Recycling & Compost

The UGA 2020 Strategic Plan calls for at least 65% of the campus waste stream to be diverted from the landfill by 2020. To reach that goal we all need to be well informed about what to do with our recyclables!

UGA has four primary waste streams: Mixed Recyclables, Hard to Recycle Materials, Organic Waste (compost), and Landfill. Recycling saves the university money and regenerates raw materials to manufacture new products. Composting organic waste also saves money, reduces greenhouse gas emissions from the landfill, and provides rich fertilizer for our campus greenspaces.

Mixed Recyclables

Solar powered Big Belly recycling and trash bins

There are over 70 solar powered “Big Belly” compactors for recycling (green) and landfill (black) all throughout campus.

Athens-Clarke County uses single stream recycling, which allows UGA to collect plastic, paper, cardboard, metal, and glass all together in our recycling bins. Mixed Recyclables bins are paired with Landfill bins in nearly all UGA buildings and at convenient outdoor locations all over campus. The bins are color coded green for Mixed Recyclables and black for Landfill so there is a consistent visual message everywhere. There are also large recycling collection points in strategic locations. In any of these recycling bins, you can put:

  • #1 – #7 plastics (except #6, including Styrofoam or coffee cup lids)
  • Clean paper and cardboard (except paper cups or hardcover books)
  • Aluminum and steel containers
  • Glass jars and bottles
  • Empty juice or milk cartons

recycling and landfill bins

Co-located recycling (green) and landfill (black) bins are the campus standard and can be found in most buildings. Remember to only put empty containers in the recycling, and put film plastics in the landfill bin.

You are the key to our recycling success!

“When in doubt, throw it out” sounds counterintuitive to recycling, but if the following items are mixed with recyclables they contaminate the load, and may cause an entire truck of recyclables to be rejected at the sorting facility.

No food or liquids. Please do not put containers with food or drink still in them into the recycling bin: it attracts pests and will ruin other recyclables in the mix. Rinse it out.

No film plastics. Film plastics such as cling wrap, plastic bags, or soft plastic food containers jam up and potentially damage the sorting equipment at the recycling facility. See below for what to do with film plastics.

No shredded paper. Shredded paper should never go in with the mixed recyclables because it makes a mess at the sorting facility. See below for what to do with shredded paper.

a red and black reusable coffee cup

Check out this reusable coffee cup from Sustain Cup!

No disposable coffee cups. Paper coffee cups and their plastic lids are not recyclable. The cups have a plastic liner that contaminates paper recycling, and the lid is usually #6 plastic, which is not allowed in the single stream recycling. Styrofoam cups are also not allowed. We recommend that you bring a reusable mug!

No greasy cardboard. Pizza boxes are welcome in the recycling bins, but please remove any pizza (who doesn’t eat all the pizza?), wax paper, or dipping sauce from the box first. If the bottom is gross and greasy, tear off the top and recycle that; throw the rest in the landfill bin.

Laboratory Recycling

Due to strict safety regulations, laboratory plastics may not be collected with mixed recyclables. While this may disappoint many, it is far more important to avoid the risk of inadvertent exposure to chemical or biological hazards for someone who handles or sorts the recyclables.

Hard to Recycle Materials

Items that are technically recyclable but are not allowed in the single stream are considered Hard to Recycle Materials. Common ones found at UGA are polystyrene foam (Styrofoam), shredded paper, film plastics, batteries, electronics, toner cartridges, furniture, hardcover books, and outdated electronic media. Many of these items can be taken to the Athens-Clarke County Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM), some are handled internally by UGA, and some have other options.

If you need help with large items or large quantities, email to receive an automatic reply with instructions for entering a work request.

If you have surplus UGA property (inventoried or not) that you no longer need, consider posting it to the Surplus Property Listserv. You can join by sending your name and UGA email address to This streamlines the surplus property transfer between UGA personnel and keeps excess inventory from the landfill.

Polystyrene Foam (Styrofoam)

Blocks of polystyrene can be taken to the CHaRM or to any Publix customer service desk. Polystyrene containers such as egg cartons can be taken to Publix.

Polystyrene packing peanuts should be reused where possible, or you can call the local UPS Store to ask if they will accept them. You can also call the Plastic Loose Fill Council’s Peanut Hotline at (800) 228-2214 for other options.

Shredded Paper

Shredded paper must always be put in a clear plastic bag and tied closed so that it does not make a mess. Most buildings on campus have a shredded paper roll cart (sometimes labeled “Office Paper Only”). These carts are collected separately from the other mixed recyclables. Bagged shredded paper can also be taken to the CHaRM.

Film Plastics

Clean film plastics such as shopping bags, deflated air bags from shipped packages, and shrink wrap can be bundled up and brought to the CHaRM, placed in the appropriate container at most supermarkets, or placed in a Bag the Bag bin in most UGA Housing residence halls.


Rechargeable batteries should be collected in a “Universal Waste” container for recycling. Ask your building services supervisor to set up a container if your building does not have one. These are also accepted at the CHaRM for a fee.

Single use batteries are allowed in the landfill. While they may be mixed in with rechargeable batteries, do know that it is very expensive and time consuming for the county to handle them at the CHaRM.


If the electronics are the property of the State or UGA they must be brought to UGA Surplus located in the Chicopee Complex at the corner of Broad and First Streets. Items are made available for reuse by other departments on campus, donated to approved nonprofits, or sold to outside vendors.

UGA partners with the Athens-Clarke County Recycling Division to host a Recycling Happy Hour during Earth Week each spring. Cell phones, computers, TVs etc. are all accepted.

If you prefer not to wait for a collection event, please recycle your electronics at the Athens-Clarke County CHaRM (Center for Hard to Recycle Materials). Note that there is a small fee to drop off televisions and monitors. Working computer equipment can also be donated to Free IT Athens.

Toner Cartridges

Preferably, use the return mailing box and label that should come with your replacement cartridge to send the old one back to the manufacturer. Otherwise, you may send cartridges via Campus Mail addressed to “KACCB – Cartridge Recycling” where it will be relayed to Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful for recycling. Finally, you may take cartridges to the CHaRM.


If the furniture is the property of the State or UGA it must be brought to UGA Surplus located in the Chicopee Complex at the corner of Broad and First Streets. Items are made available for reuse by other departments on campus, donated to approved nonprofits, or sold to outside vendors.

Hardcover Books

Hardcover books cannot go in the single stream unless the covers are completely removed. Intact hardcover books are accepted at the CHaRM, where they are sent to a facility where the pages and covers are separated for appropriate recycling.

Outdated Electronic Media

Video tapes, CDs, DVDs, floppy disks, and other “technotrash” can be sent at your department’s expense to GreenDisk.

Organic Waste (Compost)

UGA Grounds operates its own industrial-scale compost facility where all campus leaf and limb waste as well as all pre- and post-consumer food scraps from UGA dining halls are turned into valuable fertilizer for campus greenspaces.

The Office of Sustainability runs a departmental composting program in which food scraps from break rooms (coffee grounds, fruit peels, etc.) are collected weekly and brought to UGArden campus community garden to incorporate in their compost pile. Email to learn more about or enroll in the program.

For large event composting, or if you want to compost your off-campus residential food scraps but don’t have room to do it yourself, contact Let Us Compost to learn more about the services that they offer.