printing quota may be used toward single or double-side printing, and black & white or color printing – and is equivalent to 900 sheets printed in black & white (or ~128 color sheets). If they wish to exceed their print quota (which the vast majority of students do not), an additional fee is assessed.

Learn more about Pitt Print: https://www.technology.pitt.edu/services/pitt-print

TREE ZERO PAPER: Since March 2019, many departments and Pitt Printing Stations have switched to the new preferred carbon neutral paper - TreeZero. TreeZero is made from 100% sugarcane waste fiber (not tree pulp), which means its price is not impacted by increases in the paper industry. TreeZero is 100% recyclable and carbon neutral, making it a smart solution for the environment and budgets. TreeZero paper is offered for cheaper than virgin or recycled content paper in the Pitt PantherExpress purchasing system’s SUPRA.

Pitt Print uses TreeZero Paper for 8.5” x 11” B&W printing at all Pitt Print stations—saving at least 1,680 trees per year!

GO DIGITAL: Pitt IT, Sustainability, and Print Shop also collectively support students and employees going digital across campus. Pitt IT has great resources to support the Pitt community in adopting and continuing good digital habits, including information on how skipping the printer can boost your organization, productivity, and convenience.
Learn more: Go Digital: Skip the Printer, Help the Earth https://www.technology.pitt.edu/blog/print


A February 2021 Pittwire article highlighted differences in printing at Pitt during the global Covid-19 pandemic:

“In September 2019, there was nearly always a student standing at the Pitt Print stations inside labs, residence halls and academic buildings. That fall, students printed more than 6.1 million sheets of paper, while Ricoh multifunction devices in Pitt offices processed a whopping 15.5 million sheets.

What a difference one year and a pandemic make: In fall 2020, students printed fewer than 1.5 million and departmental printers spit out fewer than 5.5 million sheets—a reduction of more than two-thirds.

The number of students using Pitt Print decreased by over 53% last semester, compared to the typical fall term. That’s not surprising when you think about it: Fewer students on campus and facility restrictions limiting the number of available print locations meant fewer jobs whizzing through the machines.

More illuminating is how much each on-campus student printed. The average user printed half as much this past fall (125 sheets), compared to fall 2019 (250 sheets). In a normal term, about 1.5% of students exceed their Pitt Print quota of up to 900 sheets; in the fall 2020 term, just 0.3% did so."

Read Pitt Printing in a Pandemic (2-17-21): https://www.pittwire.pitt.edu/news/printing-pandemic

A brief description of the institution's initiatives to make materials available online by default rather than printing them:

The University of Pittsburgh has been on a long journey to make materials available online by default rather than printing them. Several examples of this approach are below:

COURSE SECHEDULES: General course catalogs and more major-specific course catalogs are all available online. Course schedules and scheduling are available in the "Student Center" of each student's online self-service Pitt accounts. These self-service accounts enable incoming students to activate their network account information via an online portal, saving the paper previously associated with that process and cutting the University's carbon footprint by reducing the amount of mail delivered around the country.

READ GREEN: Pitt's Read Green service allows more than 13,200 faculty and staff members to receive previously paper-based mailings and advertisements as a digital link delivered to their email inbox. In addition to significantly reducing paper waste, the program reduces the University's carbon footprint by reducing the need to transport University mail by truck both on the Pittsburgh Campus and among the University's four regional campuses.

GO DIGITAL: Pitt IT, Sustainability, and Printing Services collectively support students and employees going digital across campus. Pitt IT has great resources to support the Pitt community in adopting and continuing good digital habits, including information on how skipping the printer can boost your organization, productivity, and convenience.

A few of the many tools offered by Pitt IT to help you go digital effectively and easily.
1) Use the cloud. Saving documents locally ties the file to a particular device. With the cloud, you can access files from anywhere, at any time, from any device. So store files to your OneDrive account.
2) Create a digital file cabinet. Your file structure is like the manilla folders and filing cabinets of the digital office. Create folders, subfolders, sub-subfolders, etc. in your account to organize your digital life.
3) Print to PDF. Save a web page, email, image, or online form in PDF. You won’t need to remember the URL, and the image/formatting is preserved. “Print to PDF” is native to Windows 10, and free PDF converter apps are available if it is not integrated with your device.
4) Use DocuSign. Need to sign and submit a form? Use DocuSign. If the form can’t be completed online before you upload it, DocuSign lets you add the information. Then, add an electronic signature and email it right from the app.
5) Take notes and highlight digitally. Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat Reader both have highlighter tools and Comment/Note tools, so you can annotate a reading to your heart’s content. You can edit or delete comments, create notes of any length, and avoid having to read small or messy handwriting later.
6) Create to-do lists. Several Microsoft programs let you take notes and create To-Do lists. Find the one that works for you. To use Outlook’s Task feature, just click on the Clipboard icon. Include a description and completion date to be sure you don’t forget things.
7) Transfer PDF documents to an e-reader. Tablets and e-readers provide the portability of a cell phone and the readability of a laptop. Just use a USB cord to transfer PDF documents to your Kindle, and read away.
8) Track changes. If you’re editing your own or someone else’s work, use Track Changes so you can see what changes were made. View it in Simple Markup mode to see the revised copy along with an indication of where changes were made.

Learn more: Go Digital: Skip the Printer, Help the Earth https://www.technology.pitt.edu/blog/print

A brief description of the institution's program to reduce residence hall move-in/move-out waste:

Since 2016, the University of Pittsburgh has actively encouraged and supported a greener student move-in and move-out process with the “Clutter for a Cause” initiative.

On-campus students are asked to leave donate-able and reusable items behind in designated areas. Off-campus renters are invited to bring the items to be reused and recycled (instead of contributing to the landfill). The University helps the following items find reuse: non-perishable food; gently used clothing; small furniture; household items; books; school and office supplies; small appliances and electronics. University students and employees collect, sort and re-purpose or donate all household items, furniture, textiles, clothing and non-perishable food items.

All items collected are either resold at the University of Thriftsburgh (on-campus thrift store) or donated to local thrift stores.

Clutter for a Cause collections occur during move in, move out, and summer sessions, keeping 43,700 pounds of clothing & small household items (though mostly clothing and textiles) out of the landfill from 2017 through 2019; approximately 8,000 pounds of non-perishable food items were donated to the on-campus food pantry (Pitt Pantry) and a local community partner.

In April 2019 alone, on-campus collection gathered 1,200 pounds of household goods and 800 pounds of clothing to be resold at Thriftsburgh AND donated 8,000 pounds of goods to local nonprofit reuse stores. Due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, 2020 Clutter for a Cause data is not complete.

A brief description of the institution's programs or initiatives to recover and reuse other materials intended for disposal:

A student-created and coordinated thrift store. Created and opened in March 2015, the University of Thiftsburgh’s retail shop was created by two undergraduate students and opened in the O'Hara Student Center (where it remains today). Thriftsburgh employs 3 part-time student coordinators and is governed by a student and staff advisory board. Thiftsburgh’s mission is to promote sustainable purchasing for students on campus and to call attention to the policies of the textile industry and fashion industry. Due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, Thriftsburgh began selling clothing on Instagram – and is working to start full online sales in 2021 in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh’s stores.
Learn more: http://www.universityofthriftsburgh.com/

In January 2020, the University of Pittsburgh began offering textile recycling at 19 locations on campus, expanding to 28 collection locations in 2021. For easy and regular pickup by the University’s Logistics team, each Pitt textile recycling location is co-located with mailing services and/or existing specialty recycling for batteries or toner.

Given that Pitt Sustainability prioritizes reuse, campus-wide emphasis has been on collecting unusable textiles (while meeting commodity acceptability guidelines for our vendor). Pitt community members are heavily encouraged to continue to donate items with wearable life in them to the University of Thriftsburgh (our on-campus thrift store) and local reuse and thrift stores.
Our textile recycling partner is Simple Recycling (based in Ohio). Simple Recycling partners with several other universities – and also provides curbside textile recycling services in several locations around the U.S.

In 2020, Pitt diverted 7,866 pounds of textiles from the landfill via the Textile Recycling program (including only 2 pickups in March and July 2020). In the meantime, textile recycling has continued to be available (and widely used) across campus throughout the pandemic.

Fully documented under Credit IN-49.

A student-created and coordinated bicycle maintenance teaching shop on campus that supports and improves the bike community at Pitt and in in Pittsburgh via access to tools and mechanics, education, advocacy, and outreach. The Pitt Bike Cave aims to provide Pitt students, faculty, and staff an inclusive space to repair their bicycles, receive safety and educational materials, participate in workshops, and gather as a community. In 2020, the Pitt Bike Cave began selling repaired bikes that have been donated to them.
Learn more: https://www.facebook.com/pittbikecave/

Website URL where information about the institution’s waste minimization and diversion efforts is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

- Pittsburgh's MRF is Greenstar: https://wastebits.com/locator/location/greenstar-pittsburgh
- Pitt's Zero Waste website: https://www.sustainable.pitt.edu/zerowaste/
- Pitt's materials diversion signage: https://www.sustainable.pitt.edu/zerowaste/waste-signage/
- Pitt Choose to Reuse program: https://www.sustainable.pitt.edu/choose-to-reuse-is-back/
- Pitt Surplus Property: https://www.pittsurplus.com/
- University of Thriftsburgh thrift store: http://www.universityofthriftsburgh.com/


The University of Pittsburgh has a number of specialty recycling streams that are handled and sorted internally by other external vendors and/or internal departments. A tally of these commodity streams and handlers are below:

1) BATTERIES – After being collected at locations across campus that are picked up by Pitt Logistics and responsibly recycled in partnership with Pitt EH&S.
2) BUILDING MATERIALS WITH REUSE POTENTIAL – For University renovation projects, Pitt Facilities partners with Pitt Surplus on reclaiming items for potential reuse or resale. For larger University construction projects, external partners are also utilized, as described in detail in Credit OP-19.
3) CHEMICALS – Pitt’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) is responsible for the management of regulated wastes at the University of Pittsburgh. The University recently renewed its hazardous waste contract with Veolia, incorporating even more options for beneficial reuse, recycling, and other diversion from landfill. Additionally, the Pitt Chemical Redistribution Program provides faculty and staff with the opportunity to obtain unopened chemicals free of charge, reducing expenses for purchasing and waste disposal. This program is currently available to laboratories located on the Pittsburgh camps. Learn more about how to donate a chemical, request free chemicals, or view our on-hand inventory: https://www.ehs.pitt.edu/chemical-redistribution-program
4) COMPOSTABLES – Primarily go to AgRecycle‘s commercial composting facility in Washington County, Pennsylvania. The University also has a small contract with Pittsburgh Garden Company for mostly pre-consumer food waste that is composted on local farms.
5) ELECTRONICS – Small electronics are collected at locations across campus that are picked up by Pitt Logistics. Due to data security concerns, larger electronics can either be dropped off at Pitt IT locations and/or employees can arrange for pickup by Pitt Logistics. Regardless of size, all electronics are properly decommissioned by Pitt Surplus, the University’s electronics waste is handled by external provider eLoop.
6) FACILITIES-RELATED ITEMS – Items related to facilities operation and/or construction are generally handled by Pitt Facilities’ department. Items that are recycled include carpet, fluorescent light bulbs, scrap metal (aluminum, steel, stainless steel, copper, etc.), and white goods. Construction and demolition waste is also diverted from landfill (as fully explained in credit OP-19).
7) GLOVES – In 2019, Pitt partnered with Medline to divert gloves from landfill to waste to energy facilities. In March 2021, Pitt is relaunching this program (with Dining and Housing to start) to divert gloves to waste to energy facilities in partnership with EH&S and Veolia.
8) LEAF & YARD WASTE – Composted
9) KEURIG K-PODS – Are collected in offices across campus in boxes provided by Office Depot for Keurig’s Grounds to Grow on Program. Full boxes are mailed to Keurig’s K-Pod provider, where components are separated; plastic and foil are recycled; and grounds are composted.
10) MATTRESSES – Are usually recycled once annually by Pitt Housing; a variety of external vendors have been utilized over time.
11) PHARMACEUTICALS – Are dropped off in controlled campus locations at the Pitt Pharmacy and Pitt Public Safety building. This waste stream is managed by Environmental Health & Safety – and properly disposed of third-party incineration.
12) TEXTILES – After being collected at locations across campus that are picked up by Pitt Logistics, unusable textiles are diverted back into the circular economy by Simple Recycling.
13) TONER & INK CARTRIDGES - After being collected at locations across campus that are picked up by Pitt Logistics, these items are recycled with third-party vendors by Pitt Surplus.

Learn more about Pitt’s Zero Waste efforts: https://www.sustainable.pitt.edu/zerowaste/

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.