Race to Zero Waste – One Building Challenge

The Race to Zero Waste – One Building Challenge category is designed to help schools focus and test their zero waste efforts on one building and compare their results to other campuses; Chosen buildings must be at least 10,000 sq. ft.. During this competition participating schools will track all sources of their waste generation during a four-week period during February and March.  Schools will be compared based on who disposes the least amount of material as trash, as well as the diversion rate for the building. This category is open to all schools, but specifically designed for those with mature waste reduction programs interested to focus on advanced recovery efforts.


  • Offer alternative Campus Race to Zero Waste competition benchmarking opportunities based on a more comprehensive view of the waste stream and using higher measurement standards.
  • Opportunity for schools to test or showcase new waste reduction initiatives or education / outreach efforts, and in the process “prove the concept” that can serve as model for rest of campus to follow.

Competition Details

  • Schools designate a single campus building to track waste generation; building must be at least 10,000 sq. ft..
  • Weigh all sources of MSW-related waste disposed during a four-week period, including: trash, recycling, organics and materials collected for reuse.
    • Unlike the traditional eight-week competition which focuses exclusively on paper, cardboard, cans and bottles and food organics, all recovered MSW-related materials are included.
    • Construction and demolition, hazardous, medical or other waste materials not typically disposed as municipal solid waste should be excluded.
  • For this category, accurate weights for all trash and recovered materials are desired. Volume-to-weight estimates are acceptable; Documentation may be requested during review of final results.
  • The four weeks of tracking should take place during one continuous time period when the building is in normal use. If spring break or another occasion with reduced usage falls during this period, simply skip that period and resume tracking when the building returns to normal usage.
  • Complete a waste audit from the building on at least one occasion during the four-week period. Schools are not required to use a specific audit methodology, however, the data reported should be based on the following:
    • Sampling of all sources of MSW waste material discarded throughout the entire building during the same time period within the designated four-week window.
    • Include weight-based quantities for:
      • Recyclables, organics, other recoverable materials properly discarded in recycling / composting bins or otherwise “recovered”.
      • Trash or other contaminant materials improperly discarded in recycling or composting bins.
      • Recyclables, organics, other recoverable materials improperly disposed in trash bins.
      • Non-recoverable trash items properly disposed in trash bins.
  • Schools will fill out a report in ReTRAC following the four-week period to provide the following information:
    • Amount of usable square footage and a general description of designated building. Useable square footage excludes any part of the building that isn’t used regularly, and isn’t producing any waste. For example, large storage areas of the building that aren’t being used on a regular basis.
    • Total weight collected of discarded materials:
      • Recyclables
      • Trash sent to landfill / waste to energy
      • Food or other organic material diverted for compost or recovery.
      • Reusable
    • Composition information from waste audit


Except where noted, campus buildings will be recognized at the end of the Campus Race to Zero Waste competition in early April as follows:

Competition ranking:

An official ranking with a national winner with all building types grouped together. Ranking will be based on calculation:  Lowest total waste generation per 1,000 sq ft of usable space (trash + recycling, organics, reusables) for four-week period. 

How to Participate

Schools should indicate their intention to participate on the same “Profile Information Form” they used to register for the overall Campus Race to Zero Waste competition. Following the four week tracking period, they will submit a special reporting form that will be available from this page in the near future.


  • Q: Does material sent to an incinerator or energy recovery facility count as trash?
  • A: Yes, waste material disposed through incineration or energy recovery are counted as trash.


  • Q: What does “MSW” mean? Do we count construction, hazardous waste, etc.?
  • A: MSW refers to the US EPA’s definition of municipal solid waste, basically any material that can legally be disposed in a landfill.  While incidental amounts of construction-related wood, metal, etc. may be counted as an MSW, for the purposes of the pilot category schools should not count or report weights for construction or demolition waste, hazardous materials, medical or other wastes that are generally excluded from MSW landfills.


  • Q: Can we count office paper file clear out or other materials purged as part of a special event?
  • A: No.  Because the pilot Race to Zero Waste category is focused on demonstrating a school’s systematic efforts to reduce and recover waste, and given the results are dependent on a narrow snapshot of a building’s waste generation, the reported data should exclude paper or other materials that would not otherwise be discarded during the four-week window. Schools are encouraged to use their good-faith judgement to exclude data that distorts a fair representation of waste generation during normal during operations.    


  • Q: When does the four week tracking period begin and end?
  • A: Schools can designate a start and stop date that works best for them as long as it falls entirely within the January to March timeframe of the Campus Race to Zero Waste competition. Schools will need to be able to report their complete results by the same early-April deadline for overall competition results.


  • Q: Is this a certification program?
  • A: No. The Campus Race to Zero Waste competition does not certify or provide special recognition beyond publicizing the results and designating a winner as described above. School interested in formal certification for zero waste efforts should the program offered by the US Zero Waste Business Council.