Effective strategies for enhancing waste management at university campuses

Kianoosh Ebrahimi (Geography and Geology Department, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA)
Leslie A. North (Geography and Geology Department, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Publication date: 6 November 2017



The purpose of this study is to identify and assess the waste management strategies that should be priorities for higher education institutions. The role of policy instruments (i.e. purchasing policies and recycling initiatives) in implementing sustainable zero-waste management programs at higher education institutions was investigated through comparison of American top-level and Western Kentucky University (WKU) benchmark universities.


Waste minimization-oriented policy instruments implemented at American top-level and WKU benchmark universities were analyzed through policy evaluation techniques. Digital surveys were distributed to sustainability coordinators at WKU benchmark and top-level universities. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with survey participants.


It is important to identify well-defined temporal periods with goals and allocated tasks for direct and indirect stakeholders. Time periods should include planning for readiness programs and infrastructural needs, along with performing comprehensive waste characterization studies. As the waste program matures, the creation of integrated waste management policies with specific responsibilities for all stakeholders and departments will be required.

Research limitations/implications

The sampling of universities evaluated in this research is not representative of all universities in the USA or internationally, as they can vary widely. Yet, general waste management trends applicable to most universities can be gleaned from this research.

Practical implications

Widely varying zero-waste strategies are readily implemented at universities. A holistic review of successful waste management plans highlights key management approaches that should be included in all plans to ensure their success.


This study is one of the first of its kind to holistically evaluate policy factors influencing effective zero-waste management at higher education institutions.



Ebrahimi, K. and North, L. (2017), "Effective strategies for enhancing waste management at university campuses", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 18 No. 7, pp. 1123-1141. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-01-2016-0017

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