If your questions are not answered here or on the main recycling page, please direct any additional questions to zerowaste@ucla.edu

Recycling FAQ’s

What can be recycled in UCLA’s Mixed Recyclable Bins?

Many things can be recycled! This includes paper, plastic, metal, and glass. The item should not have food or liquid in it. Visit this page for more information or refer to the image below.

Examples of accepted materials:

Metal 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.; NO dishes or ceramics)
  • CA redemption bottles (beer, juice, wine coolers, etc.)


  • Hard plastic containers, preferably #1, 2, and 5 plastics (NO utensils, straws, black plastic containers, Styrofoam, EPS, #7, or #7 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 (must be bundled together before recycling)


  • Newspapers (including inserts)
  • Mixed office papers (no laminated or glitter)
  • Shredded paper (must be bagged)
  • Corrugated cardboard boxes (must be broken down and flattened)
  • Paper bags (no oil or grease)
  • Magazines and catalogs
  • Food/detergent boxes
  • Junk mail, bulk mail, and scrap paper
  • Paper bound with non-water soluble glue (paperback books, overnight mail packages, etc.); If you have large amounts of hardbound books, please submit an FSR
  • Milk cartons (clean and rinsed); NO aseptic/Tetrapaks (juice boxes)

Do cardboard boxes have to be broken down for servicing?

Yes, if you have cardboard boxes for removal on campus, you must flatten and break down the boxes for servicing. If the boxes cannot fit into the recycling receptacle, neatly stack the flattened boxes in a pile and place them on the side of the recycling receptacle. If the boxes are not flattened, a Facilities Service Request (FSR) will be required.

Where can I recycle CDs and DVDs?

You can send your old CD’s and DVD’s for recycling via Campus Mail Code 152608. Please label the packaging: “Facilities Management CDs/DVDs Recycling”. For larger quantities, please submit an Electronic Waste Pick-Up Request Form here.

If you are a member of the community and not currently affiliated with UCLA, please visit the S.A.F.E. Center.

Where can I recycle printer ink/toner/cartridges?

You can send used printer ink/toner/cartridges for recycling via Campus Mail Code 152608. Please label the packaging: “Facilities Management Printer Ink Recycling”. For larger quantities (15+), please submit a Facilities Service Request (FSR).

Where can I recycle cell phones?

Personal cell phones can be dropped off on Saturdays at the 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 and the Zero Waste Coordinator will contact you to confirm your pick-up time/date/location.

Are pizza boxes recyclable?

Yes and no. Empty pizza boxes may be recycled only if they are clean. You can separate the lid from the greasy bottom section for recycling and compost the greasy part.

Are plastic bags recyclable?

UCLA does not accept plastic bags in the recycling, but bags dropped off at designated collection points, such as retail or grocery stores. This prevents the plastic bags from getting tangled in the recycling sorting machinery or flying away during the transportation process.

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.

Please note that UCLA has a Packaging Foam Ban where university has prohibited the sale, procurement, and distribution of packaging foam as of Jan. 1, 2020. The ban applies systemwide, with the exception of laboratory or medical products. Learn more about our Sustainable Practices Policy.

What about _____?

For more information, the L.A. County Department of Public Works has kindly provided a table of recyclable items to help you! You can also look at our waste hauler’s educational materials: Athens What goes where guide

Do bottles and cans need to be rinsed before being placed in the bins?

No, but please empty them first. All trapped liquids get squeezed out in the recycling process, but the liquids can cause contamination issues for the rest of the recycling load. 

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 or grease.  Drain liquids and scrape as much food out into a compost container (if available) or a landfill bin before recycling your container.

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.

Which plastics should be placed in the recycling bins?

Plastics #1, #2, and #5 are most likely to be recycled. #3 and #4 plastics are more difficult to recycle, but are still accepted. #6 and #7 plastics are extremely difficult to recycle and it is advised to dispose of these in the landfill bin. If you happen to recycle plastic is not recyclable, it will simply be sorted out at the recycling facility, but we want to keep to contamination low as possible!

If the plastic that I am trying to recycle doesn’t have a number on it, can I still recycle it?

As long the item in question is a hard plastic item, it is safe to dispense them in a recycling bin. As a general rule, hard plastics (ones that will retain its shape if you squeeze it) larger than a credit card are typically accepted. Soft plastics, such as cling wrap and zip-top bags, are not recyclable. If it turns out that the plastic is not recyclable, it will simply be sorted out at the recycling facility.

Should plastic or glass bottle caps be removed prior to being recycled? Should I flatten soda cans?

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.

Do not flatten aluminum cans before recycling, as this will make it difficult for sorting machinery to recognize and sort the cans.

Is it better to put biodegradable plastics with a #7 (PLA) in the recycle bin or the food waste bin?

Bioplastics and compostable plastics are not accepted in either the recycling bin or compost bin, as recycling facilities do not process these materials and these materials do not break down fast enough at industrial composting facilities. Please dispose bioplastics and compostable plastics in the landfill. UCLA is transitioning away from bioplastics and compostable plastics over the next year.

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 for the individual. It is highly effective and is used by many communities, schools, and businesses around the world. Using a single-stream system will help UCLA reach its 90% waste diversion (not going to a landfill) goals.

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.

Is single stream more energy intensive and more expensive?

Slightly, but the increase in recycling makes up for this. Landfill space is limited and so are our planet’s resources. This means trash will have to be trucked further and further away if we reach capacity with our current landfills. In addition, more raw materials will be required if we do not promote a circular economy.

Where does our recycling go?

Recyclables are collected on campus from the recycling bins, and then taken to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Sun Valley 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. You can watch a virtual tour of the MRF.

Who sorts the recyclables?

We have a contract with our waste hauler to sort our recyclables at a nearby Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). Watch a virtual tour of the MRF.

What about compost?

Our waste hauler accepts compostable waste and preliminarily sorts contaminants at a Materials Recovery Facility before bringing it to their organics processing facility. You can watch a virtual tour of the American Organics facility if you are interested in learning more. UCLA has widely expanded access to compost bins throughout campus and will have compost collection in all campus buildings by the end of 2020.

Requesting recycling bins

Facilities will provide recycling bins for public spaces only (corridors, hallways, and classrooms). Departmental space such as office suites and labs will need to purchase their own receptacles. If you need a battery bin, please fill out the Recycling Request Form.

What can I do if my apartment doesn’t have recycling or compost bins?

You can contact your building manager about receiving recycling and/or composting services from your waste hauler. The L.A. County Recycling Ordinance in addition to State Policy SB1383 mandates all waste haulers to provide these services, it also allows these haulers to charge a fee, but this fee is usually only between $0.50-$3.00 per month.

Where can I donate excess food or hygiene products?

The Community Programs Office (CPO) Food Closet provides donated food to feed hundreds of UCLA students facing food insecurity and financial hardship. If you would like to donate, please follow our Food Recovery Implementation Guide.