Recycling is an integral piece of UW–Madison’s sustainability efforts. F0llowing correct recycling practices helps to divert 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.
If you’re looking for compost guidelines, please visit our dedicated composting page.
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.
Campus Recycling Guidelines
Cans, Glass, Plastic
Plastics #1-7, aluminum and steel cans, glass bottles and jars. Leave lids on. Plastic shopping bags may be recycled if they are clean, dry, and bundled together to approximately the size of a basketball. All items can be placed in the same bin.
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.
Plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and single and/or dirty plastic bags.
Newspaper, magazines, cardboard, colored or lined paper, sticky notes, paper bags
Cups, waxy paper, greasy cardboard, or photo paper
White copy and printer paper (whole or shredded), envelopes
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 Styrofoam Reuse and Recycling page for more information and collection sites.
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.
Chemicals, hazardous materials, lab waste
Large electronic items
The Division of Information Technology (DoIT) accepts some larger personal electronics for secure recycling, including computers, monitors, and printers. Read how DoIT recommends you recycle these larger electronics.
Batteries and small electronic items
Many small electronic waste (e-waste) items and batteries can be disposed of in the recycling towers on campus. Acceptable items include CDs/DVDs, hard drives, flash drives, mp3 players, cameras, handheld games, cords, and cables. (For lead acid batteries, visit the recyclopedia webpage.) For information on tape-based media like VHS tapes, see this page. Many of the e-waste towers also include slots for eyeglasses and printer cartridges. See map below for dropoff locations.
Cell phone recycling is available at towers in Union South and in the 333 East Campus Mall lobby. Be sure to completely wipe your cell phone before disposal for security purposes.
Map of e-waste locations