Recycling is an integral piece of UW–Madison’s sustainability efforts. Following correct recycling practices diverts usable materials away from the landfill, reduces environmental impact, saves money on landfill tipping fees, and generates revenue for the university. The campus recycling program is managed by the Waste and Recycling group in Facilities Planning & Management.
SINGLE VS MULTI-STREAM
The UW–Madison recycling program is separate from the city of Madison and has some important differences. UW–Madison uses a multi-stream system that requires users to sort materials (plastic, glass, metal, paper, and cardboard) into different recycling bins. On campus, office paper and mixed paper are collected separately from plastics, glass, and metals. If paper and plastic are mixed, the recycling is considered contaminated and may not be processed.
This is different from many local municipalities, including the city of Madison, which use a single-stream recycling system where materials are collected in a single recycling bin and sorted at a processing plant.
Recycling bins are found throughout the UW–Madison campus buildings and grounds. While the appearance and labeling of individual bins may vary, the types of material collected are the same:
Cans, Glass, Plastic (commingled/same bin): Plastics #1-7, aluminum and steel cans, glass bottles and jars. Leave lids on.
NOT accepted: plastic wrap, bags, or foil
Mixed Paper: Newspaper, magazines, cardboard, colored or lined paper, sticky notes, paper bags
NOT accepted: cups, waxy paper, greasy cardboard, or photo paper
Office Paper: White copy and printer paper (whole or shredded), envelopes
All materials should be clean. Even small amounts of food or liquid can contaminate an entire load of recycling! Please rinse or wipe out containers before recycling.
Unsure how to dispose of unusual or potentially toxic items, such as appliances, paint, or pharmaceuticals? Visit this page for directions.
Expanded polystyrene foam (Styrofoam): Initiated by the Boxable project, Facilities Planning & Management collects foam shipping containers and large packing material (such as those that come around TVs, computers, and other electronics) for recycling. See the Boxable page for more information and collection sites.
Medications: UWPD has a MedDrop collection box at their headquarters at 1429 Monroe St. Most prescription and over-the-counter medications are accepted for proper disposal.
Clothing and Shoes: Clothing and shoes in good shape can be donated at the bin outside College Library or at one of the many resale stores in Madison. Shoes can also be donated at the Natatorium and the SERF – ask the front desk for drop-off locations. Some stores, including St. Vincent de Paul locations, will also accept worn-out clothing and textiles for recycling.
E-Waste and Batteries: Electronic waste (e-waste) and batteries can be disposed of in the recycling towers on campus. Acceptable items include CDs/DVDs, tape-based media, hard drives, flash drives, mp3 players, cameras, handheld games, cords, and cables. Many of the towers also include slots for eyeglasses and printer cartridges. See map below for locations.
The Division of Information Technology (DoIT) also accepts some personal electronics for recycling.
Learn more about campus waste and recycling:
- Video: What happens to the parts of a disposable coffee cup?
- Infographic: Journey of Recycling
- Infographic: Journey of Trash
- Make recycling easier with these printable signs for labeling bins
- Contact our Office of Sustainability Waste Team with questions or to set up a consultation
For recycling in University Housing residence halls, see the Housing recycling guide.
For more information about composting on campus, visit our composting page.