Skip to main content

UNC-Chapel Hill has a robust recycling program with recycling collection available in each building on campus and paired with each trash container outside. The University composts behind the scenes at all major dining locations. The University also collects and recycles many hard to recycle items. See below for more information about how to recycle at Carolina.

What Goes in the Bins?

You may have heard recycling is in need of cleaning up. That’s why here at Carolina we are focused on Recycling Right. To do that we must prevent contamination of recycling and be sure to only put recyclable materials into collection bins.

Recycle Right at Carolina

A recent recycling audit revealed that the most common recycling contaminates are cups, to-go containers, plastic bags and food. To clean up recycling at Carolina, keep these materials out of recycling bins.

Recyclable plastic, metal and glass bottles and containersBottles, cans, jugs and other similarly shaped containers can be placed in campus “Bottles and Cans” bins. Items should be empty and rinsed, and crushed when possible to save space. Recyclables should not be bagged and should be placed loose in collection bins.

Plastic:

  • Plastic bottles, tubs, jugs and jars
  • Lids are accepted
  • No pumps

Glass:

  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Remove lids

Metal:

  • All aluminum and steel cans

Do NOT place plastic to-go containers, plastic bags, cups, lids or straws in campus “Bottles and Cans” bins.

Recyclable paper productsPaper products can be placed in campus “Mixed Paper” bins. Paper should be dry, and size matters — no paper smaller than a business card! Mixed paper includes:

  • Printer and office paper
  • Cartons
  • Junk mail
  • Newspaper
  • Magazines and journals
  • Softcover books
  • Blueprints
  • Carbonless (NCR) forms
  • Post-it notes
  • Manila folders
  • Envelopes (plastic windows okay)
  • Paperboard boxes (such as cereal and frozen food boxes)

Do NOT place food wrappers or food-contaminated paper, paper cups, waxy paper, photographs, carbon paper, binder clips, rubber bands or tape in Mixed Paper bins. Paper clips and staples are okay.

When in doubt, throw it out

Poster
“Know Your No’s” Recycling Poster

When non-recyclable items get into recycling bins, it makes recycling much more expensive and hazardous for the workers who sort the recyclables at the Material Recovery Facility. To prevent contamination of recycling, DO NOT put these items in recycling bins:

  • Bagged recyclables (keep recyclables loose)
  • Tanglers: cords, hoses, wires, or other items that will tangle in the machinery
  • Small or shredded paper and packaging
  • Cups, lids or straws
  • Styrofoam
  • Paper towels or napkins (compost instead)
  • Household or car batteries
  • Scrap metal
  • Pumps or tubes
  • Plastic wraps, pillows or bags
  • Textiles
  • Household glass, mirrors or ceramics
  • Aerosol cans
  • Food waste
  • Hazardous or medical waste
  • Receipts
To be considered empty, an aerosol can must contain NO propellant and NO product, and must be at atmospheric pressure. UNC regulates all partially empty spray cans as Hazardous Waste because they may still contain ignitable propellants, chlorinated solvents, flammable material, or toxic substances.

Correct

  • Request a pick-up of your aerosol cans by filling out the appropriate form.
  • Contact the UNC EHS at 919-962-5723 for assistance with disposal of aerosol cans.
  • Store Aerosol cans in a Closed container labeled as “Aerosol Cans”.
  • Return spray cans that malfunction (for example, the tip breaks off) to the manufacturer or dispose of them as Hazardous Waste.
  • Establish a distribution control system to limit aerosol cleaner use.
  • Consider phasing out the use of spray cans containing hazardous chemicals in your shop.
  • Consider using refillable containers that use compressed air as the propellant.

Incorrect

  • Do Not discard partially empty spray cans in the trash.
  • Do Not puncture any aerosol cans.
  • Do Not spray aerosols in/around other solvents or parts washers. Hazardous Waste contamination may result.
  • Do Not purchase products that contain chlorofluorocarbons or hazardous chemicals.
Battery recycling here at UNC-CH can include many types of batteries. The two main types are the kind used in vehicles or those used in personal items (i.e. flashlights, remotes, personal electronics). Auto batteries are recycled through the University’s Service Stations, when a vehicle is serviced for repairs or regular maintenance.

Non-automotive batteries include the A, AA, AAA, C, and D type and “Ni Cad” batteries, those used in cell phones. All these batteries can be recycled. Environment, Health and Safety has a environmental specialist who can help to recycle all these batteries. Recent Dept. of Transportation regulations require all batteries to have their ends or terminals taped or capped prior to transport. Separate them out by type and keep the lid closed unless you are adding batteries.

NiCad, Alkaline, and cell phone batteries may be recycled at the Student Union. Battery recycling bins are located in the main lobby (next to Alpine Bagel) and in the basement study area.

You may request a pickup or set up collection containers online if you are registered with EHS for chemical pickups, or call Environment, Health, and Safety at 919-962-5507.

If you are not registered with EHS, visit this website, and follow these instructions:

  1. Enter the user information towards the top
  2. For Contents: check “solid”
  3. Where there is a space for Chemical: enter Batteries and 100 in the percent box next to it, fill in the Container Size, Weight and Type sections and also # of containers.
  4. In the Notes: section write “please bring a replacement container”
  5. Then click submit

Residence halls should have battery recycling containers in their area offices for residents. There are battery recycling bins located in Graham Student Union as well. Residence Hall office staff: Please call EHS at 919-962-5507 when your battery bin is full, or if you don’t have one.

Automotive batteries for State vehicles are recycled via the University Service Station.

Clean wood waste is scrap dimensional lumber (2×4 type), mill ends, oriented strand board (OSB), pallets, plywood, or wood used in concrete forms with less than 2 inch diameter residual chunks of plaster/concrete attached. Clean wood can contain nails, bolts and screws in reasonable amounts. No cross-ties, landscaping timbers, masonite, painted or stained wood, telephone poles, treated wood, wood with tar or roofing materials on it.

OWRR picks up pallets and wooden shipping crates from loading docks on campus and takes them to the Orange County Landfill to be ground up and recycled as mulch. Although there is no set pallet pick up schedule, we generally pick them up from loading docks and service areas on Fridays. Please notify our office if you have some pallets ready to be picked up. Although we only pick up pallets from the exterior of buildings, if you are unable to transport the pallets and shipping crates to the dock we may be able to help arrange for another shop to move the pallets for you.

Departments with trucks and deliveries can take pallets directly to the Orange County landfill’s recycling facility. Contact OWRR for more information about this or other options.

Remember that REUSE is the best option for pallets. Ask your vendors if they are able to back-haul pallets for reuse.

For the following items, UNC Surplus provides a shredding service. A few of the charges are listed below.

  1. CD’s / DVD’s – $0.10
  2. Floppy Taps – $0.10
  3. Flash Drive – $0.10
  4. Cassette Tape – $0.25
  5. VHS Tape – $0.50
  6. Sim Card – $0.10

Cell Phones

Students can recycle their cell phones in the Student Union E-waste recycling bins or at area offices of their housing communities. Clear display jugs are located in each area office — just drop it off in the jug! Student Union e-waste recycling bins are located next to Alpine Bagel and in the basement study area.

University employees can recycle their personal cell phones by sending them to the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling via campus Mail at CB #1805. Work cell phones are considered State property, and are recycled through Surplus Property.

Compact Discs and DVDs

Computer disks, CDs and DVDs may be taken to Surplus Property for recycling. Surplus Property will also pick them up from your office if you fill out a pickup form.

The Orange County Solid Waste Convenience Center on Eubanks Road will also recycle these materials. Here are several other resources for recycling these materials:

  • Plastic Recycling Incorporated
    2015 S. Pennsylvania
    Indianapolis, IN 46225
    Mail unwanted Compact Discs to this address, to be recycled.
    Phone: 317-780-6100
  • Polymer Recovery Services
    1440 Norman Avenue
    Santa Clara, CA 95054
    Phone: 408-748-9715
    Fax: 408-980-8571
    Contact: Charles Aljouny, President; George Salibi, Sales Manager
  • Polymer Recovery Corporation
    1127 Tar Heel Road
    Charlotte, NC 28208
    Phone: 704-391-2470
    Fax: 704-393-3405
    Contact: Bill Layman, President
  • GreenDisk Services
    2200 Burlington
    Columbia, MO 65202
    Phone: 800-305-3475
    Website: https://www.greendisk.com/
  • VidTape Inc.
    340 Eastern Parkway
    Farmingdale, NY 11735
    Phone: 516-454-1234 x222
    Takes CDs & DVDs. Ship UPS.
    You pay for shipping, no charge for recycling.

Computer Equipment

As of July 1, 2011, all electronic waste was banned from landfills in NC. University computer equipment, including monitors, keyboards, and printers, etc., should not be placed into the trash. Computer equipment contains lead and mercury and can contaminate soil and water.

All University-owned computer equipment that is no longer wanted (including non-working equipment) should be taken to UNC Surplus Property. The computer equipment will then be sent to State Surplus property. Working computer equipment is sold through State Surplus Property, and non-working equipment is repaired for use in North Carolina schools. Computer equipment that cannot be repaired is recycled.

Personal computer equipment and peripherals can be recycled at the Student Union. E-waste (electronic waste) bins are located by the 1st floor presentation area and the 2nd floor lounge (by Alpine Bagel). For larger equipment, recycle at one of Orange County’s convenience centers or reuse non-profits.

Videotapes

Videotapes may be sent to Surplus Property for recycling, or if you fill out a pickup request, they will come to your office and pick them up.

Surplus Property also provides shredding and recycling for video tapes with confidential material. The cost is $0.10 per tape. Your department may want to contract with a document destruction company, some of which are listed on our confidential paper recycling page.

How Can I Compost?

  • At an Event? You may reserve compost bins for on-campus events through the Carolina Green Events program.
  • In My Residence Hall? OWRR currently operates a pilot food waste collection program in select residence halls. To learn more or express interest in the program, visit the Residence Hall Composting page.
  • At the Office? OWRR does not provide food waste collection services to individual offices. You may bring fruit and vegetables scraps to the Carolina Campus Community Garden, located on Wilson Street, also accepts drop-off fruit and vegetable scraps. The compost is used on the garden, which is used to produce fruit and vegetables for UNC’s lower wage workers. Find out more about the garden.
  • At Home (off-campus housing)? If you are interested in starting to compost at home, visit Orange County Solid Waste Management’s Compost Resources. You may bring fruit and vegetables scraps to the Carolina Campus Community Garden, located on Wilson Street, also accepts drop-off fruit and vegetable scraps. The compost is used on the garden, which is used to produce fruit and vegetables for UNC’s lower wage workers. Find out more about the garden.

Questions about composting opportunities on campus? Contact OWRR at 919-962-1442 or recycling@fac.unc.edu.

State-owned property must be sent to UNC Surplus Property for reuse, recycling, or disposal.

Personal household items, including clothing, in good condition can be donated to local charities and pick up can be arranged for large loads. Local reuse nonprofits include:

  • Carolina Thrift
  • TROSA Thrift Store
  • PTA Thrift Shop
  • Habitat for Humanity ReStore
Lab plastics include non-hazardous:

  • Pipette tip boxes
  • Plastic bottles
  • Cases
  • Flasks
  • Containers

Please remove lids from bottles. Containers that contained an irritant should be triple rinsed and marked with an “X” on the container.

Lab Plastics can now be included in the regular Bottle and Cans recycling bins. Bins should be relabeled to reflect this change. Please call 919-962-1442 with any questions.

To recycle projector lamps and bulbs, fill out this form on the EHS website.

For fluorescent bulbs:

  • Recycle your fluorescent lamps.
  • Use low-mercury, green tipped bulbs. These are lower in mercury but do still contain mercury at a level that can cause contamination if broken.
  • Store all spent bulbs in Closed boxes, labeled as “Used Bulbs” and Date the container with the first date that a bulb was put into the box. This box must be kept Closed unless a bulb is actively being added to the box.
  • Bulb boxes should be brought to the EHS Storage Facility across from Surplus Property so that they may be collected for recycling.
  • Contact Housekeeping immediately if you break a bulb in a lab or office environment.
  • Fill out this form if you or your department are registered with EHS as a lab, and they will come pick them up.
  • Fill out this form if you are not registered with EHS as a lab, and they will come pick them up.
  • Do not put used fluorescent bulbs in the trash.
  • Do not intentionally break or crush lamps because mercury will be released.
If you are a student and you would like to dispose of unwanted medication, the Campus Health Pharmacy will take back certain unused, unwanted, or expired medications.

The Chapel Hill and Carrboro Police Departments have drop boxes in their lobbies for unwanted medications.

State-owned supplies and equipment must be sent to Surplus Property for recycling or disposal.

Correct

  • Keep used oil in a separate container, clearly labeled “Used Oil.”
  • Recycle used oil through the services of a used oil recycler and transporter registered with NC.
  • Keep accurate records of used oil testing and shipping for five years.
  • Clean up any spilled used oil immediately. Then submit the collected waste for pickup to the UNC Department of Environment, Health, and Safety.Keep drums closed unless adding material.

Incorrect

  • Do not mix used oil with even small amounts of hazardous wastes or solvents, such as degreasers or carburetor cleaner.
  • Do not pour used motor oil onto the ground or dispose of used oil in a storm drain, septic tank, sewer, or dumpster.

Additives for making oil lubricate better, combined with contaminants that enter the oil through normal engine wear or equipment operation, cause used oil to be considered a damaging environmental pollutant if not managed properly. North Carolina’s hazardous regulations exempt used oil if:

  1. it has not been mixed or contaminated with hazardous wastes
  2. it is sent offsite for recycling or burned for energy recovery

The exemption is available only if proper records are maintained. Transmission fluid and most other equipment lubricants are crude-based petroleum products and therefore can be mixed with used oil. Used oil must not be contaminated with hazardous solvents. If used oil is not recycled, it must be tested to determine if it is a hazardous waste.

Please note, Scientific Supply is no longer able to accept packing peanuts for recycling. Instead, local packaging stores may also take packing peanuts, based on how many they have on hand. Call first before bringing them by.
You may recycle photographic solvents and fixers, photographic film, x-ray film, and microfiche via EHS.
Inkjet and Laser Toner Cartridges: Inkjet and laser toner cartridges from departmental printers can be recycled through Staples. Used cartridges should be boxed, clearly labeled as “Staples printer cartridges” and given to Staples personnel when they deliver Staples orders or left in a designated accessible location. All questions or concerns regarding the timing of Staples deliveries or pickups should be directed to Staples Customer Support at support@staplesadvantage.com.

Xerox Multifunction Device Toner Cartridges: Toner cartridges from Xerox multifunction devices are recycled by Carolina Managed Print Services. Used Xerox toner cartridges should be placed in an empty cartridge box or other box, labeled “Xerox printer cartridges” and left at your building’s campus mailbox station for pickup by University Mail Services. Questions about recycling or pickup of Xerox cartridges should be directed to Zanetta Bailey, University Mail Services, at 919-962-5474 or zbailey@email.unc.edu.

Students may recycle their printer cartridges in the area offices of their housing communities. Clear display jugs are located in each area office. Just drop it off in the jug!

Scrap metal includes but is not limited to:

  • Cast iron tubes
  • Aluminum gutters and siding
  • Bedsprings
  • Metal pipes
  • Steel studs
  • Tin roofing
  • Other items containing significant amounts of metal

Scrap metal may be recycled at the scrap metal recycling dumpster at Surplus Property.

Due to the logistical transportation issues with Styrofoam recycling, UNC-Chapel Hill does not have a year-round, campus-wide recycling program for this material. However, each year during Student Move-In, OWRR staffs every residence hall dumpster site with a Facilities Services staff person in order to collect nearly all of the corrugated cardboard, Styrofoam and plastic film, making it virtually zero waste. This program was recently expanded through a partnership with labs on campus by staging a tractor trailer in Odum Village for a full week and publicizing it in labs throughout campus. The Green Labs committee is currently working on ways to make this particular project more convenient for labs in the future, but will be doing it again in August, so keep an eye out!

In the meantime, Orange County Solid Waste lists several local, year-round options for both reuse and recycling on their website. The Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling encourages utilizing these options for recycling Styrofoam. If you have any further questions or concerns, feel free to contact us at recycling@fac.unc.edu.

The term “white goods” was coined by Sears and Roebuck in their early catalogs and referred to household appliances that had a white porcelain enamel exterior. The term is still used and covers the items in the list below.

  • Clothes washers and dryers
  • Commercial refrigeration equipment and fry cookers
  • Dishwashers and sanitizers
  • Drinking water coolers
  • Hot food bars (steam tables)
  • Household trash compactors
  • Ovens, ranges, stoves (including built-in units)
  • Popcorn machines (floor-model)
  • Refrigerators, freezers, ice cream dispensers
  • Steam tables used to keep food hot
  • Unit air conditioners
  • Vending machines
  • Water heaters

To Recycle

  • White goods must be free of hazardous material and all lab equipment must have a completed Safety Clearance Form attached.
  • All discarded white goods that are on inventory at UNC-Chapel Hill are to be cleared through surplus property to determine if they can be reused or sold.
  • Items to be disposed are then to be transported to Orange County’s white good recycling facility located at the landfill (no charge, but you must go across the scales.)
  • The county’s recycling program will accept an unlimited number of units without refrigeration. However, they will only accept 10 units with refrigeration* in a single delivery. To deliver more than 10 units (with refrigeration) in a single delivery, please call the landfill manager at 932-2989 one day in advance so that they can receive the materials in an orderly fashion.
  • Note: Orange County accepts units with R12, R22 and 134A refrigerants, but NOT 502 or other refrigerants. Units with other refrigerants must have the refrigerants evacuated by the HVAC’s refrigeration group and be tagged before the units will be accepted by Orange County. For more information about clearing units before recycling, call 919-962-1087.
University yard waste is collected by the Grounds Services department, ground into mulch and then redistributed across campus.