Recycling and Waste Management FAQ

Within Mason’s Climate Action Plan, Mason’s goal was to increase its recycling rate to 25%. In 2015, Mason, along with 300 other signatories, signed the American Campuses Act on Climate to reduce Mason’s waste impact, and aimed to increase its recycling rate to 50% by 2018. Given the tremendous annual growth that Mason has experienced, it is a constant challenge to manage its recycling and waste.

Given the tremendous annual growth that Mason has experienced, it is a constant challenge to manage its recycling and waste. In fiscal year 2017 (July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017), Mason generated 4,000 tons of waste, 847 tons (21%) of which was recycled. Recycled materials include commingled plastics, metal, paper, cardboard, electronics, mattress, and items from Patriot Pack Out, an annual student residential move-out program. For even more specific information, please email facilq@gmu.edu and provide at least 2 weeks for us to collect detailed data.

Most areas on campus have recycling containers with multiple streams including: white paper; colored paper; and glass, cans, and plastic. In addition to these, Mason also recycles and diverts the following materials from our waste:

  • Electronic waste (E-waste), including computers, batteries, ink cartridges, and old cell phones. If Mason property, these can be submitted to surplus or placed near a recycling center for pick up.  For personal items, these can all be recycled in the E-waste collection box at the Johnson Center (JC).
  • Personal small appliances in residential halls, such as toasters and printers should be put aside inside individual trash rooms for Housing to pick up and recycled. Please do not put appliances in or near dumpsters and compactors around campus.  For questions, please contact your Residential Advisor (RA).
  • Paints, and any other chemicals, should be recycled through Mason’s Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) department.
  • Auto parts/ Tires can also be recycled through Facilities; please contact facilq@gmu.edu for information.

For a more comprehensive list of items Mason recycles, please visit the Acceptable Materials on Mason’s Facilities, Recycling website.

Single stream, or commingled, recycling is a process of collecting recyclable goods (paper, plastics, glass, etc.) into a single container. In some remote, smaller campus locations, Mason may follow that process. However, at the larger Mason campuses, Mason requires all students, faculty, and staff to sort white paper; colored paper; cardboard; and glass, cans, and plastics into separate containers. The university has a multi-stream recycling system for several reasons: the university receives revenue for clean recyclable materials where there is a market demand; it keeps contamination low; and it increases the overall environmental benefit of recycling. Mason reviews this practice on a regular basis to determine whether to change it based on environmental and market conditions.

It depends! On the Fairfax campus, Fairfax County collects both the trash and recycling and hauls it to the I-66 Transfer station located on West Ox Road. The trash is then taken to Covanta, a waste-to- energy incinerator in Lorton, while the recycling is hauled away to the Northeast Transfer Station in Washington DC by Waste Management. On the SciTech and Arlington campuses, Waste Management collects both the trash and recycling.

Mason generates revenue from certain recycled materials based on market conditions. For example, Mason received revenue from clean cardboard, white paper, glossy paper such as event programs, and metals at this time.

Currently, our campus is doing large-scale composting at Southside Dining Hall and The Globe. All food waste from these locations go to a composting facility in Prince George’s County in Maryland. Mason is currently exploring composting in other dining halls on Fairfax and other remote campuses.

Additionally, our campus gardens at the Innovation Food Forest and Potomac Heights Vegetable Garden collect individual, small-scale composting. For more information, please view the composting FAQ in Gardens and Landscape.

Thank you for your interest! Currently there are recycling containers in most common area spaces, interior and exterior, on Mason’s campuses but we are trying to constantly add more. The recycling containers are strategically placed in common areas outside of the classrooms. Please send your idea along with any available details such as a design, funding in place, timeline, and/or maintenance plan to facilq@gmu.edu.

Please contact Facilities customer service at 703-993-2525 if there are any immediate concerns regarding waste and recycling.