What is Waste & Where Does it Go?

Campus Guide for Recycling, Composting, Returning Reusables By Jacob Chen '23.5 (Click here for a full size version of this poster.)

While the Zilkha Center and partners across campus work to reduce waste across campus by decreasing consumption where possible and keeping durable goods in circulation, the college has a number of waste streams for which stakeholders across campus manage the collection, storage, and hauling.

Below, we have detailed out a few of those streams and provided information about where those materials go after they leave campus.  For more information, see the college’s recycling guide and compost guide.


  • Plastic (#1-7 only), metal/aluminum, glass, and paper/cardboard can all be recycled in every building on the Williams campus in blue (or blue-topped) single-stream recycling bins.

    A number of hard-to-recycle materials are collected in particular collection locations around campus before being recycled.

    To see a full list of recyclable materials, follow this link to the comprehensive Campus Recycling Guide.

  • Our campus Recycling Team pick up the recyclables once a week and take them to certain locations around campus until our recycling hauler, Casella (formerly T.A.M.) hauls it to their recycling center in Pownal, VT.  From there, the co-mingled plastics, tin, aluminum, and glass go to Casella Auburn MRF (Material Recovery Facility) in Auburn, MA to be separated.  The scrap metal goes to Brownell’s in Wallomsac, NY.  Paper and cardboard is processed and baled at the Casella facility in Pownal then taken to Westrock in Syracuse, NY.  The final destination of plastic and glass varies.


  • Food waste and compostable to-go items are collected in dining halls mainly in dish return areas.  Compost collection bins are being transitioned to green (or green topped) bins.

    Dining Services uses exclusively reusable or compostable to-go containers and to-go serviceware.

    To see a full list of compostable materials, follow this link to the comprehensive Campus Compost Guide.

  • PJ's Trash & Appliance Removal collects food waste and compostables from the compost collection bins around campus every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, as well as from the dining halls. PJ's empties this food waste into totes (essentially trash cans on wheels) in our Facilities Barn, where it is layered with sawdust. Once a week, Casella brings the food waste and compostables in these bins from the Williams campus to their Long Trail Compost Facility, an industrial composting facility in Bennington, VT where it breaks down into a soil-enriching compost.

  • The Zilkha Center has been working with the Willamstown COOL (CO2 Lowering) Committee to align Williamstown’s food waste diversion efforts with the College’s.  Williamstown Composts works to make composting available to households and businesses. For more information on the town composting program, click here.   


  • Williams’ trash is picked up by Scott Smith Trucking and taken to a Casella facility in Vermont.  From there, the final destination varies but it is typically taken to one of three landfills: Green Ridge Landfill (Gansevoort, NY), Clinton County Landfill (Morrisonville, NY), Ontario Landfill (Stanley, NY).

  • In 2011, Williams asked waste service providers to report into an online waste reporting system, which has enabled us to measure municipal solid waste, recycling, and composting and track our progress over time.  We use that data along with periodic waste audits that the Zilkha Center has coordinated to determine trends over time and identify particular waste-stream challenges that need to be addressed.

    The Zilkha Center has lead campus-wide zero waste assessments in 2019-2020 and is again conducting one during the 2022-2023 academic year.  The results from the first "Atlas" assessment can be found here.  The assessment informed waste-related goals in the college's 2021 strategic plan and, from there, the creation of the Zero Waste Action Plan.


  • E-waste includes any electronic equipment: laptops, phones, chargers, monitors, printers, DVD players, etc. Batteries are also included because they cannot be conventionally recycled and are considered electronic. It is a distinct category of waste, because these items should not be thrown in with trash or recycling on campus - however, it is possible for e-waste to be both recycled and disposed of through special channels! Most electronics contain lead or mercury and cannot be disposed of in the trash.

    Computers, Laptops, Monitors, Printers

    • Students, staff, and faculty can dispose of these safely at a one-time end-of-the-year event called GreenUp with a Williams college ID for proof of ownership. For college-owned equipment, contact the OIT help desk.

    Toner cartridges

    • There are seven boxes in different areas on campus in which you can drop off your empty toner cartridge to be recycled. You can drop off cartridges from any College-owned network or local printer. Click here for the list of box locations. Contact the OIT help desk with questions.


    • Alkaline, lithium ion, ni-cad, rechargeables, and 9-volt batteries can be brought to the Paresky mailroom window, CSS in Hopkins Hall, the Facilities Services Building stockroom, and outside of Morley Science Lab M232. Before disposing of them, cover the positive and negative posts of the following batteries with masking, duct, or electrical tape.Lead-acid batteries, such as most car batteries and battery packs for emergency lighting, must be disposed of differently. Contact Heather Main for disposal.

    For more information visit the Safety & Environmental Compliance website.

    Williams' e-waste electronics are handled by Electronics Recyclers International, located in a Gardner, MA facility. Electronics Recyclers is a founding member of e-Stewards, a third party certification organization that works to ensure environmentally and socially responsible collection and processing of e-waste.

    Lead acid batteries are sent to Apkins in Adams, MA for proper recycling. Alkaline and other rechargeable batteries that go into the buckets on campus get sent to NLR (Northeast Lamp Recycling) in CT.