Frequently Asked Questions
If your questions are not answered here or on the main recycling page, please direct any additional questions to Sustainability@UCLA.edu
What can be recycled in UCLA’s Mixed Recyclable Bins (blue lids outdoors, blue bins indoors)?
Almost everything can be recycled! In general, as long as the item does not have food or liquid in it, it should be recycled. This includes paper, plastic, metal, and glass. Visit this page for more information.
Examples of accepted material:
Cans & Foil
- Aluminum beverage cans and aluminum food cans (e.g. cat food, tuna cans)
- Steel/tin food and beverage cans
- Clean aluminum foil and foil food trays
- All glass bottles and jars (mayonnaise, apple juice bottles, wine bottles, etc.)
- CA redemption bottles (beer, juice, wine coolers, etc.)
- Plastics Numbered 1-7 (NO foam or PLA)
- Water/Juice/Soda bottles
- Food Containers and lids (yogurt cups, coffee cup lids, etc.)
- Milk and water jugs
- Detergent/cleaning product bottles
- Personal care bottles
- Plastic Shopping Bags (Please bundle bags together before recycling)
- Newspaper (including inserts)
- Office paper (white and colored)
- Computer paper
- Corrugated cardboard
- Cardboard boxes and paper bags
- Phone books
- Magazines and catalogs
- Food/detergent boxes
- Mixed office papers (file folders, fax paper, envelopes, advertisements, flyers, etc.)
- Junk mail, bulk mail, and scrap paper
- Paper bound with non-water soluble glue (paperback books, hardback books, overnight mail packages, etc.)
- Milk cartons (clean and rinsed)
- Aseptic Packages (juice boxes)
Where can I recycle CDs and DVDs?
You can send your old CD’s and DVD’s to the Facilities Management Zero Waste Office at: Facilities Management c/o Zero Waste Coordinator 52608. For larger quantities, please submit an Electronic Waste Pick-Up Request Form here. (Back to FAQ’s)
I have an old Ink Jet/ Laser Jet printing cartridge. Where can I recycle these?
You can send your old Ink Jet/ Laser Jet printing cartridges to Facilities Management Zero Waste Office at: Facilities Management c/o Zero Waste Coordinator 52608. For larger quantities (15+), please submit a Facilities Service Request (FSR) here. (Back to FAQ’s)
Where can I recycle old cell phones?
You have a couple of options. You can donate your cell phone to the Wireless Foundation, which will be programmed to assist victims of domestic violence if the phone is in working condition or disposed of in a safe way if the phone is not in working condition. Personal cell phones can be dropped off on Saturdays at the UCLA S.A.F.E. Center located at 550 Charles E. Young Drive. For departmental cell phones, please submit an Electronic Waste Pick-Up Request Form here and the Zero Waste Coordinator will contact you to confirm your pick-up time/date/location.(Back to FAQ’s)
Are pizza boxes recyclable?
Yes! Empty pizza boxes may be recycled even if they have grease on them. (Back to FAQ’s)
Are plastic bags recyclable?
Yes! If you are recycling many plastic bags, do not worry about putting all of the bags into one bag to make it neater. The bags will be taken out at the recycling facility to ensure that they are empty anyway. (Back to FAQ’s)
Is Styrofoam recyclable?
No, Styrofoam is unfortunately not recyclable. Most recycling facilities do not accept Styrofoam in their recycling programs because it is not feasible to recycle Styrofoam. Items are recyclable because 1) the product can be recycled into something new and 2) there is a market for the recycled product). However, the bulky but lightweight structure of Styrofoam and other similar foam products make the material hard to process and there is very little market for recycled foam products. (Back to FAQ’s)
What about X?
Do bottles and cans need to be rinsed before being placed in the bins?
No, but please empty them first. While it is preferable that containers be placed into the bins be empty, they will be recycled regardless. All trapped liquids get squeezed out in the recycling process, but the liquids can cause contamination issues for the rest of the recycling load. (Back to FAQ’s)
Do I have to rinse out my recyclable containers before placing them in the bin?
It is not required to do this, though it is preferred if there is a lot of food. Let us rephrase: Please, no food or liquids in the recycling bins. Drain liquids and scrape as much food out into a compost container (if available) or a landfill bin before recycling your container. (Back to FAQ’s)
Can recyclables be thrown away in plastic bags?
Yes, however since bags will need to be opened to begin the sorting process, it is preferable that items are not placed in bags. (Back to FAQ’s)
Which plastics should be placed in the recycling bins?
In Santa Monica, plastics 1-7 are recyclable (so all plastics). If it turns out that the plastic is not recyclable, it will simply be sorted out at the recycling facility. (Back to FAQ’s)
If the plastic that I am trying to recycle doesn’t have a number on it, can I still recycle it?
While plastics usually have a recycling number on them, if you only have a few of these items, it is safe to dispense them in a recycling bin. If it turns out that the plastic is not recyclable, it will simply be sorted out at the recycling facility. As a general rule, hard plastics (ones that will retain its shape if you squeeze it), are typically recyclable. Soft plastics, such as cling wrap and zip-top bags, are not recyclable. (Back to FAQ’s)
Should plastic/glass bottle caps be removed prior to being recycled?
The bottles are recycled in one way or another but to prevent the bottle caps from being lost during transportation, please keep the caps on. (Back to FAQ’s)
Is it better to put biodegradable plastics with a #7 (PLA) in the recycle bin or the food waste bin?
It can be put into both, but choose the food waste bin if available. NOTE: Not all #7 plastic is compostable. Make sure product says “compostable” before disposing in food waste bin. (Back to FAQ’s)
Is it even worth it to place really small items like straw wrappers into a recycling bin, or are these items too hard to sort out at the recycling facility?
Yes, it is worthwhile to place small items in the bins. While some of the smaller items get lost in the sorting process, much of it makes it through. (Back to FAQ’s)
What is single-stream or commingled recycling? What are the benefits, and is this effective?
Single-stream is a fancy term for co-mingled or mixed recycling. Under this system, all recyclables can be placed into the same bin. They are then sorted on the back end by a waste management or recycling company. This “single-stream” is simpler and more convenient, as either something goes in the blue recycling bin or it goes in the black/ brown trash bin. It is highly effective and is used by many communities, schools, and businesses around the world. Switching to single-stream will help UCLA reach its waste diversion (not going to a landfill) goals of 100% by 2020. (Back to FAQ’s)
Won’t there be more contamination if we put everything into the same bin?
Yes, there can be some additional contamination, but the increase in recycling collection makes up for it. Food and liquids are what causes “contamination” of recyclables and they should not be placed into the mixed recycling bins. (Back to FAQ’s)
Is single stream more energy intensive and more expensive?
Slightly, but the increase in recycling makes up for this. Landfill space is limited. This means trash will have to be trucked out of state. (Back to FAQ’s)
Where does our recycling go?
Recyclables are collected on campus from the recycling bins, and then taken to a local facility in Santa Monica where they are sorted. From there, they are bundled and sold as commodities to be made into new products. Where exactly they go depends on the current market demand. (Back to FAQ’s)
Who sorts the recyclables?
We have a contract with our waste hauler to sort out our recyclables. Most of UCLA’s recyclables are sorted locally at a facility in Santa Monica. (Back to FAQ’s)
What about compost?
While campus wide composting is not available yet on the grounds, UCLA composts all of our food waste from the dining halls- an average of 60 tons a month! ASUCLA is also piloting composting in some of their facilities, such as Kerckhoff Patio. Currently, there is a 3-stream unit accepting compost waste in Bruin Plaza. As we move towards Zero Waste by 2020, we will increase composting on campus. Be on the lookout for new pilot stations in the new year! (Back to FAQ’s)
Requesting additional Recycling bins
I live in the apartments off-campus, but my building doesn’t have any recycling bins. What can I do about this?
You can contact your building manager about receiving recycling services from your waste hauler. The L.A. County Recycling Ordinance mandates all waste haulers to provide this service, it also allows these haulers to charge a fee, but this fee is usually only between $0.50-$3.00 per month. (Back to FAQ’s)