Zero Waste: Recycle, Compost, & Diversion

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 100+ tons of compostables per year.  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?

“Recycling” containers for all single stream recyclable items should be clearly labeled and/or blue.  Recycling bins are generally located in all 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

  • 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

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)
  • Books
  • Clear cold coffee cups (make sure they’re empty!)

Specialty Recyclables


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
  • Carpeting
  • Building materials with reuse potential (large University renovation projects)

Where Can I find Campus-wide Recycle, Compost, or Landfill Signage?

Starting in Fall 2019, we’re rolling out new University-wide standard waste diversion signage for recycling, compostables, and landfill items.
Find our new waste signage here!

What Can I Recycle Off-Campus?

Off-campus students and City of Pittsburgh utilize Pittsburgh’s residential curbside recycling program, which mirrors Pitt’s in acceptable items.  For more information on commonly confusing times, 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!  Otherwise, follow the recycling rules:


  • Bottles, jars, and jugs

NOT Accepted Plastics

  • Hot coffee cups
  • Clam shell containers
  • Straws
  • Small lids not screwed onto a container
  • Bags or film
  • Cartons for milk, orange 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 (from, say, an office cleanup),contact us at email us at or call 412-624-9521 and we can provide you with additional containers and arrange a special pickup.

Additionally, 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:

  • Sutherland Hall – Main level entrance
  • Tower A – Main lobby entrance
  • Lothrop Hall  – Main lobby entrance

Facilities Battery Recycling Collection Locations: 

  • William Pitt Union – Lower Level Forbes Ave. entrance near the custodial supervisor’s office
  • Benedum Hall – Main lobby, 1st floor & 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

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 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
  • 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 or call 412-624-6500.

How Do I Recycle Fluorescent Lamps?

Fluorescent tubes can be recycled via special arrangements for pickup; please email us at 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!).

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.  Neville Island Green Star Recylcling Visit Conveyor

  • 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 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.
  • 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

What’s RecycleMania?

Learn more about Recycling & How It Helps Our Community.

Remaining Questions?  Email us at