Recycling FAQ

General | Requests and suggestions | How to recycle specific items | Off-campus recycling | Ask a new question


    1. Is recycling mandatory at SU? Yes. The University complies with the Onondaga County Source Separation Law. Learn more about this law here  (pdf, 32 KB).
    2. Do I have to separate my recyclables on campus? No, you can mix them all together.  Items you can recycle:
      • Corrugated cardboard and pizza boxes (please flatten and stack next to waste container)
      • Paper, including softcover books, and paperboard
      • Plastic #1 and #2, bottles and jugs only, #5 tub containers such as yogurt cups and butter tubs
      • Tin, steel, and aluminum food and beverage cans, plus aluminum foil
      • Glass bottles and jars
      • Gable-topped cartons (such as orange juice cartons) and aseptic containers (such as soy milk and juice boxes)
      • Check out this handy Syracuse University Recycling Guide
    3. What happens to the campus recyclables? Items discarded in campus recycling bins go to the Syracuse Haulers Waste Removal, Inc. facility in Syracuse, about 3 miles away. Here, the items are processed and prepared for sale to manufacturers who can use the materials in new products.
    4. What happens to the campus trash? Trash from the SU campus goes to the Onondaga County Waste-to-Energy Facility in Jamesville, NY, about 5 miles away. Learn more about this facility at Your trash makes electricity.
    5. I have seen University custodians dumping both trash and recyclables into one container. What’s going on? Some custodians use one container with two bags inside. To clarify the collection procedure in your area, contact the Physical Plant.
    6. What is the University’s recycling rate? It is currently calculated at 47% for basic mandatory recyclables (paper, cardboard, and cans/bottles). The University also recycles specialized items—including batteries, electronics, polystyrene cold shipping boxes,  fluorescent light bulbs, scrap metal, compostable yard waste, and construction debris—which are not reflected in this rate.
    7. Do SU dining centers compost food waste? Yes. The dining centers compost pre- and post-consumer waste. For more information
    8. Is the University planning to add recycling receptacles outdoors and in parking garages? The University has added an additional six outdoor recycling containers.
    9. Why do I see mattresses in campus trash dumpsters? They are too damaged to be reused. The University donates most of its old mattresses to charitable organizations. A relatively small number of mattresses go into the trash because they are too damaged to be suitable for donation. In 2008, the University donated roughly 500 mattresses and discarded about 100. Back to Top

Requests and Suggestions

    1. How do I report a problem with a University recycling receptacle (damaged, missing, etc.)? Students: Contact FixIt at 443-4948 for receptacles in residence units. Alternately, complete an online service request here Employees: Work with the office manager or administrative assistant in your department to contact the Physical Plant.
    2. How do I get recycling instructions to post? You are encouraged to download, print and post any of the following recycling instructions that best meet your needs:
      • Brochure
      • 11″ x 17″ Mixed Recyclables (pdf, 319 KB) — arrow pointing down
      • 11″ x 17″Trash (pdf, 1.3 MB) — arrow pointing down
      • How do I request temporary recycling containers for a special event or office clean-out? Contact the Physical Plant that provides service to the building or area. For outdoor events, contact the Physical Plant at 443-1234.
    3. Note about office clean-outs: If large amounts of confidential paperwork will be discarded, the department should contact Materials Distribution at 315.443.3172 to arrange for mass shredding. This shredded paper is also recycled. Guidelines for purging office files is here.
    4. Who do I call with general recycling questions or ideas for the campus program? Contact the SU Sustainability Division at 315-443-9820 or  Back to Top

How to Recycle Specific Items

    1. How do I recycle batteries on campus? Students: Drop them in the battery collection bucket in the main desk area of your residence hall. You can also find collection buckets in classroom buildings. Employees: There should be at least one battery collection bucket per floor of your building. Buckets are often located near hallway recycling receptacles. If there is no bucket on your floor, call Environmental Health and Safety Services (EHHS) at 443-6545. For more information on the recycling of batteries on campus, click here.
    2. How do I recycle empty printer/copier cartridges? SU offices:
      • If your vendor offers a mail-back program for empty cartridges, save the original carton and use the shipping label provided inside to return the cartridge to the vendor.
      • Materials Distribution accepts cartridges of any type, regardless of whether or not they are purchased on campus. Call Materials Distribution at 315.443.3172 to arrange a pickup for your ink cartridge.
    3. Student, personal, or home equipment:
      • The University Bookstore offers a Device Trade-In Program where students can sell their old equipment for bookstore credit. Learn more here.
      • Some manufacturers, such as HP and Lexmark, offer free mail-back programs for empty cartridges. Check your packaging or the manufacturer’s web site for information.
      • Staples accepts all brands of ink and laser toner cartridges and offers an exchange-by-mail service.
      • OfficeMax accepts HP, Lexmark, and Dell brand ink and toner cartridges.
    4. How do I recycle electronic equipment owned by the University? :
      • Contact your department’s ITS representative to set up a pick-up.
    5. How do I recycle aerosol cans?
      • Containing non-hazardous content: empty cans containing non-hazardous materials, such as hair spray, whipped cream, shaving cream, sun screen, and cooking oil spray, can be placed in your blue bin for recycling. If the can still contains material, please either donate the remaining to someone who may be in need or spray the content into a garbage bag.
      • Containing hazardous content: These items should NOT go in the trash or blue bin. OCRRA accepts these items during Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Offs. You must make a reservation in advance. While OCRRA provides this service for free, in reality, it costs about $50 per vehicle, to safely manage these materials!

Note: Equipment must be data-sanitized (hard drive wiped) by an information technology support person prior to sale or transfer. For more information, see the University policy on Data Removal from Computers and Portable Electronic Devices at

Student, personal or home equipment: 

      • Donate your cell phone
        • Donate cell phone to help domestic violence at HopeLine from Verizon
        • Cell Phones for Soldiers collects phones for the benefit of U.S. troops.
        • Most major phone companies offer take-back programs—check the web or your local phone store.
      • Other recycling/disposal options for electronics
        • Rescue Mission and Salvation Army accept donations of usable, reasonably modern computers and other electronics (no monitors at Salvation Army).
        • A growing number of manufacturers, including Dell and Apple, offer take-back programs.
        • Best Buy accepts most electronics, with a few exceptions, at no charge.
        • Staples accepts common office technology products at no cost to you.
        • Newtech Recycling on Hiawatha Place in Syracuse accepts Sony® items for free and other brands for varying fees (call 463-1112).
        • OCRRA’s resource page for recycling electronics.


      • Protect your identity and private information—erase data from your equipment before you donate or recycle it.
      • Learn more about e-waste:
      • Reuse or recycle—don’t trash:
        • Computers, monitors, keyboards, printers, mice
        • Cell phones
        • TVs, DVD players, VCRs
        • MP3 players
        • PDAs
        • Digital cameras
        • Video cameras
        • Copiers, fax machines
        • Video game consoles
        • Audio and stereo equipment
        • Peripherals, such as chargers, for any of these items
        • Microwaves
        • Other similar items
  • How do I recycle CDs and DVDs? SU officesBack Thru the Future is a company currently used by at least one SU office. You can mail an unlimited number of CDs/DVDs for free recycling (you pay postage). The CDs are shredded prior to recycling to ensure the physical destruction of sensitive data. To use this company, place the CDs/DVDs loose (no jewel cases, booklets, or packaging of any kind) in a box labeled “Free CD Recycling” and ship to:  Back Thru the Future Technology Disposal 150 Main Street Ogdensburg, NJ 07439. Note: Booklets can be recycled with regular office paper. Jewel cases can be reused for new CDs.Student, personal, or home CDs/DVDs:   Sell used CDs and DVDs at The Sound Garden (Armory Square).  Try to give away what you cannot sell. Recycle by mail at Back Thru the Future, CD Recycling Center of America, or GreenDisk.
  • How do I responsibly dispose of unwanted kitchen appliances? SU departments:
      • Clean appliances in good working condition: Contact the Purchasing Department’s Excess Property Manager at 443-2288 to discuss selling your refrigerator, microwave, or other unwanted items through the Excess Property Disposal Program
      • Microwave that is unsuitable for sale/reuse: Contact Excess Property (see above) to recycle through the University’s e-waste disposal contract.
      • Refrigerator or freezer that is unsuitable for sale/reuse: Contact the Physical Plant to schedule a work order. An HVAC person will then remove/reclaim refrigerants; the remaining metal will be recycled as scrap. To satisfy EPA requirements for safe disposal of refrigerant-containing equipment, Physical Plant will complete an Intact Equipment Disposal form. This form documents the fact that the refrigerant has been removed.

Student, personal, or home appliances:

      • Donate items in good working condition:
        • SU’s Ten Tons of Love is scheduled at then end of each semester.
        • Salvation Army accepts small appliances, such as coffee makers and toaster ovens (no microwaves).
        • The Syracuse Habitat for Humanity ReStore accepts microwaves and large appliances, such as refrigerators, stoves, and dishwashers. Items must be clean and no more than 10 years old.
      • Dispose of items that cannot be donated:
        • Deliver large or small appliances to OCRRA’s Rock Cut Road Transfer Station. You will pay an extra fee for microwaves and items with refrigerants.
        • Have any items you cannot deliver yourself picked up, for a fee, by CSG (East Syracuse, 315-433-5032) or Charette Brothers (Syracuse, 315-469-1663).
  • How do I dispose of fats, oils and grease (F.O.G.) generated from cooking? Don’t wash F.O.G. down the drain with hot water! F.O.G. can block sewer lines and lead to raw sewage back ups, which may harm your health and the environment. Instead…
      • Collect F.O.G. in a metal can or glass jar (empty coffee can, pickle jar, etc.) with a lid. Use a strainer to catch and dispose of any leftover food. When the container is full, simply toss it in the trash.
      • Need more information? For questions about FOG, contact the Onondaga County Department of Water Environment Pollution & Prevention Program at (315) 435-2260.
  • How do I recycle compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)? On campus—students and employees: Call the Environmental Health Office at 443-9132 (Hazardous Waste Operations Manager) or 443-4132 (main desk) to arrange a waste pickup. Off campus OCRRA has several disposal options, review here.
  • What to do if a CFL or fluorescent tube light bulb breaks in your home?
  • How do I recycle books? Recycle softcover books such as paperbacks, phone books, manuals, workbooks, notebooks, etc. in both on-campus recycling receptacles and off-campus “blue bins.” Remove any spiral, wire or plastic binding. NO hardcover books accepted. Here are some options for donating or reusing old books:
      • Textbooks: The Syracuse University Bookstore will buy back many texts, regardless of where they were purchased. For more information, see
      • Hard and softcover books: Donate books in good condition to a local nonprofit, such as a hospital or nursing home, the Salvation Army, or a library planning a book sale. It is a good idea to call first and clarify what the organization can accept, and when. Note that many organizations do not want textbooks.
  • When I recycle paper, do I have to remove staples and paper clips? No. However, paper clips are reusable, so you will conserve more resources by removing them.
  • Can I compost the food waste from my office break room? Yes. If everyone in your department or work area agrees, you can set up a small indoor worm bin. This type of composting is called vermicomposting. It is also well-suited to homes and kids’ science classrooms. A special type of worm can transform the food garbage into a soil amendment that can be used as a mulch or fertilizer for plants. For more information, see:  A Guide to Office Composting
  • How do I recycle athletic shoes?
    • Usable shoes can be donated to:
      • Community donation box in Archbold Gymnasium
      • Rescue Mission or Salvation Army
      • Periodic shoe drives at local shoe stores, schools, and places of worship—for example, The Finish Line on Erie Boulevard has participated in the Soles for Souls program (
    • Truly worn out (not usable) shoes can be recycled through the Nike Reuse-a-Shoe program ( This program grinds up old shoes and makes them into athletic surfaces, like tracks and tennis courts. It accepts all brands of shoes. There is a drop-off location at The Nike Factory Store at the Waterloo Outlets, 655 Route 318, Suite 13, Waterloo, NY 13165,
  • I want to donate my car to a not for profit, do you know how?
    • Wheels for Wishes is a car donation program benefiting Make-A-Wish Central New York, (, this is a tax-exempt charity under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code. Your generous gift will  help grant the wishes of local children with life threatening medical conditions between the ages of 2 ½ and 18. For immediate scheduling of your donation, please call 1-877-690-9474 (WISH).
    • Give2Kids, New York- Help kids with cancer, in New York, through your car donation, ( The Give2Kids (American Children’s Cancer Association) mission is to educate the public on childhood cancer prevention (through lifestyle, diet, environmental improvements, etc.) and to assist families who have kids with cancer learn about, and find, the most effective, safest treatments.

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Off-Campus Recycling

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Contact the Sustainability Division at 443-9820 or