Any institution that produces any regulated or hazardous waste that can't simply be thrown away in the trash can needs to have a well-planned and cost-effective waste management plan. This applies to colleges and universities as well and is especially true for university teaching hospitals. From regulated healthcare waste to hazardous materials, ensure that your college is fully compliant with the law while not overpaying for waste management processes.

01   /   Identifying Waste Streams

For any college or university, planning is key to minimizing waste management costs. When making a plan, determine the waste streams your college or university produces. Make sure that all federal and state regulations are followed in regard to identification of those waste streams. This not only ensures compliance, but also reduces the risk of fines and penalties.

Be aware that if you produce hazardous waste, your waste generator category must be accurately determined and you will also need a generator ID number from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The regulations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) should be followed for any regulated medical wastes, while the EPA focuses on hazardous wastes, so both may apply based on your college or university scenario.

Colleges produce a variety of waste streams or types of waste. For the best value and convenience, the waste management company you choose should be equipped to handle all your waste. This potentially includes a variety of waste streams that include:


Medical waste, including red bag or biohazardous waste such as blood and bodily fluids, syringes, IV tubing, and so forth.


Pathological waste, especially if your college includes a veterinarian school or is a medical teaching university.


Expired chemicals and other hazardous materials from your laboratories may necessitate a company that can provide lab packs. Chemistry departments or on-site medical labs may produce flammable, toxic, corrosive, or other forms of hazardous waste that requires specific types of containers and documentation, including manifests.


Universal waste, such as batteries or light bulbs, electronic waste, used oil, anti-freeze, and so forth.

Working with one waste management company can help to reduce your costs, but that company must be qualified and permitted to handle your waste streams. Hiring more than one waste transporter or company to deal with a variety of waste streams can increase costs (and hassles) quickly.

02   /   Minimizing Waste Management Costs

Planning is essential in minimizing waste management costs. As mentioned, properly identifying your waste streams is important. Two other important ways to decrease costs include:


Segregating waste at its point of origin, using appropriate containers. For example, all potentially biohazardous waste should always be disposed of in red bags or containers. If any hazardous waste ends up in the ‘regular’ trash can, the entire trash can must be considered hazardous and handled and transported as such, increasing costs.


Separate recyclable waste from non-recyclable waste. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed at how much recyclable materials end up in landfills. (It is estimated that nearly 80% of materials buried in landfills is recyclable.) That doesn’t count recyclable waste that ends up in rivers and oceans.

Another important aspect of waste management for colleges and universities is the waste management contract or agreement.

03   /   Waste Management Contracts

A waste management contract may seem like a positive solution for colleges or universities but always carefully review the language and the limitations of that contract. While making one payment for all your waste-related needs may seem like an attractive solution, you might end up locked into a multi-year contract that ends up costing your college more than you anticipated.

Waste management contracts typically charge one (often high) monthly fee for a broad number of services – some of which you may not need every month or at all. Don't get caught with exaggerated waste management costs just because a contract seems easier to deal with. Some may offer specific collection services and containers, single-stream recycling, and solid waste collections based on volume. Some even offer composting services. Often, contracts start with a preliminary 3-year plan. Some may offer colleges a ‘move-in’ and ‘move-out’ option for recycling and waste disposal during the campus year, primarily in spring and late summer.

04   /   Waste Management Agreements

While every university and college is different—with different waste management needs—many find that service agreements are a great way to reasonably manage waste management pricing. The key is to require a specific or defined scope of work and a detailed pricing schedule. Know the frequency as well as hours of collection, and the requirements of disposal facilities based on your waste streams.

Above all, whether contract or agreement, you must comply with all applicable waste-related laws both on federal and state levels. What you end up paying in can far outweigh whatever you'd pay for solid, professional, reputable waste management services.

It is possible to receive quality services while still keeping your waste disposal costs low. For example, imagine your college needs five boxes of medical waste to be picked up from your campus every month. Calculate what your medical waste disposal costs will be in a contract versus a service agreement over one month, one year, and five years.

Note: The following is just an example and is meant for illustrative purposes only. The exact costs that might apply to any college’s waste management plan will vary.)

Waste Management Cost: One Month

      • Contract: About $400–$2,000
      • Service Agreement: About $200

Waste Management Cost: One Year

      • Contract: About $4,800–$24,000
      • Service Agreement: About $2,400

Waste Management Cost: Five Years

      • Contract: About $24,000–$120,000
      • Service Agreement: About $12,000

Again, these are just examples, but they do represent the wide disparity that can result in choosing a contract over a service agreement. To figure out what's most financially beneficial for you, research your options based on local company pricing structures and how many waste services you need in any given month.

 Bottom line, make sure that the waste management company you choose for your college offers the services you need, when you need them. For more information about what your college should expect when it comes to a monthly waste management costs, reach out to an experienced representative of MCF Environmental Services, a waste management company that provides the waste and hazardous waste services that meet your needs.

Robert Losurdo

President, COO