What items can I recycle?

With Campus Race to Zero Waste upon us, there are many ways to contribute to our reduction of our waste management. From organic waste, to repurposing materials, these competition weeks it would be beneficial to find out how to support this goal to zero waste with our best effort. In celebration of the promotional campaign, I would like to give a crash course on what CANNOT recycle in order to prevent contamination. For full information on recycling at the University of Rochester, please see the recycling webpages.

What NOT to recycle

Plastics can be a big part of the contamination problem and it is important to know that just because it is plastic with a recycling symbol, does not mean it is recyclable. In Monroe County, only plastic bottles, jugs jars and tubs are acceptable. That means that plastics in all other shapes and forms are not acceptable, including plastic cups, utensils, clamshells, straws, produce containers, etc. In order to avoid contaminating the recycling bin, do not recycle grocery bags. These bags are recycling machines’ worst enemies as they get stuck on equipment and can even damage them. The Recycling Technology Center in Washington even mentions that operators have to pause operations every two hours in order to get rid of bags. Similarly, bubble wrap should not be recycled as it can get stuck; furthermore, try using less bubble wrap as it is light-weighted and thus is more likely to end up in the ocean (if you like using bubble wrap to relieve stress, buy a pop-it instead!). Styrofoam should also never be recycled as the polystyrene used for foam is not biodegradable.

Used napkins, paper cups, and paper plates are not recyclable as the contact with food and greases make it hard to clean and recycle; however if you have clean products like these you can recycle them!

Lastly, medical waste, electronics, hoses, ceramics, dishes, or glassware are not recyclable! 


Remember, if you have doubts, throw it out and look up whether they are recyclable so you will know in the future!


Written by Lugardo Marroquin ‘24