What Can I Recycle at CWRU?

There is a difference between what can be recycled and what is recyclable. In order for items to be recycled, we need the processes and infrastructure in place to allow waste to be washed, broken down and then reconstructed. Different institutions, cities, counties, and states recycle different commodities.

Recycling is largely affected by market demands and placing items that should not be in the recycling bin degrades the value of the commodity. We encourage you to know now how to recycle right at CWRU to help increase the value of recycling and therefore strengthening recycling markets locally and worldwide.

During 2018, China drastically limited the materials they would accept from foreign countries for recycling, effectively eliminating the ability for the US to send contaminated and undesirable materials for processing. As a result we all need to be more diligent and to recycle right and not “wish-cycle” (or put items we wish we could recycle into the bin!).

navy blue and white sign with instructions on what can and can not be recycled on campus

The only plastics we accept in our recycling stream in Northeast Ohio are plastic bottles and jugs. The focus has shifted from the chasing arrow symbol on the bottom of products (which indicates the plastic composition of the item, not its ability to be recycled), to the size and shape of the item. We no longer can recycle plastic tubs or containers. Recycle only plastic bottles and jugs including:

  • drink bottles (replace the lid!)

  • shampoo and conditioner bottles

  • condiment bottles

  • soap bottles
  • laundry detergent jugs

  • Triple-rinsed plastic bottles from labs

    DO NOT INCLUDE: Solo cups, yogurt tubs, butter tubs, take-out containers, plastic cutlery, straws, plastic pipettes, tip boxes, film plastics such as grocery, Ziploc bags, bread bags, or bubble wrap, and polystyrene (Styrofoam).  Film plastics such as plastic bags can be recycled at many stores locally but not on campus.

Metal containers including:

  • Soup cans (include the lids!) 
  • Vegetable cans 
  • Aluminum cans (pop cans)
  • Aluminum foil (balled)
  • Aluminum catering pans (as clean as possible)

Scrap metal, such as old equipment, shelving, and any other pieces of metal larger than food cans, can often be recycled through Facilities Services by making a special request for a pick-up in schooldude.  

Glass containers with the lid left on to maintain integrity including:

  • Bottles
  • Jars 

DO NOT INCLUDE: Drinking glasses, window glass, lab glass (beakers, flasks, slides, petri dishes, etc.), Pyrex, Ceramics (dishes) or any broken glass.

If your lab has a large volume of lab glass to recycle please contact us to see if we can facilitate a special collection. 

All paper that tears, including:

  • White and colored copy paper
  • Notebook paper (spirals OK!)
  • Envelopes (with or without windows)
  • Post-It notes
  • Magazines, newspaper inserts, catalogs and publications
  • Newspapers
  • Paperboard/ Boxboard/ Chipboard – the material most cereal, crackers, shoes, and many other materials are packaged in
  • Folders, hanging or manila
  • Toilet paper and paper towel rolls
  • Workbooks
  • Hardcover and softcover books
  • Coffee cup sleeves only (not the cup!)

DO NOT INCLUDE: used tissue or paper towels, paper coffee cups, waxed paper or any paper with a lot of foil decorations.

Corrugated cardboard, commonly recognized by its brown color and wavy inner layer, and used primarily in shipping boxes. This also includes most pizza boxes, so long as they are free of food (this means crusts!) and not excessively greasy or cheesy. Corrugated cardboard boxes should be broken down by the user and placed beside or between recycling and landfill bins in common areas on campus.

E-Waste is defined as any discarded or unwanted electronic devices, working or broken, and their peripheral items. Here are some common examples of e-waste that we are able to recycle with partner RET3: 

  • Monitors (CRT or LCD)
  • Computers (desktop or laptop)
  • Docking stations
  • Floppy drives
  • DVD/CD burners
  • Circuit Boards
  • Scanners
  • Printers
  • Copiers
  • Mice, Keyboards, speakers
  • Cables, wires, cords
  • Digital Cameras
  • Cell Phones
  • VCRs
  • DVD players
  • VHS tapes, CDs, DVDS, floppy disks
  • Link to e-waste recycling pick-up request form

Universal wastes are generally waste that are regulated by the government in their disposal because of their hazardous components. CWRU accepts and responsibly disposes of many forms of universal waste, including batteries and light bulbs.

If you collect batteries in your department, please submit a request for pick-up to schooldude once your container is full. Alkaline batteries (AAs, AAAs, Cs, Ds) should be thrown away in a landfill container. All other batteries, including lithium ion, rechargeable, cadmium nickel, etc., should be saved for recycling.

If you use compact fluorescent light bulbs in your work area or lab, or come across fluorescent light tubes in your workspace, please also submit a request to schooldude for a pick-up. These bulbs contain mercury and should not be placed into a landfill bin for disposal.

CWRU contracts with Office Depot to supply office supplies. Office Depot accepts used printer toner cartridges for recycling. Please collect your used printer toner cartridges until your next Office Depot delivery.  Let your Office Depot delivery driver know that you have printer or toner cartridges to recycle, and they will take it from there.  

Office Depot will accept any brand of toner cartridge for recycling, regardless of where it was purchased.  

With our 1300+ labs on campus, we sometimes come across unusual items for a workplace that need to be disposed of. We are able to help facilitate the recycling of some of these items that are best kept out of a landfill, such as tires, motor oil, or paint. If your lab or department needs to dispose of these types of items, please submit a request to schooldude, and we'll be in touch.  

How and Where Do I Recycle?

How and where you recycle at CWRU depends on your location on campus. Whether you are in an office, a classroom, or your residence hall suite, there is a way to recycle! We can also give you advice on how to recycle if you're a student living off-campus!

Students living on campus are each provided with a small desk-side blue recycling bin. This bin is intended to be used by students to collect recyclable materials in their room. Students are expected to empty their own personal recycling bin into community bins for each stream: plastic, metal & glass, paper, or corrugated cardboard. The community bins will be located either in a common area within a suite (1st and 2nd year residence halls) or within a hallway (The Village at 115). The common area bins will be emptied by custodial staff as needed.

Students living in the Village at 115 are expected to empty the bins within their suites into common bins in or near recycling rooms within each Village House. 

  • Plastic, metal & glass (PMG) containers should be empty of food and liquid and rinsed if a sink is available. If a sink is not available, scrape any remaining food out of the container into a landfill bin, and recycle the container. If there is liquid left in your bottle that you can't finish, make sure the cap stays on the bottle! 
  • Paper should be clean and dry, and free from food contamination.  
  • Corrugated cardboard (shipping) boxes should be broken down flat and placed beside or between recycling bins in the hallway for collection, not in paper carts. Pizza boxes can be recycled with cardboard, but only if they are free of food, cheese, and excessive grease.  

Students are able to recycle other items not accepted in the regular streams at Wade or Fribley commons, in bins that are serviced by the Student Sustainability Council:

  • small printer toner cartridges
  • small e-waste items
  • batteries

While on campus, students, staff and faculty will find recycling bins for each stream, (PMG and paper) near landfill cans throughout the halls of academic and administrative buildings.  

Staff and faculty members should each have a small desk-side blue recycle bin to collect paper, plastic, metal, and glass in their office.  Employees are expected to empty their personal recycle bins into the community bins in the hallway or suite.  

  • Plastic, metal & glass containers should be empty of food and liquids. Residue should be rinsed, if possible. Clean recycling makes the process healthier for recycling workers at all stages of the recycling process. If it is impossible to rinse food residue, plastic, metal & glass containers can still be scraped free of food and placed into the PMG bin. If liquid remains in a bottle, ensure the cap is tight.
  • Paper should be clean and dry. Do NOT recycle paper plates or cups or boxes that are contaminated with food waste.  
  • Corrugated cardboard boxes should be broken down by the user and placed beside or between recycling and landfill bins. Pizza boxes can be placed between bins also, but only if they are free of food, cheese, and excessive grease.  

PMG bins will be emptied on an as-needed basis.  Paper rollcarts are removed and emptied on a weekly schedule. Roll carts may be missing from their location for up to 24 hours while they are being emptied. If you have a PMG or paper bin that needs to be serviced more often or are missing for a length of time, please contact us!  

Staff and faculty should have a deskside recycling bin in their office to collect recyclable items. Staff and faculty are responsible for emptying personal recycling bins within their offices into the appropriate bins in hallways and suites for paper and plastic, metal & glass.

Custodians will continue to empty personal garbage cans from offices on a weekly schedule. Corrugated cardboard boxes should be broken down and placed between recycling bins in hallways or suites.

If your office or suite does not have suitable recycling bins, please contact us to request additional bins.

CWRU has a wonderful partnership with a local non-profit called RET3 to recycle our campus e-waste.  

RET3 will come to your office to collect computers, printers, monitors, and all other peripherals. RET3 refurbishes usable computers for other local non-profits and schools, and deconstructs the remaining items for recycling, which funds their mission.  RET3 uses BLANCCO, the same program used by the Department of Defense, to wipe clean all hard drives before processing.  CWRU [U]Tech also provides a media sanitization protocol to clean your hard drive before recycling.  

Once your office or department is ready for a pick-up, submit a request for a pick-up.  Someone from RET3 will contact you to schedule a mutually agreeable time on a Thursday when RET3 is on campus.  

Recycling e-waste is FREE on campus with the exception of televisions.  RET3 will accept televisions for recycling but must charge a nominal fee of $10.00 - $30.00 to cover the cost of handling the hazardous materials responsibly.  

While students are unable to request pick-ups from RET3 at this time, they can take their small e-waste items (cell phones, headphones, MP3 players, etc.) to collection locations at Wade and Fribley Commons.  Students are also able to put any unwanted e-waste items, working or broken, into REScycle boxes at the end of the semester for reuse or recycling.  

Students living off-campus may be able to recycle their household materials curbside through their city’s waste management. Each municipality has individual guidelines for recycling.  For those living in ClevelandCleveland Heights or East Cleveland, recycling can be picked up curbside by the city along with weekly garbage service. 

If you are living in an apartment, you may have a separate vendor servicing your apartment building. To find out how to recycle at your apartment, you can call 216.619.7300 in Cleveland Heights, or ask your building manager.

The City of Cleveland's recycling program is being redesigned as an opt in program, visit the cities Website or Sustainable Cleveland's site for more information.  

Faculty and staff working at locations off-campus should contact us for assistance in determining the availability of recycling for their location.

CWRU has over 30 Bigbelly Solar trash compactors with recycling sidecars spread throughout campus. The trash compactors help CWRU save money and resources by compacting waste and enabling bags to be changed less often!

The recycling sidecars allow for outdoor recycling of the same Plastic, Metal & Glass streams that are collected in buildings.

There is not currently any recycling infrastructure on the grounds of CWRU for the collection of paper. Please recycle all paper you have within the buildings of CWRU.

RecycleMania - now named Race to Zero Waste

Each year, CWRU participates in Race to Zero Waste, an 8-week recycling competition during February and March between colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada. This is an opportunity to benchmark how much our university recycles, and how much goes to the landfill. Through the competition, we hope to raise awareness on recycling practices on campus, boost excitement about recycling by engaging the campus community in a friendly rivalry, and reduce the overall climate impact of our university.

To learn more about the program and our efforts, check out the contest website and follow us on social media. 


Why Do We Recycle?

By recycling, we are reducing the impact of waste disposal on the climate. When waste is disposed of in a landfill, it releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas and the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the U.S. from human activities. Emissions from landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions in the United States. Keeping items that are able to be recycled out of the landfills reduces unnecessary methane emissions. And of course everything we need and want must be created from the resources available on this planet. Many of these resources are finite and cannot be replenished fast enough, if at all, to keep up with our current demand for goods. By recycling everything you can, you are helping to conserve these resources and ensure that we are making the most of the things that are already in the system.