Self-Service Waste

As of February 2024, the self-service rollout has been completed, with double and triple stations being rolled out across our campus. Nearly 3,000 individual desk-side trash cans were collected with an estimated savings of 775,170 individual can liners annually. Thank you for doing your part to contribute to well-being and sustainability at UMB.

Background & Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

UMB’s Office of Sustainability and Environmental Services (EVS) are rolling out a new system for waste collection across campus. Custodial technicians from EVS will collect trash, cardboard & paper recycling, and mixed plastics, metal, & glass recycling from conveniently located common receptacles. Offices will operate under a “self-service waste removal model.” Faculty and staff will be responsible for bringing their office waste to the larger, conveniently located common receptacles.

Below are FAQs related to locations that are using the self-service waste removal model.

Why are there centralized waste stations instead of desk-side bins? 

Research has shown that centralized waste stations help to decrease waste stream contamination (i.e. placing a particular material into the wrong bin, such as a paper towel in the recycling stream) by encouraging people to use clearly labeled, centralized bins in lieu of individual desk-side bins. This system encourages practices that can lead to healthier workplaces and generate waste materials that can be recycled and reprocessed rather than landfilled or incinerated. See this Media Lab study that reduced contamination by using centralized waste stations.

In order to increase the amount of time EVS staff can dedicate to cleaning and sanitizing common spaces, and also to eliminate potential waste sorting errors, staff are asked to manage their own desk-side waste. Also, you can think of walking to throw away your trash or recycling as a chance to exercise and move around! Finally, not purchasing large numbers of plastic trash liners means less non-recyclable plastic film waste sent to the incinerator.

Special exceptions for desk-side waste bins may be made for staff who cannot leave their posts (ex. security guards) and staff with accessibility/mobility issues.

How are the bins set up under a centralized, self-service waste removal model? 

Common Spaces will be supported by either a triple bin station comprised of Slim Jims or ErgoCans (see Waste Signage and Bin Station Types section below for photos). The Slim Jim stations will have corresponding signage above the bins, while the ErgoCans will have signage on the bins themselves.

To reduce confusion on campus, bins will be appropriately color coded, lined, and in the same order from Left to Right. EVS Staff will be trained on proper collection and replenishment of liners.

  • Blue bin for plastics, metal, and glass recycling
    • with blue liner
  • Blue bin for paper and clean cardboard recycling
    • no liner
  • Grey bin for all other trash/incineration
    • with clear liner

Where will the bins be placed in my building? 

The waste locations will vary by building and floor based on space usage, setup and layout, and a number of other factors. Generally speaking, the waste stations will be placed in common areas like hallways, lobbies, kitchen/break areas, and large conference room/lounge areas.

After deploying the waste stations, the self-service project team will check back in with the building's EVS staff and building management in the following weeks and months to make any necessary modifications to the program and troubleshoot any issues that have arisen that were not originally anticipated.

Why is UMB implementing this program? 

A self-service waste model aligns with UMB’s Core Values:

Respect and Integrity

We value each other and hold ourselves accountable for acting ethically and transparently using compassion and empathy.

  • Respecting all of our UMB staff members and their time.
  • Holding ourselves accountable for the waste we generate on campus—the more awareness around the trash individuals generate, the more likely we will look for opportunities to reduce that waste through thoughtful procurement practices and habit changes.

Well-Being and Sustainability

We care about the welfare of our people, planet, communities, and University.

  • Protecting the health of our custodial staff and office staff by reducing the number of touch points EVS staff encounter.
  • Encouraging healthy habits by having occupants take a quick break to stand and walk to a central location from their office to dispose of waste.
  • Reducing pest issues—fewer locations create fewer hotspots for rodents, fruit flies, ants, and other pests.
  • Reducing our waste—fewer liners for individual trash bins mean less non-recyclable plastic film waste sent to the incinerator.

Equity and Justice

We embrace and are committed to diversity, and we value inclusive and just communities. We oppose racism and oppression in all its forms.

  • Understanding we have a role in how our waste gets disposed of--this is everyone's job.
  • Reducing the amount of trash we send to the incinerator, which is an environmental justice concern—incineration is attributed to air pollution and other public health concerns that disproportionately affect lower-income Baltimore City communities.

Innovation and Discovery

We imagine and explore new and improved ways to accomplish our mission of education, research, clinical care, and service.

  • Committing above and beyond our waste reduction efforts on campus by looking at waste in a holistic way.
  • Creating efficiencies in our waste disposal methods to ensure our buildings are run smoothly and UMB custodial staff can use their time effectively.

How does this program benefit me? 

As a building occupant, self-service will provide the following benefits:

  • Fewer smells at your desk
  • Less potential for pests at your desk
  • Encouraging healthy habits by taking a quick break to stand and walk to a central location

How will this program impact EVS staff? 

It has been estimated that custodial staff spends over a quarter of their time removing waste from individual offices. This program helps increase the amount of time that EVS staff can dedicate to their other tasks, like cleaning and sanitizing common spaces. Furthermore, the reduction in overall number of bins enables safer occupational health for EVS staff who need to bend less frequently to collect material from desk-side bins. Finally, this model makes it easier for custodial staff to cover absences and vacancies in their areas.

What can I recycle? 

In the Paper/Cardboard Bins

  • Office paper
  • Computer printouts
  • Books (including paperbacks, textbooks, and hardbacks)
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines and catalogs
  • Envelopes
  • Hot beverage sleeves
  • Brown paper bags
  • Flattened cardboard and paperboard boxes
    • Please put these items BESIDE/BEHIND the bins due to their large size
    • If you need a box cutter to be able to break down your boxes more easily, please contact

In the Mixed Plastics, Metal, and Glass Bins

  • Rigid plastics (including jugs, bottles, and tubs)
  • Aluminum cans
  • Clean aluminum foil
  • Tin cans
  • Steel containers
  • Glass bottles (unbroken)
  • Milk and juice cartons

Commonly Confused Items that Belong in the Trash

  • Styrofoam
  • Plastic wrap, plastic grocery bags, and Ziploc bags
  • Chip bags and candy wrappers
  • Condiment packs
  • Pizza boxes with grease-soaked cardboard
  • Anything with food or beverage in it – these items must be emptied and cleaned
  • Plastic straws and utensils
  • Disposable hot coffee cups
  • Tissues, paper towels, and napkins
  • Aerosol cans
  • Packing peanuts and bubble wrap
  • Batteries – these can be recycled through specialty recycling/chemical waste pickup
  • Receipts

Do I need to rinse out bottles, jars, and other containers before recycling them? 

While containers don’t need to be spotless, they must be free from large amounts of residue. It’s a good idea to give containers a quick rinse if possible before recycling.

Why do I see EVS staff put the recycling and trash in the same cart/tote? 

Rather than having EVS staff carry multiple bins around the building as they collect waste, they have one cart/tote. Trash goes in a clear bag; mixed plastics, metal, and glass are in a blue bag; and paper and cardboard are kept loose. The cart/tote is taken to the loading dock, where the different streams are separated out for collection by UMB’s waste hauler. This is why ensuring that our recycling stream is as clean and accurate as possible is so important!

Where does our waste go once it leaves these bins? 

All major campus waste streams are collected from bins by UMB’s EVS custodial staff and taken to each building’s loading dock/collection area.

Paper/Cardboard: Paper and cardboard are picked up by the EVS Moving and Recycling team and taken to the new Recycling Center on Saratoga Street. These materials are then picked up by Georgetown Paper Stock for processing.

Mixed Plastics, Metal, & Glass Recycling: Our mixed recycling is picked up by the EVS Moving and Recycling team and consolidated into an open-top container. This container is then emptied by our hauler Goode Companies Inc. and sent to one of two locations for processing: World Recycling in Baltimore or Olive Street Processing in Capitol Heights, MD.

Trash: Trash from UMB is collected by Goode Companies Inc. and incinerated at Wheelabrator Baltimore.

Why do I see a blue bag in the trash stream on the loading dock? 

If EVS staff see that a blue bag is too contaminated with food, liquid, or other non-recyclable materials, they may have to dispose of a blue bag as trash to prevent contamination further down the line with UMB’s waste hauler at the materials recovery facility (MRF).

What are UMB’s goals surrounding waste minimization and sustainability? 

In our Sustainability Strategic Plan, our waste goals are to:

  • Promote source reduction, reuse, and recycling + composting across UMB's campus.
    • Reduce overall waste disposal at UMB by 10% by 2025.
    • Increase UMB’s recycling rate to 35% by 2025.
    • Expand opportunities for composting on campus.

What if I want to keep my personal bin? 

The goal of the program is to eliminate personal desk-side bins to decrease waste stream contamination and increase diversion of materials from the incineration stream. If an exception is made and you choose to keep a personal desk-side bin, you are responsible for emptying its contents in the appropriate bins located at the common receptacle stations. EVS custodial staff will not come around to empty your personal bin or provide liners for your bin. You are responsible for keeping your bin clean and free of residue.

What if I am hosting an event or cleaning out my space and need additional bins? 

If you are hosting an event and expect higher volumes of waste than normal that will require additional bins, you can place a work order through Environmental Services under "Special Events."

If you are cleaning out your space and expect higher volumes of waste than normal that will require additional bins, you can place a work order through Environmental Services under "Bulk Disposal and Recycling."

What if I have additional questions, comments, or other feedback throughout the process? 

Feel free to reach out to us at and we will do our best to answer your question or address your concern!