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Recycling FAQs

Kermit wasn’t exactly right when he said it isn’t easy being green. Thanks to students in the Global Environmental Change and Sustainability major it’s about to get a whole lot easier to be green and recycle your waste on the Homewood Campus. For their capstone project seniors Ruthie Burrows and Margaret Keener produced a short video to simplify and summarize how to sort your waste into the color coded bins on campus.

Homewood campus’ recycling rate was 35% last academic year and we are hoping to move up to 40% this year. We need everyone to pitch in and keep recyclable and compostable material out of the incinerator for our planet, our health and our reputation as a leader in sustainability!



Does the Homewood Campus have a recycling and composting program? 

Yes! The Homewood Campus has had a strong recycling program in place since 2006 and in 2010 launched a composting program. Academic buildings on the Homewood campus have a hybrid recycling program with separate paper and cardboard recycling collection in blue bins and commingled recycling (metal, plastic and glass) collection in green bins. JHU receives revenue from the paper and cardboard.

Residence halls and dining areas have a single stream recycling program (paper and cardboard can be put in commingled bins) to save space in dorms and to reduce the number of waste streams where little paper is generated.

Dining areas and some event spaces have compost collection in yellow bins for all food, soiled paper products and compostable cups, plates, and utensils. Compost bins can be requested for events. Organic materials are collected and transported to an offsite facility where they biodegrade into nutrient rich compost.

What kind of paper should I recycle and how?  

All non-food or beverage related paper should be recycled in the blue bins found on campus, either the small desk side bins or the tall “slim jims” in the public spaces on campus. This includes all copy paper (white and color), envelopes (window and overnight mailing styles are acceptable, file folders, magazines, newspapers, hard bound books, brown paper bags, post-it notes, cardboard, and paper board (cereal boxes), etc. Staples and paper clips do not need to be removed. Large cardboard boxes should be flattened with packaging materials removed and placed next to the recycling bin. 

What kind of metal, plastic and glass should I recycle and how? 

Metal such as aluminum and tin food and beverage containers including soda cans, soup cans, pie/to-go plates and foil should be recycled. Glass jars and bottles should be recycled. Rigid plastic with a #1-6 including soda bottles, milk jugs, yogurt containers, deli containers, disposable beverage cups, and soap bottles. Empty and clean containers should be placed into the green slim jims. 

What materials should be composted?

ALL food items including meat and oil products, coffee grinds, tea bags, compostable food and beverage containers (identifiable by a #7, PLA, “Eco” product, or corn symbol), food related paper products (disposable cups, plates, napkins, to-go containers), compostable utensils (off white and marked compostable), and pizza boxes should be placed into the yellow slim jims or designated compost receptacles in the dining facilities.

So what is left to go in the trash can?

Fortunately not a lot should be thrown in the trash; however, there are still some items that we do not accept for recycling or composting. They include polystyrene (a.k.a. Styrofoam), plastic grocery bags, potato chip bags, candy wrappers, condiment packets, single brew coffee cups (e.g. Keurig cups), ceramics or non-container glass.

Which color bin should I use for each type of material?

The color of a waste receptacle is important, as having contaminated contents (i.e. recyclable plastic mixed in with compostable food items) can often make the entire can ineligible for any sort of recycling.

  • Blue: Paper and cardboard (non-food or beverage related)

  • Green: Plastics (#1-6), metal, glass, etc

  • Yellow: Compostable products (including #7 plastics) only

  • Grey: All other trash

What kinds of containers are used to collect material?

Deskside bins are the standard knee-height containers at most workstations. These are typically black for trash, and blue for paper collection.

Desk Bin

The standard waste stations on campus are taller bins that are color-coded and connected with signs attached to indicate what material goes in each bin. They can be found in corridors and conference rooms. Typical three bin stations include green, blue and gray. Stations in areas with food will have green, yellow and gray. You will sometimes see a standalone blue bin in copy rooms for paper.

Busch bins / slim jims         


Toters are large, wheeled containers used  mostly for events or other areas that collect a large volume of waste.  

Brutes are large round bins used for events.

Can I compost at my catered event? 

Yes! Compost bins are currently only standard in Levering Hall event spaces but can be requested for your catered event in other rooms by filling out the Facilities Request form. You will receive a 50% discount on event support charges if you compost at your event! Having an event with both compostable and non-compostable items tends to result in high levels of contamination so it is recommended that compostbins only be requested if you or the caterer are providing only compostable serviceware or if you will have monitors at the waste stations to assist with proper segregation. Caterers on JHU’s preferred green caterer list provide compostable serviceware at no extra charge. You can find this list and more green event resources like signs and planning tips in the Green Event Planning Guide

Are there signs I can print to hang up in my workspace? 

Yes! Printable signs are available for offices (with composting / without composting), labs and residence halls.

How do I get a recycling bin for my workspace?

Simply fill out the Recycling Request form

How do I get bulk recycling picked up from my office? 

Simply fill out the Recycling Request form.

Why do the custodians mix the bags of recycling and trash in the same cart? 

You will notice that the recycle bags are clear, compost bags are green and the trash bags are black so even though the custodians some times combine them into one cart they are separated at the loading dock. When the Recycling Office collects the bags from the loading dock they know by sight which bags should be placed in the recycle, compost or trash dumpsters.

What electronic waste should I recycle and how?

All computers and computer related equipment including monitors, keyboards, mice, printers, scanners, cell phones, cords, external drives, toner cartridges, all electronics and all types of batteries can be dropped off at the Recycling Office at Wyman 3 or a request can be submitted for pick up.  

Can I recycle items from my lab?

Yes! A limited number of items are accepted for recycling from laboratory environments if they have not been exposed to biological, chemical or radiological contamination. They include all types of office paper, pipette tip racks and boxes (not tips!!), and plastic bottles which previously contained buffers or other solutions that did not include biological materials such as serum, growth factors, media supplements, etc. Labels of such bottles must be defaced or removed. Items from BSL III labs are NOT acceptable. Materials from labs must be collected within the lab and disposed of in designated bins in the hallway. You can request a recycle bin for your lab by filling out the Recycling Request form or use your own bin but it must be clearly labeled “Recycle”.

How do I get rid of unwanted furniture, equipment or supplies?  

The JHU Purchasing Office established the University Surplus Property Program - an online listing of surplus property where departments can post and search for used items for sale or exchange between departments or to the public. Homewood Recycling will pick up items by request for recycle, reuse or donation when possible or trash. Simply fill out the Recycling Request form.

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