[Skip to Content]

Solid Waste

Return to Laboratory

Design Guidance

Overall Strategies

Cafeterias generate a large amount of waste from a variety of sources: food preparation, product containers, cleaning supplies, able scraps and waste, and exces prepared foods. Waste sorting containers should be provided at tray return locations and at each exit from the cafeteria for patrons, as well as in food preparation areas for staff. At a minimum, bins should be provided for comingled recycling (glass, plastic, and metal), compost, and trash in all locations. Additional containers for paper waste and corrugated cardboard can be provided in food preparation areas.


Composting is the collection of organic food waste that can be used for fertilizer or soil enrichment once the food items biodegrade. Many types of food can be composted - fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, and certain grain products all will decompose naturally. Compost should be gathered from open containers daily to prevent unwanted odors and then placed in an air-tight container.

Once decomposed, the compost material can be used on site to fertilize landscapes and gardens. By keeping the material on site, the user eliminates fuel needs and costs for trucking the compost off site.

Best Practices

  • Most cafeteria waste can either be recycled or composted. Composting diverts waste from landfills and creates a nutrient-rich soil amendment.
  • Avoid disposable service items that do not decompose and that are derived from petroleum products. Plates, cups, and cutlery can be made from plant-based starches, bamboo, or composite materials (such as a mix of plant starches and inorganic binders) that can be disposed of with food waste and turned into compost.
  • Equipment that pulps and dehydrates organic waste onsite into a compostable material can save space, reduce the frequency of trash pickup (as few as once every 2-3 weeks), and save money.
  • Consider white boards or tack surfaces in lieu of printing signs that change regularly. When printed materials must be used, consider materials that are reusable or recyclable.
  • Return containers and packaging materials to vendors for reuse. Support vendors who will do this and specify their collection in procurement contracts. If vendors to not accept returns, specify packaging that must be recyclable.
  • Make recycling easy by providing adequate space for multiple waste streams that are common in labs. These might include a space for broken glass, batteries, e-waste, sharps, paper, and other recyclable items.
  • Designate a storage area for bulky packaging material, including Styrofoam peanuts, which can be reused or stored until pick-up.
  • Designate in-hallway and loading dock spaces for recyclable items such as flattened cardboard and foam coolers.
  • Send unwanted lab equipment and furniture to a central surplus department – or create an equipment exchange – where it can be redistributed, donated, or recycled. Use the exchange before purchasing new equipment.
  • Centralize storage and/or tracking system for chemicals and materials and check inventories before ordering new supplies.
  • Adopt and train lab users in Green Chemistry principles, such as reducing the creation of waste during laboratory operations and substituting nonhazardous or less hazardous chemicals in chemical procedures.
  • Order supplies that come with the least amount of packaging or recyclable packaging. Specify reduced packaging when placing orders.
  • Use a standardized labeling system for chemicals and hazardous materials, including expiration dates.
  • Use reusable laboratory supplies, such as glass pipettes, instead of plastic disposable items whenever possible. Even when disposal items are used, take advantage of hand washing, solvent rinsing, or autoclaving to clean and reuse.
  • Review EPA guidance and checklist for evaluating the regulatory status of materials that would, under usual circumstances, be commercial chemical products (CCPs).

Compare Solid Waste Options

EB = Existing BuildingsNC = New Construction and Major Renovation

Federal Requirements

Guiding Principles

  • Solid Waste Management ( <span>Guiding Principles criteria 5.6</span>)
    Section: <span>Guiding Principle 5:&nbsp; Reduce the Environmental Impact of Materials</span>

    “Reduce waste disposed of in landfills and incineration facilities by recovering, reusing, and recycling materials. Provide in building design, construction, renovation, and operation for the collection and storage of recyclable materials, including, as appropriate, compostable materials. Maintain a waste reduction and recycling program, and maximize waste diversion to the extent practicable. Pursue cost-effective waste minimization during the construction and renovation phase of the building, and maximize reuse or recycling of building materials, products, and supplies.”

    EPA | Waste Management Hierarchy.opens in new window
    Whole Building Design Guide | Construction Waste Managementnon government site opens in new window
    2018 IgCC Section 901non government site opens in new window