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Northwestern University

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 Julie Cahillane at or call 847-467-1374. 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.


The Office of Research Safety (ORS) handles all battery waste, including lead-acid (automotive), mercury, lithium containing, alkaline (ordinary household), and rechargeable batteries. Batteries can be taken to Gwen Sullivan at the Technological Institute NG-71. ORS offers collection boxes for workspaces that must be picked up and returned to ORS.

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)

Light bulbs (CFLs and other fluorescents)

Plastic bags

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 sustainability@northwestern.eduor 847-467-1374 for assistance with recycling scrap metal or construction and demolition materials. 

For more information

Contact sustainNU at or 847-467-1374 for more information.
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