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What You Can Recycle at Northwestern

Blue bins are provided for recycling paper, cardboard, cans, plastic, and glass. Other items such as electronics are collected separately for proper recycling. Items that can be recycled at Northwestern include: 

Recycling bins

Recycling bins are provided for recycling paper, cardboard, cans, glass, and plastic. Please do not use them for garbage. Refer to the information below for what can be recycled in these bins, or download a summary here. If you need recycling bins, bin labels, or a dumpster, email For a trash can, contact your department office. The following items can be placed in campus recycling bins.

Metal, glass and plastic

Aluminum and steel cans
Aluminum foil and trays
Glass bottles and jars
Plastic containers #1 - #5 (e.g. bottles, jugs, yogurt cups/tubs, 6-pack rings)

Paper and cardboard

Office paper
Brochures and flyers
Magazines and catalogs
Junk mail
Paperback books
Paper bags
Paperboard (e.g. cereal boxes)
Drink boxes, milk or juice cartons

Landfill (not recyclable)

The following items cannot be recycled and should be placed in trash cans, not recycling bins.

Paper towels, napkins, tissues
Paper cups
Greasy or dirty cardboard or paper
Food wrappers
Plastic bags and film
#6 plastic (Styrofoam)
#7 plastic
Any plastic not marked with a number
Drinking glasses
Laminated paper/stickers
Green hanging file folders

Other recycling

Refer to the resources below for proper recycling of other items such as electronics, light bulbs, and scrap metal.


Research Safety (RS) handles all battery waste, including lead-acid (automotive), mercury, lithium containing, alkaline (ordinary household), and rechargeable batteries. Batteries can be taken to the Research Safety office in Chicago (345 E Superior St., Suite 1522) or Evanston (Tech NG-71). RS offers collection boxes for workspaces that must be picked up and returned to one of these locations.

Computer and electronics (e-waste)

Copier cartridges

All Copier Management Program Vendors offer programs to return used toner cartridges free of charge. Visit the Copier Management Program website for more information about how to contact your vendor about cartridge recycling.

Ink cartridges (ink jet and laser printers)

  • Staff: Laser and ink jet cartridges can be recycled on the Evanston and Chicago campuses through Northwestern's preferred vendor, Office Depot Office Max. Office Depot offers free cartridge recycling boxes (SKU 650988), which can be ordered on iBuyNU. Each box holds 12-15 laser and ink cartridges and comes prepared with a shipping label. Fill up the cartridge recycling box, tape it up, and bring it to the nearest mailroom for shipment. For questions contact sustainNU .
  • Students: Please contact contact sustainNU for options.

Light bulbs (CFLs and other fluorescents)

  • Staff: Light bulbs are replaced by custodians and electricians who collect them for proper handling. If you have a spent lamp, please contact Facilities Management.
  • Students: Place light bulbs in a sealed bag and give them to Housekeeping staff for proper disposal.

Plastic bags

  • Staff: Place plastic bags in the bin on the ground floor of Norris, near the elevator during the academic year. 
  • Students: Place plastic bags in the bin on the ground floor of Norris, near the elevator during the academic year.
  • The Associated Student Government Sustainability Committee collects the bags for recycling during the academic year. Alternatively bags can be taken to most grocery stores for recycling.

Refrigerators and coolant

Freon or coolant must be removed from any item before disposal. Contact Facilities Management Customer Service to arrange for coolant removal service. Refrigerators and freezers can then be recycled through scrap metal or electronic waste collections.

Scrap metal and construction and demolition materials

Facilities Management maintains a central scrap metal recycling dumpster to collect metals including steel, stainless steel, aluminum, and others. This includes unusable bookcases, shelves, bikes, desks, and racks. If you have a significant quantity, a metal recycling dumpster may be delivered to your location. Items must be safe to dispose and any coolant or other hazardous materials must be removed before recycling. Wood, drywall, pallets, concrete, glass, and other demolition type waste can be recycled in designated dumpster loads. 

Contact sustainNU at  for assistance with recycling scrap metal or construction and demolition materials. 

For more information

Contact sustainNU at for more information.