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Cornell University

Recycle How To's

    What can I Recycle at Home?

    What can I Compost in my Dining Hall?

    What about Waste in my Lab?

    What can I Recycle on the Cornell campus?

    Everyday items:

    IN ONE BIN: PAPER, CARDBOARD, TIN, GLASS, and PLASTIC:

    • Paper and Cardboard: White paper, colored paper, newspapers (glossy inserts are OK), magazines, junk mail, phone directories, soft-covered books, spiral notebooks, paper envelopes (window inserts are OK), catalogs, manila folders, legal pads, index and greeting cards, pamphlets, brown paper bags, wrapping paper, Post-It notes, hard cover books (in small quantities), boxboard. (thin cardboard such as cereal boxes, and tissue boxes), corrugated cardboard (please flatten). Please note all of the above items can be recycled in the blue “desk side” recycling bins and public area recycle bins; staples and paper clips need not be removed when recycling any of the above.
    • Glass: Clear, green, and brown glass that has no visible food residue can be recycled in the blue “desk side” recycling bins and public area recycle bins.
      • Pyrex Glass cannot be recycled
      • Pesticide and other hazardous material containers cannot be recycled
    • Tin: Metal cans, aluminum foil wrap and pans, and empty “household aerosol cans” (such as hairspray and whipped-cream containers that are sold in grocery stores) can be recycled in the blue “desk side” recycling bins and public area recycle bins.
    • Plastic: Plastic items labeled #1, #2 & #5 can be recycled in the blue “desk side” recycling bins and public area recycle bins.
    • Important Single-stream recycle restrictions:
      • Materials must be free of any visible food residue (ie: pizza boxes with grease, soda bottles that are not rinsed, etc. cannot be recycled)
      • Items must be larger than 2” x 2” in size (smaller items such as plastic flatware or unattached bottle caps) are too small for the recycle sorting equipment.
      • Styrofoam is not accepted for recycling.
      • Plastic, glass, and metal items larger than a 5 gallon bucket should not be placed in a recycle bin or dumpster. Should you have a large item to recycle please contact your building coordinator, or call R5 Operations at 254-1666, for assistance
      • Aerosol cans CANNOT be included in single stream. If the can is completely empty, and there is no pressure in the can, and there is no propellant in the can, and the nozzle is still attached it may then be recycled as scrap metal by R5 Operations. If the can does not meet these requirements it needs to be collected as Hazardous Waste by Environmental Health and Safety.
        • Exception - Household Aerosol cans (such as hairspray and whipped-cream containers that are sold in grocery stores) are accepted in single stream recycling. 
      • IMPORTANT! All regulations for Hazardous Waste must be followed! Learn more at Cornell's Environmental Health & Safety's Hazardous Materials and Waste webpage.
    • Shredding for confidential papers and/or Reel to Reel Tape (ex. VHS tapes, etc.): R5 Operations does not offer a confidential document destruction service for papers or reel to reel tapes. The Procurement Department's website provides contact information on the University's approved shredding vendor. Note! Shredded paper is recycled.
    • Batteries: The following batteries are recycled through R5 Operations: lead acid (required by state regulation), nickel cadmium (required by federal regulation), lithium oxide and lithium ion (required by federal regulation), mercury (required by federal regulation) and alkaline.
      • Battery bins have lids which must remain closed.
      • All batteries must either: 1. Be individually wrapped in a plastic bag, or 2. Have their terminal ends covered with tape. These actions prevent batteries from having contact with other batteries, which can result in generation of heat leading to a fire.
      • Used Batteries are a "Universal Waste" which is a type of waste with specific regulations. Cornell University may only collect Universal Wastes which are Cornell generated… Cornell cannot accept batteries from home.
      • Battery collection bins are located in the following locations: Day Hall mailroom, S.T. Olin stock room, Boyce Thompson Institute mailroom, Clark Hall machine shop, Humphreys Service Building vending area, Vet Medical Center recycle room, Maplewood Community Center.
      • Battery's can also be recycled in the battery recycling bin found in many mailrooms/campus mail pickup locations on campus.
    • Toner and Toner Cartridges: Many toner cartridges can be mailed to the manufacturer for recycling when empty by using the cartridges original box. Toner and cartridges without a return label can be sent to R5 Operations for recycling through. To send toners to R5 Operations arrange a pickup by calling 607-254-1666, or leave toners with the red battery/CD/toner recycling bin found in many mailrooms/Campus Mail pickup locations on campus.
    • CD’s: CD’ can be recycled along with Electronics, or mailed via Campus Mail to R5 Operations at: Cornell Recycle Center, 251 Solidago Road, Cornell University. 
    • Light Bulbs: On the Cornell Campus, non-broken used light bulbs are a Universal Waste, and broken light bulbs are a hazardous waste. On the Cornell campus used and broken bulbs may only be handled by trained staff. If you have a light bulb in your work area that needs recycling contact your Building Manager or Building Care staff. Those staff are trained in bulb recycling. All bulbs are collected, and recycled through the R5 Operations department.
    • Transparencies: Transparencies cannot be recycled. 

    Special pickup items (to arrange a collection point and/or pickup call R5 Operations at 4-1666, or email recycle@cornell.edu):

    • Plastic Bags and other “Film” Plastic: “Film” materials which include plastic bags that are clear or “light in color”, plastic shipping wrap, zip lock bags, etc. is recyclable. However, the recycling processes for this material does not allow for any contamination such as cellophane, water, food residue, salt residue, wood dust, grocery receipts, dark colors such as red, black, etc. (even if the dark colors are only used for lettering or images). Contamination, even if very small, in a load of “film” to a recycle facility results in the full load being rejected and landfilled. As such R5 Operations collects plastic film from controlled locations where material collection is carefully monitored. The best way for staff, faculty, and students to recycle plastic grocery shopping bags is to take them to the grocery store where they were purchased. 

    • Computers and Electronic Equipment: Monitors, CPUs and hard drives, keyboards, circuit boards, cables, mice, printers, copiers, microwave ovens, televisions, cell phones, fax machines, power cords, extension cords, power strips, answering machines, fax machines, typewriters, pagers, cameras, VCR/DVD players, CD's, remote controls, and radios/stereos/tapes/records/8 track tape players. Read more at CIT's IT Security Office, Best Practices for Media Destruction webpage.

      • Small electronics such as phones, laptop computers, mice, keyboards, etc. may be placed in the electronics recycle bin located in Barton Hall next to the west entrance of the Cornell Police Department. Items may NOT be left outside of the recycle bin.
    • Oil: R5 Operations accepts nonhazardous used oil for recycling. We must be able to confirm through experience or testing that the oil is nonhazardous. Please call 607-254-1666 for information or to arrange a pickup. Please note: oil containing equipment must have oil drained prior to pickup.
    • Scrap Metal: Cornell departments are welcome to drop off scrap metal at the Cornell Recycle Center at 321 Solidago Rd. between 7:30 AM and 4:00 PM, Monday through Friday. Please call 607-254-1666 for information or to arrange a pickup.  Please note: oil containing equipment must have oil drained prior to pickup.
    • Surplus Furniture: Click here to learn about material reuse at Cornell.
    • Broken/Unusable Furniture: R5 Operations will assist in disposing of large, unwanted, or broken items. Fees do apply for materials land filled. For assistance with building clean outs or larger items, please call 607-254-1666.
    • Tires: Cornell departments are welcome to drop off waste tires at the Cornell Recycle Center at 251 Solidago Road between 7:30 AM and 4:00 PM, Monday through Friday. For departments requiring assistance with large amounts of tires, please contact R5 Operations at 607-254-1666.
    • Refrigerated Appliances: Federal regulations require special handling of appliances containing refrigerants. These include, but are not limited to, freezers, refrigerators, drinking fountains, air conditioners, air dryers, dehumidifiers, and scientific equipment (such as ultra-low freezers, refrigerated centrifuges, etc.). Recycling these items at Cornell is mandatory and is free of charge to Cornell departments.
      • Refrigerated appliance disposal program checklist:
        • Ensure all appliances containing refrigerants have disposal advisor labels. If you need additional labels contact your facility coordinator.
        • Remove all materials, such as scientific equipment, samples, food, etc. from inside the appliance.

        • Clean the inside of the appliance prior to requesting removal from the facility.
        • If the appliance contained laboratory materials, decontaminate the appliance according to laboratory protocols and any applicable permit or campus protocols, such as those in the radiation safety manual found at http://ehs.cornell.edu/
        • When disposing of an appliance complete a "Small Appliance Disposal Record" form. Forms can be requested by emailing recycle@cornell.edu, or obtain one from your facility coordinator. Obtain the name and signature of the person who accepts the appliance for disposal; the record must be retained for five years. 
        • When purchasing new appliances always ask the supplier if they can remove the old appliance. If possible, obtain a signature on the Disposal Record Sheet.
        • To arrange a pickup of a refrigerated item call 607-254-1666. Refrigerated items may also be dropped off at R5 Operations facility Monday through Friday between 7:30 AM and 4:00 PM. Please see a staff member upon arrival for assistance.

    What can I recycle at home?

    Residents of Tompkins County can find detailed information on residential recycling from the Tompkins County Recycling and Solid Waste Center.

    I have electronic scrap at home. Where can I recycle it?

    Check out The Cornell Store's Tech Connect Trade-in Program. The program allows you to trade in your personal used or broken electronic devices and get a Cornell Store gift card. Not all electronics are accepted in the program; please check the website for details.

    Electronics in good working order can be donated to Fingerlakes ReUse.

    Residents of Tompkins County can recycle electronics at Tompkins County’s Recycling and Solid Waste Center.

    What about Waste in my Lab?

    Don't see a recycle bin in your lab? There are good reasons why. All recycling leaving the Cornell campus is hand sorted, and waste material from labs must be properly handled. For more information on handling lab waste visit Cornell's Environmental Health & Safety's Hazardous Materials and Waste webpage.