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Smith has a long history of being a leader in the zero waste movement. In the late 1980s, the facilities team implemented a robust, campus-wide recycling program. In 2005, students started a movement for composting and it has steadily grown since then.

We promote responsible, rather than “wishful” waste disposal, which is a tendency among many of us to recycle and compost items that we think and hope are recyclable, even though in many cases they are not.

Our Efforts


Our goal is to promote proper recycling education, increase participation, and reduce contamination across campus. You are crucial in helping us achieve this! Please read the signage posted above all bins and help us educate others. Contamination can cause an entire batch of recycling to be landfilled! Our recycling is transferred to the Springfield Materials Recovery Facility, where it is sorted and sold to various producers across the world to be turned into new things!

See guides here: Container recycling; Paper recycling

  1. Please put paper products like notebook paper, envelopes, cereal boxes, paper bags (no receipts), and pizza boxes in the paper recycling bins. It’s ok if the pizza boxes are greasy, just make sure all food remnants are removed.
  2. Please put clean metal, glass, and clear plastic containers and cartons into the container recycling bin.
  3. Please DO NOT put hot and cold beverage cup lids, straws, utensils, wrappers, plastic wrap, styrofoam, or food remnants in the recycling bins.

Electronics Recycling

Electronic devices contain toxic substances that pollute our soil, water, and air when they are not disposed of properly. E-waste recycling saves the raw materials that can be repurposed and ensures pollutants do not enter our environment. You can bring your batteries, compact-fluorescent lightbulbs, and small electronics to the lowel-level of the campus center (between the mailroom and campus store).

See guide here: E-Waste


As an institution, Smith is required by the state of Massachusetts to compost. Luckily, this aligns with our values and vision for a zero waste campus - we were composting before the state required it! Campus teams support composting in all dining halls and most major event locations. Event organizers can select "compost bins" in their event planning, and Facilities works hard to follow through on every request. Smith's compost is delivered to Vanguard Renewables with a first stop at their depackaging plant in Agawam, MA. After the packaging and contaminants are removed, organic material is distributed to local farm partners with anaerobic digesters including Barstow Farm in Hadley, MA and Bar-Way Farm in Deerfield, MA. These farms generate renewable energy and rich soil amendments to support their crops- a win-win-win for Smith, our environment and our community partners. And, our Dining Services team are champions of our zero waste vision - from ensuring we order compostable containers and silverware to promoting back and front of house composting. Please do your part by knowing what you can and cannot compost.

See guide here: Compost

  1. Please compost all food scraps (including coffee grounds and tea bags), all Smith dining containers, utensils, and straws (check for the PLA-7 label on the container), napkins
  2. Please DO NOT put in containers, utensils, straws, and cups from other restaurants, wrappers, plastic bags, pizza boxes
  3. Please DO NOT put in paper bags or receipts. Paper bags belong in paper recycling and receipts belong in the landfill. 

Reducing and Reusing

Reducing our consumption and finding creative ways to reuse materials is essential to achieving zero waste. Before you throw something out or buy something new, consider how you might reuse something you already have, and check out these helpful groups and resources:


Beginning in 2019, we implemented our first comprehensive move-out collection program. Emmy Longnecker ‘20J inspired and led the project after seeing how many items students leave for the landfill at the end of each year. Drawing on move-out collection programs that exist on many other college campuses, Emmy designed a program specifically for Smith. While a large collection happens at the end of the year, most houses have Smithcycle bins (f.k.a. Free bins) where you can leave and take items. Read more about Smithcycle here.

Facebook Groups

This group connects members of the five college community to sell and give-away items. Don’t miss out! The City of Northampton runs this page that shares creative reuse ideas. The Queer exchange group connects member of the queer community to sell and give-away items. The Buy Nothing group promotes just that: buying nothing! 


Unfortunately, there are some items that cannot be recycled, composted, or reused. Remember, try to refuse and reduce as much as possible first! Many items that belong in the landfill are common contaminants in recycling and compost streams because people “wish” they could go there and throw by aspiration instead of information. Please put the following in the landfill bin:

See guide here: Landfill

  1. Solid-colored plastic cups and containers
  2. Plastic straws and utensils
  3. Hot and cold beverage lids
  4. Receipt paper (thermal-coated)
  5. Styrofoam
  6. Wrappers
  7. Plastic wrap
  8. Non-smith hot beverage cups 

For more guidance on specific items and materials, you can always check the Springfield Materials Recycling Facility and Recycle Smart Massachusetts.

Zero-Waste Events

At Zero-Waste events on campus, the college provides guests with compostable and recyclable items only. For more information about zero-waste events, contact