Zero Waste: Recycle, Compost, & Divert
The University of Pittsburgh began recycling in 1990 and our current goal is to reduce landfill waste 25% from 2017 levels by 2030. In the meantime, Pitt has continued to divert materials from the landfill at a rate of ~35% recyclables and 170+ tons of compostables per year (and growing). While the University does not have a zero waste goal in place, many individuals and entities are adopting a zero waste mindset.
Where Can I Recycle at Pitt?
Containers for all single stream recyclable items should be clearly labeled and/or blue. Recycling bins are generally located in offices, workstations, common areas, hallways, lobbies, and similar locations. While some buildings do have three unit “Recycling Centers” with openings for trash, paper, and bottles and cans, the University’s recycling is single stream, so all items listed above are accepted.
We have worked to distribute recycling containers in every University of Pittsburgh building and across campus for your convenience. However, if you know of a spot that could use a container, or if you need a container for your work area, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If your academic building does not have recycling bins, please contact your Facility Manager.
- If your residence hall, dorm room, or Pitt-owned apartment does not have adequate recycling, please contact Panther Central.
- If you are in a building the University leases, please email email@example.com
Where Can I Compost at Pitt?
We are gradually scaling up collection of compostables across campus with an aim to expand food waste composting to divert 50% of food waste to compost by 2025.
Find current locations.
What Can I Recycle at Pitt?
Single Stream Recyclables
- Paper (office, newspaper, magazines, mail, & paperboard)
- Cardboard (flatten & place next to any campus recycling container)
- Metals (aluminum, tin, and steel containers)
- Plastic (bottles, jugs, jars, and containers, NO LIDS)
- Glass (bottles, jugs, jars, and containers)
- Clear cold coffee cups (make sure they’re empty!)
- Compostables (available in select buildings & locations)
- Scrap metal (aluminum, steel, stainless steel, copper, etc.)
- Dry cell batteries (any size or type)
- Wet cell batteries
- Computers & other electronics
- Toner & ink cartridges
- Keurig K-Pods
- Gloves (In Pilot)
PLEASE DO NOT PUT TRASH INTO THE RECYCLING CONTAINERS.
What Else Does the University Recycle?
Operationally, Pitt ensures the following waste streams are diverted from landfill whenever possible:
- Leaf and yard waste
- Fluorescent lamps (only from University buildings)
- Construction and demolition debris
- Building materials with reuse potential (large University renovation projects)
Where Can I find Campus-wide Recycle, Compost, or Landfill Signage?
University-wide standard waste diversion signage for recycling, compostables, and landfill items is available here!
What Can I Recycle Off-Campus?
Off-campus students and City of Pittsburgh residents utilize Pittsburgh’s residential curbside recycling program, which mirrors Pitt’s in acceptable items. For more information on items you just don’t know are recyclable or not, check out Pennsylvania Resources Council and Recycle This Pittsburgh.
If you rent off campus and your landlord has not provided with you with a container, the City of Pittsburgh has a landlord letter you can use.
What About Plastics?
We agree, recycling plastics these days is confusing. More often than not, the answer is the plastic in your hand is not recyclable. Choose to Reuse when you can, especially with Pitt’s Choose to Reuse to-go container program! Otherwise, follow the recycling rules:
- Bottles, jars, and jugs
NOT Accepted Plastics
- Hot coffee cups
- Clam shell containers
- Small lids not on a container
- Bags or film
- Laminated paper / plastic cartons common for milk, juice, or soup
- Styrofoam of any type
What If I Have a Large Quantity of Recyclables?
If you have scrap metal or a large amount of recyclable material (e.g., from an office cleanup), contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Facilities at 412-624-9521 and we can provide you with additional containers and arrange a special pickup.
If you, your office, division, department, and/or organization want to coordinate a special waste diversion event (e.g., recycling drive, office clean out day, etc.), please contact us and we will be happy to help by providing collection units and special pickup arrangements.
How Do I Recycle Batteries & Handheld Electronic Devices?
Pitt has a number of locations to collect dry cell (household) batteries of any size or type, listed below. Collection units have been placed around campus and can be used for dry cell batteries along with cell phones and iPods. If you have a large volume, please let us know and we will arrange for pickup.
Housing Battery Recycling Collection Locations:
- Litchfield Tower A – Main lobby entrance
- Lothrop Hall – Main lobby entrance
- Sutherland Hall – Main level entrance
Facilities Battery Recycling Collection Locations:
- Benedum Hall – Main lobby & Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (153)
- Bellefield Hall – 2nd floor lobby
- Cathedral of Learning – Ground floor near vending machines
- Craig Hall – Main entrance, lobby
- Crawford Hall – 2nd floor, entrance lobby
- Dental School – Ground floor, entrance lobby
- Frick Fine Arts – 1st floor, handicapped entrance
- GSPH – Ground floor, lobby
- Lawrence Hall – Main entrance vestibule
- Learning Research and Development (LRDC) – Main entrance, 1st floor
- Posvar Hall – 1st floor, elevator lobby
- Salk Hall – 2nd floor lounge near vending machines
- Scaife Hall – 4th floor, lobby
- Trees Hall – Main Level, entrance lobby
- William Pitt Union – Lower Level Forbes Ave. entrance near the custodial supervisor’s office
Cell phones can also be recycled at any campus computing lab or at the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (153 Benedum Hall)
Wet cell batteries can be recycled also, but they require special arrangements for safe pickup; please email us at email@example.com or call 412-624-9521
How Do I Recycle Large Electronic Devices?
Electronic Waste includes unwanted computers, monitors, televisions, audio equipment, printers, laptops, fax machines, telephones, and other electronic equipment. Because electronic equipment may contain heavy metals (e.g., lead, mercury, and cadmium) and other toxic materials that can become hazardous to human health and the environment, it must be properly disposed of and recycled. Do not place any electronic equipment in the trash, hallways or loading docks, even if it is broken.
Surplus Property will pickup your department’s e‑waste free of charge. Contact Pitt Surplus for electronics pickup.
How Do I Recycle Toner & Ink Cartridges?
Empty inkjet and laser toner cartridges can be sealed and sent via campus mail to “Surplus Property, Cartridge Recycling Program, 7500 Thomas Blvd.” They can also be placed in dedicated diversion bins across campus at:
- Alumni Hall
- Cathedral of Learning
- Biomedical Science Tower – Lobby
- Benedum Hall – Near Dean’s Office
- Chevron Hall
- Litchfield Towers – Lobby near ATM
- Posvar Hall
- Salk Hall
- Scaife Hall
For special pickup arrangements, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 412-624-6500.
How Do I Recycle Textiles?
Please continue to donate all wearable clothing and accessories to the University of Thriftsburgh (on-campus thrift store in O’Hara Student Center) or to your local reuse stores!
Pitt’s Textile Recycling program is still operating for the Pitt community in the global Covid-19 pandemic. However, while campus is under any risk profile, the program is not available for public drop-offs .
Pitt has 20 locations to collect unusable textiles meeting acceptability guidelines listed below.
- Unwearable clothing, coats, and jackets
- End of life linens, towels, bedding, pillows, drapes, and curtains
- Hats, gloves, belts, shoes, jewelry, and other accessories.
- Not Accepted
- Mattress toppers
- Hazardous waste
- Single stream recyclables
Collection units have been placed around campus near existing toner and/or battery diversion locations, as listed below.
- Alumni Hall – Main Lobby, Lytton St. Entrance
- Benedum Hall – Lobby
- Biomedical Science Tower – Lobby
- Cathedral of Learning – Ground Floor (Near Elevators)
- Chevron Hall
- Craig Hall – Main Lobby
- Eureka Building – Main Lobby
- Graduate School of Public Health – DeSoto Lobby
- Hillman Library – Ground Floor Lobby
- Litchfield Towers – Lobby near ATM
- Mervis Hall – Main Lobby
- O’Hara Student Center – Hallway near Hydration Station & Men’s Rest Room
- Park Plaza – Main Lobby
- Petersen Events Center – Mezzanine, 2nd Floor
- Public Safety Building – Forbes Avenue Lobby
- Salk Hall
- Scaife Hall – 4th Floor, Terrace St. Entrance
- Thomas Blvd.—Main Lobby
- Posvar Hall – Main Lobby (Near Elevators)
- William Pitt Union – Main Lobby
Clothing and textiles make up ~6.3% of the current waste stream, so represent a campus- and city-wide opportunity to keep textiles in the circular economy.
How Do I Recycle Fluorescent Lamps?
Fluorescent tubes can be recycled via special arrangements for pickup; please email us at email@example.com or call 412-624-9521
How Do I Divert my Keurig K-Pods from the Landfill?
There are LOTS of options to make coffee consumption more sustainable, including using composting grounds from traditional coffee and beans-to-cup machines — or using reusable Keurig filters. You could also switch to compostable k-pods.
However, if you’re using Keurig K-Pods, please divert them from the landfill by enrolling in the Keurig Grounds to Grow on program (it’s free!).
How Can I Support Safe Chemical Sharing?
The Pitt Chemical Redistribution Program provides faculty and staff with the opportunity to obtain unopened chemicals free of charge, reducing expenses for purchasing and waste disposal. This program is currently available to laboratories located on the Pittsburgh camps. Learn more about how to donate a chemical, request free chemicals, or view our on-hand inventory.
What Do I Do With Unused Medications?
The University of Pittsburgh has two locations where staff, faculty, students, and the public can drop off unused or expired medications safely and securely:
- Public Safety Building (lobby during business hours)
- University Pharmacy at Nordenberg Hall (during business hours)
What Happens To My Recyclables After I Dispose of Them?
When you place your recyclables into the proper containers, you have made the first step in closing the loop. Recyclable materials are collected by University custodians and stored for collection at designated campus buildings. Once a week, contracted local recyclers pick up this material and take it to large central collection facilities or direct to commodity handlers. The recyclables are then processed into raw materials and made into new products that we can purchase again, thus closing the loop.
Where Does the University’s Diverted Material Go?
The end location of each material leaving the University depends on what it is.
- Single Stream Recycling – Goes to a regional Material Recovery Facility (MRF), which is responsible for receiving, sorting, and selling collected materials. As part of RecycleMania, the University annually offers a a MRF tour for a small number of interested parties.
- Compostables – Primarily go to AgRecycle‘s commercial composting facility in Washington County, Pennsylvania. The University also has a small contract with Pittsburgh Garden Company for mostly pre-consumer food waste that is composted on local farms.
- Electronics – After being properly decommissioned by Pitt Surplus, the University’s electronics waste is handled by eLoop.
- Textiles – Are diverted back into the circular economy by Simple Recycling.
- Pharmaceuticals – Properly disposed by third-party incineration.
- Keurig K-Pods – Pod components separated by Keurig; plastic and foil are recycled; and grounds are composted.
- Gloves – Medline-partnered waste to energy facilities