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How to Recycle

Most of your questions about recycling and waste reduction can be found on this website.  For building specific questions, contact your building coordinator or RA, or email

Single-Stream Recycling                                          

Find the blue bin, and put it (mostly) all in. All recycling bins on campus are single-stream.


  • Paper – all types
  • Cardboard – must be flattened, should be mostly clean, includes pizza boxes
  • Plastic – should be mostly clean, no Styrofoam or plastic bags
  • Metal – tin and aluminum

  Not Accepted

  • Glass
  • Food and food-covered items
  • Styrofoam
  • Plastic bags and wrap
  • Wrappers
  • Paper towels and tissues

Extensive List of Recyclable Items (LORI)

Recycling Tips

  • Containers containing food:  Shake it out, get it pretty clean, and recycle it.
  • Empty liquids from the container.  Bottle caps can stay on.
  • Pizza boxes are good to recycle!  Empty it out; a little grease won't hurt.
  • Coffee cups can be recycled unless your coffee cup is Styrofoam.
  • Empty boxes and bags:  These must be empty (no wrappers, packaging, etc.)
  • Break down boxes:  Otherwise two boxes take up the space of an entire recycling bin.  If there’s no room in recycling, the trash will be used.
  • Staples and paper clips:  These can stay on, but paper must be removed from plastic covers or sheets.  Envelopes, even ones with windows, are fine.
  • Plastic bags and bubbles:  These are not recyclable in single-stream.  They can be recycled at City Carton’s drop-off site on Benton and Capital.  In Cedar Rapids, at City Carton’s single-stream recycling plant, plastic bags and liners get caught in the automated sorting equipment.
  • Glass:  Glass is not accepted in single-stream bins on the UI campus.  Recycle it at City Carton’s drop-off or at City of Iowa City drop off locations.  Glass is hazardous to people hauling and sorting and to the equipment at the single-stream processing plant. 
  • Paper towels, napkins, and tissues cannot be recycled.  Office paper is highly recyclable because its fibers are long.  When paper items are recycled, their fibers get shorter and shorter.  Paper towels, napkins, and tissues have fibers too short to be recycled again.

Single-stream recycling facility

A maze of conveyer belts, sorting equipment, and hands on deck separate out recycling streams.  Check out the video of City Carton's single-stream material recovery facility in Cedar Rapids.


2007 compost pilot engineering

In 2007, the University of Iowa and the Iowa City Landfill Recycling Center began a pre-consumer food waste composting pilot through Holly Moriarty's student research project for Prof. Jerald Schnoor's class, Sustainable Systems.

Since then, composting has taken off!

  • Hillcrest and Burge Market Place:  Since 2007, pre-consumer food waste from Hillcrest and Burge dining halls has been composted with other organic waste at the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center. A pulper at the Hillcrest Marketplace installed in fall 2012 enabled post-consumer composting and saves about 1.5 million gallons of water each year and over $17,000 a year in water and detergent costs. Each week, about 2,800 pounds of food waste is collected and composted from Hillcrest.  
  • UI Hospitals and Clinics:  In March 2013, Food and Nutrition Services at University Hospitals and Clinics began composting food waste at six cafeterias. So far, approximately 1.5 tons of food waste is being diverted from the landfill each week as part of the compost program with only 9 percent of the food purchased going to the landfill.
  • Iowa Memorial Union:  The IMU composts pre-consumer food waste from the River Room Cafe.
  • Kinnick Stadium and Carver Hawkeye Arena:  Through the initiative of Aramark, pre-consumer food waste from concessions have been composted since 2012

More Recycling, Reuse, and Reduction                                      

UI Surplus

University-owned items, which includes computers, appliances, furniture, Hawkeye apparel, textbooks, ink toner cartridges, scrap metal, and more are resold, recycled, of safely disposed.  Vist the site for an online request form, hours open to the public, and Ebay site.

  • Surplus resells or recycles roughly 1 million pounds of items each year
  • Text books should be recycled through Surplus.
  • Small quantities of journals can be placed in campus recycling bins, but large quantities should be scheduled through Surplus.

UI Printing and Mailing

Recycle ink and toner cartridges through Campus Mail.  

  • Small cartridges:  Put in original packaging (or small container), place in envelope, and mail to UI Printing and Mailing Services.
  • Large cartridges:  Place in original packaging (or a fitting container), place in campus mail basket, and mail to UI Printing and Mailing Services.

Environmental Health and Safety                                      

  • Provides guidance for disposal of items classified as Universal Waste on campus, which includes the recycling of rechargeable batteries, CFLs, and ballasts.
  • Alkaline batteries are not considered universal watse and can be disposed of in the trash--switch to rechargeable!
  • Use rechargeable batteries in your office rather than alkaline.  You'll get several uses out of them, and then they can be recycled through EH&S.

Cleaning out your office

If you expect to have lots to recycle, contact your building coordinator to request an additional recycling container.  Follow the tips above to ensure you're creating a clean, non-contaminated recycling stream.

Move-Out Donation Drive

Students living in the University of Iowa residence halls reduce the amount of landfill waste by donating furniture, clothing, housewares, and other items at the Move-Out Donation Drive in May. The effort is organized by UI Housing, Goodwill of the Heartland, Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Office of Sustainability, and the City of Iowa City. Students from UI student environmental organizations help load the items on the Goodwill and ReStore trucks. The Crisis Center of Johnson County collects non-perishable food, unopened hygiene items and cleaning supplies in the lobby of each residence hall during move-out week.

Going Paperless

Electronic documents and online initiatives at the University of Iowa are trending way from apper-intensive operations.  Over a two year period, from 2009-2011, the number of pages being printed dropped 46%.  The UIHC's Electronic Patient Information (EPIC) system dropped thenumber of copies per month from 490,000 in May 2009 to 235,000 copies in March 2011.  This represents 2.7 million fewer copies a year, or 5,400 reams of paper weighing 13.5 tons.

Off Campus                                            

Apartment recycling

Any apartment, condo, or home with four or fewer units in Iowa City pays for curbside recycling.  Pick up your curbside bin if you don't have one from City Hall.

If you live a complex with more than four units, it is possible to get curbside recycling.  A pilot recently conducted by the City of Iowa City shows the minimal cost to set up.  At this point, it does require your landlord's implementation.  Learn a bit, and have a conversation.

Drop-off sites

Visit the City of Iowa City recycling page to find the City Carton drop-off site, East Side Recycling Center, and others that offer more recycling than options than the UI's single-stream program.

2nd hand and consignment directory of Iowa City and Coralville

Check out all the places for you to go for that second hand treasure.

Rummage in the Ramp

Rummage in the Ramp is an annual Iowa City-sponsored effort that began in 2007 in order to keep tons of reusable items out of the landfill and get it to those who need it when the lease changeover occurs annually at the end of July. Environmental and human services non-profit groups provide the labor and split the profits. University of Iowa students, staff and faculty are among the volunteers that make this a successful event: UI Engineers for a Sustainable World, UI Urban and Regional Planning Student Association, UI Engineers without Borders, UI Homecoming Committee. Learn more...

The Furniture Project

The Furniture Project is a program that provides good used furniture to local households in need at no cost. It is managed by the Habitat ReStore and sponsored by the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center. Placement of the furniture is made through referrals from various local human service agencies. The service area includes all of Johnson County and the communities of Kalona and Riverside. This partnership annually benefits hundreds of families in Johnson County and diverts about two tons of reusable furniture from the landfill each month. Learn more...

List of Recyclable Items

This detailed guide will give you information and some tips on how to recycle on the University of Iowa campus. See our ...

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List of Items Not Accepted

Items that do not belong in campus recycling bins at the University of Iowa These items are not accepted in the Universi...

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Recycling Optimizaton Projects

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Sustainability at Iowa

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