Recycle and Compost

Recycling, Composting, and Waste Reduction

Recycling is one of the greatest success stories at the University of Maryland. The campus institutional diversion rate increased from 17 percent in 2003 to an impressive 89 percent in 2014. In 2011, Facilities Management partnered with Dining Services and The Adele H. Stamp Student Union to begin collecting organics. The recycling of construction-related waste has increased for major projects. In addition to the institutional diversion rate achievement, university officials have noted that the individual recycling rate - the percentage of single stream recycling items (paper, bottles, cans, etc.) that get recycled on campus - improved to 56 percent in 2014, up from 35 percent in 2009.

Meanwhile, departments across campus have made strides to recycle more and take other steps to reduce environmental impacts. Programs and initiatives have been implemented to raise awareness of recycling on campus among all students, staff, faculty, and visitors of university facilities and events. Hundreds of recycling containers have been installed across campus. Exterior containers were also installed near housing areas, high-use buildings, and open spaces. A current project is to ensure all exterior trash cans are paired with a matching recycling bin.

The university recycles a wide array of materials including paper, metal, wood, food, bottles and cans, yard waste, construction debris, electronic equipment and a variety of “industrial wastes” such as motor oil, antifreeze, batteries, tires and fluorescent tubes, among other materials.

At a Glance:

  • All buildings use single stream recycling.
  • Used batteries are collected in most buildings on campus.
  • Recycling from UMD construction sites will generate about 300 to 800 tons of recyclable waste per year.
  • Dining Services and The Stamp Student Union composts pre- and post-consumer food, diverting 550 tons of waste per year.
  • Facilities Management uses the Can the Can program to encourage waste diversion in academic and administrative offices.
  • Facilities Management runs the "Please Don't Litter" campaign on campus.
  • Employee hiring is done using the paperless eTerp system.
  • Paper towel and toilet paper dispensers across campus have been updated to accommodate recycled paper.
  • Dining Services uses bagasse instead of polystyrene take-out containers.
  • University of Maryland participates in Recyclemania, a 10-week competition to recycle paper, cardboard, bottles, cans, and food.
  • Terrapin Trader handles the University’s surplus electronics to be re-sold or recycled.

Recent Accomplishments:

  • In 2014, UMD was #1 in the ACC and in the state of Maryland for the Grand Champion category in Recyclemania.
  • In 2014, UMD was #3 in the state of Maryland for waste minimization.
  • In the 2014 Recyclemania competition, UMD was #2 in the state of Maryland for the Food Service Organics category.
  • UMD achieved least waste per person in Atlantic Coast Conference of Recyclemania in April 2008.
  • In the 2011 Recyclemania competition, UMD claimed the ACC victory in the top category for the first time ever.
  • During fall 2005, Resident Life and Residential Facilities collaborated to collect 11 tons of recyclable cardboard during move-in.

Learn More:

Single-Stream Recycling

In October 2010, academic and administrative buildings switched to “Single Stream” Recycling. In 2011, residential buildings went single stream. This means that you can put all of your recyclable materials into one recycling bin. Lids on recycling containers now have unrestricted openings to fit bottles, cans, and all types of paper, making it easier to recycle, and help the University increase its recycling rate! Here is a list of what you can place in these bins:

  • Paper: Newspaper, magazines, computer paper; place shredded paper in a tied plastic bag.
  • Plastic Containers: #1-7 CLEAN plastic containers, cups, bottles, jugs, trays, etc.
  • Cardboard: cereal boxes, frozen food packaging, etc.
  • Aluminum: cans, containers, CLEAN foil, pie pans, etc.
  • Books: paperbacks, textbooks, hardbacks, phone books, coil bound documents
  • Steel/Tin Cans: CLEAN soup cans, fruit cans, tuna cans etc.
  • Waxed Cartons: milk cartons, juice boxes
  • Glass: jars and bottles


The composting of leaves and other yard wastes has long been a standing practice at UMD. However, the campus has undertaken several initiatives to expand this effort by focusing on pre- and post-consumer food waste and food packaging. In 2007, Dining Services initiated the collection of food waste at the South Dining Hall and the Diner, which was well received by students and staff. This effort grew to over 175 tons of food waste being diverted from landfills to compost.

In 2008, Dining Services eliminated the use of polystyrene take-out containers and replaced them with a new take-out container made of bagasse, an organic, compostable product made from sugarcane. While the new product was significantly more costly, Dining Services launched a campaign to encourage diners to "eat-in" using washable dinnerware which resulted in a 15% reduction in the number of take-out containers used. This helped to offset the increased cost while increasing our compostable waste. Dining Services continues to seek compostable packaging products to replace those that must be disposed in a landfill.

Battery Recycling

To reduce the number of batteries, heavy metals and toxic chemicals in landfills, the University of Maryland Department of Environmental Safety and Facilities Management – Recycling teamed to develop a program to recycle the campus' unwanted batteries. These include alkaline, nickel-cadmium, nickel-metal hydride, mercury, and lithium batteries. View this list to find the battery recycling bin nearest to you. All previously listed battery types can be deposited together in the battery bin. However, Lithium batteries must be wrapped individually before deposited in the bin.

UMD Battery Bin Locations

Lead Acid batteries must be recycled through the Department of Environmental Safety.

To request a battery recycling bin, or if you have questions about the battery recycling program, please contact

UMD Construction Site Recycling

University of Maryland recycles its construction and demolition waste from campus renovation projects. A collaborative effort between FM’s Campus Projects, FM’s Solid Waste and Recycling Unit, and the Office of Sustainability, this recycling effort generates about 300 to 800 tons of recyclable waste per year. The program shifts waste produced by campus renovation projects from local landfills to recycling facilities. Previously, contractors disposed of the waste and this was a pass-through cost. The program now allows the university to ensure it is properly recycled at no additional cost to the projects. This project is a win-win effort because it benefits the individual projects while advancing campus sustainability goals.

Facilities Management’s Recycling and Solid Waste Division takes our campus construction and demolition waste to local processor Sun Recycling in Beltsville, Maryland. The Sun Services Material Recycling Facility (MRF) opened in October 2013 and serves the entire Baltimore Washington corridor, including Maryland, Washington, DC and Northern Virginia. The facility operates as a zero landfill facility and provides customers with LEED credits. The recycling facility accepts construction debris, sorts the material by commodity type and sends to various processors for re-use. Scrap metal, wood, gypsum, and aggregates are made into usable products. This marks an important step for our recycling and solid waste efforts on campus. It provides business for a local vendor and cuts down on the amount of travel and carbon emissions required to depose of the waste. Sun Recycling recycles 80% of the materials at their facility. You can learn more about Sun Recycling here.

Electronics Recycling

Electronic equipment remains one of the fast growing types of waste in the nation. Computers, printers, copiers and a wide variety of other equipment are routinely replaced; there are often hazardous materials in some parts of components. As a result, it is important that this waste be properly managed. All electronic equipment at the University is considered surplus equipment and is collected by Terrapin Trader. Functional equipment may be sold to the general public and that which cannot be sold or does not work is sent to a qualified vendor where it is deconstructed into individual components which are recycled. Electronics recycling bins can be found in most on-campus residence halls as well as several IT departments.

Click here to see what electronics can be recycled.

Can the Can

In 2010, Facilities Management implemented the "Can the Can" recycling program. Under this program, standard office trash bins were replaced with quart-size containers for non-recyclable trash. Each office desk was also given a recycling container. Housekeepers provide removal of recyclables from the offices and individuals are responsible for carrying their own non-recyclable trash to a centrally located container. The Main Administration building was an early adopter of the program. After implementing the program in May 2010, the recycling rate for the building climbed from 49 percent to 71 percent! The Can the Can program is established in all administrative and academic buildings.

eTerp: Paperless Hiring Process

In March 2010, the University implemented eTerp (PeopleAdmin), a web-based employment system that has transformed the way faculty and staff employment searches are conducted on campus. Paper has been virtually eliminated from the classification and hiring process, as all documents are uploaded to a central website and search committee members can choose what they wish to print, rather than receiving hard copies of all documents

"Please Don't Litter" Campaign

In 2009, Facilities Management (FM) developed a "Please Don't Litter" campaign and affixed simple green bumper stickers to FM service vehicles. The campaign reminds people of the importance of properly recycling and disposing of solid waste on campus. While recycling continues to grow on campus, FM estimates that daily litter removal costs the campus more than $300,000 per year..

Move-In, Move-Out (Trash to Treasure)

Two times each year, a tremendous amount of waste in generated by the student residents. During Move-In, Residential Life and Residential Facilities work together to collect all the cardboard boxes discarded by students. In the few days of fall opening 2005, 11 tons of cardboard were collected and recycled.

Move-Out presents a different problem. Students typically throw away sofas, chairs, desks, and anything else they either don’t want or can’t fit in their cars. Trash to Treasure is a campus wide initiative to increase sustainable efforts by reducing trash at the end of the academic year, to increase staff productivity (thus saving time and money) by reducing the amount of old items left behind by on-campus students, and to increase the support of the local community by reducing the barriers between student and charitable organization. The Trash to Treasure donation drive is a partnership with Goodwill, SGA, RHA, Facilities Management, Dining Services, the Office of Sustainability, Residential Facilities, and Resident Life.

During the week of finals, students can find a donations stations in or near their place of residence to give away (almost) any item that they do not plan to pack up and take home or were going to throw away.

View a list of reusable items that will be accepted.

Consult the Trash to Treasure website for specific collection dates and locations.


RecycleMania is a ten-week recycling contest among colleges and universities nationwide, sponsored by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The university, along with more than 200 other institutions, first participated in 2007 and has participated every year since. Each week from the end of January through April, the University’s recycling rates for mixed paper, cardboard, bottles and cans, and pre- and post-consumer food waste are calculated. The competition allows the University to monitor its progress over time. In addition, the competition allows institutions to compare themselves relative to other institutions. UMD consistently ranks as one of the top performers. Click here to see a summary of UMD's RecycleMania performance.

UMD RecycleMania website : National RecycleMania website

The Drive to Zero Waste

Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA), Facilities Management (FM), and Dining Services are collaborating to go zero waste in all athletic facilities on the College Park campus, starting with Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium. Zero waste means diverting at least 90% of solid waste from landfills and instead sending that solid waste to be recycled or composted. This ambitious goal will be reached by making continuous improvements to the waste collection system over the next three years. These improvements include installing more recycling and compost collection bins, implementing education and outreach activities, and eliminating the distribution of condiment packets and instead creating condiment stations near food courts. Read more about this Sustainability Fund project!

Click here for the "A-Z Gameday Guide for 2014."



  • Learn what you can recycle in your area
  • Repair or donate old furniture & electronics
  • Locate the recycling bins in your dorm, classrooms, and office
  • Reuse plastic bags



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