Waste Reduction

Repurposing, reducing, and properly disposing of waste makes a powerful and positive impact on the natural environment and the communities in which we live. At Mills, we are committed to moving toward a zero-waste campus.

What We're Doing

The Zero Waste International Alliance defines zero waste as the elimination of all discharges to land, water, or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal, or plant health. To work towards achieving this goal, Mills has prioritized the following activities for reducing, reusing, recycling, and rotting (composting) materials.

Re-Use Depot

If a Mills community member no longer has a use for a gently used item such as clothes, shoes, school supplies, accessories, or kitchenware, that person can drop them off at the Re-Use Depot. Others can stop by and “shop” for free! Items that are not accepted include: undergarments, broken electronics, broken appliances, batteries, and anything that is torn, ripped, or stained. Books can be donated/taken for free from the Free Book Room at the Office of Learning, Advising, and Balance (The LAB) in Carnegie Hall, first floor.

The Re-Use Depot is run by a student Re-Use Depot manager and student volunteers. Volunteering requires one to two hours a week to open the space, process donations, and help shoppers. Email oaklandsustainability@northeastern.edu if you're interested in volunteering.

The Re-Use Depot is next to the Mary Morse laundry room (view the campus sustainability map). For the most recent open hours schedule, check the Re-Use Depot’s Facebook page.

Reusables Drive

During the move-out process at the end of the year, the Reusables Drive provides an on-campus opportunity for students to donate the items they do not need, directing them toward the Re-Use Depot or local charities. If you are a local program or charity and would like to provide a needs list, please email oaklandsustainability@northeastern.edu.


RecycleMania is a friendly 8-week nationwide competition among hundreds of campuses to see which schools reduce, recycle, and compost the most. Mills participates in RecycleMania annually and promotes waste reduction through competitions between members of the Mills community and other educational activities. View the rankings for the National RecycleMania Competition.

What You Can Do

Sort your discards!

Here are recycling signs that you can print and post in your space:
Recycle signageCompost signageLandfill signage

Sorting waste at Mills

student with 3 waste bins


  • Most paper: newspaper, magazines, construction paper, printer paper
  • Cardboard: shipping boxes, cereal boxes, egg cartons, shoe boxes
  • Glass: bottles, jars
  • Plastics #1-6: bottles, yogurt containers, milk jugs, detergent bottles
  • Aluminum, steel, and tin: soup cans, soda cans, broken metal water bottles


  • Food scraps: fruit peels, coffee grounds/filters,
  • Dirty paper/cardboard: paper towels, napkins, paper plates/cups, pizza boxes
  • Plant material: dead plants, leaves, sticks
  • Uncoated, untreated wood: stir sticks, wood without paint or nails
  • Bioplastics: look like plastic but either say "compostable" or "PLA"

Landfill (or find reuse for):

  • Anything that can't be recycled or composted.
  • Plastic film: plastic bags, plastic food wrapping
  • Materials with different layers that can't be separated (e.g. plastic and paper layers): soy milk, juice and soup boxes. and mailing envelopes lined with bubble wrap
  • Film wrappers: wrappers for candy, chips, granola bars, etc.
  • Latex: gloves, balloons
  • Animal waste: diapers, pet waste

Electronics Recycling

These are materials that have hazardous components that require special disposal procedures. Please do not throw these items in the landfill, recycling, compost, or Re-Use Depot bins. For some materials, it is actually prohibited by California law to do so. Please follow the below guidelines for proper disposal of these materials.

If your department does not have an e-waste collection program, Sage Hall has two small, yellow e-waste collection boxes. If your item doesn’t fit in the box, please take it directly to Lucie Stern 21 during regular business hours. This collection site is meant for small items.

Items accepted in the Sage Hall First Box, IT:

  • Small inkjet cartridges
  • Computer parts
  • Power strips, wires of various types
  • iPods, tablets, cell phones
  • VHS tapes, CDs, DVDs

Items accepted in the Sage Hall Second Box, Facilities:

  • CFL bulbs
  • Batteries
  • Fluorescent tubes

These items must be contained in a small plastic bag, as per Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.

For items that do not fit in Sage Hall Box, IT, such as:

  • Mills-owned computer monitors
  • Hard drives and servers
  • Printers, copiers, fax machines
  • Large toner or inkjet cartridges
  • Stereo equipment, VCRs, DVD players, television sets

You can take these items directly to Lucie Stern 21 during regular business hours, or you can schedule a pickup by contacting the Information Technology Helpdesk at 510.430.2005 or help@northeastern.edu.

Please note that large items not accepted for disposal at the Sage Hall e-waste collection site include appliances such as microwaves, refrigerators, fans, blenders, etc. Microwaves and refrigerators cannot be disposed of on campus. Please visit www.stopwaste.org for resources.

Thank you for contributing to the responsible handling of toxics and helping to prevent contamination of our natural resources and our neighbors. If you have questions, feel free to contact:

Information Technology Helpdesk