Recycling and CompostingUpdated

Not only is recycling New York City law, it's one of the most important and practical contributions students can make to sustainability efforts at Columbia. As such, all residents are expected to follow University recycling practices. Recycling bins for paper and cardboard, as well as metal, glass and plastic are available in every building, usually in central locations such as suites, lobbies, and hallways. Please do not deposit trash in any recycling container, as this is considered contamination. Also, please do not place recycling in trash containers. If a recycling receptacle is missing, please submit a Maintenance Request to have it replaced.

Watch our short video below to learn the basics of recycling within Columbia Housing.


What to Recycle

In accordance with New York City guidelines, the following items can be recycled in the residence halls:

Paper and Cardboard

Paper and cardboard go in the green bins. Staples and tape on paper are okay. 

Metal, Glass, Plastic, and Cartons

Metal, glass, plastic, and cartons go in the blue bins. Rinse before recycling.

Other Items to Recycle

There are some items that can't be placed in your residence hall recycling station, but can be recycled or put to another use:

  • Plastic shopping bags can be recycled in the laundry rooms of most residence halls
  • Clothes, shoes, and other textiles can be donated via bins located throughout the residence halls
  • Reusable batteries, light bulbs, small electronics, or hardcover books can be recycled at a station in the Lerner Hall lobby

Visit NYC Recycles for other specialty items.

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What to Compost


Foods that can be composted:

  • fruit and vegetable scraps,
  • non-greasy food scraps (rice, pasta, bread, cereal etc.),
  • coffee grounds & filters,
  • tea bags,
  • egg and nut shells,
  • pits,
  • cut or dried flowers,
  • houseplants and potting soil.

Foods that cannot be composted:

  • meat,
  • chicken,
  • fish,
  • greasy food scraps,
  • fat,
  • oil,
  • dairy,
  • animal waste,
  • litter or bedding,
  • coal or charcoal,
  • coconuts,
  • diseased and/or insect-infested houseplants/soil
  • or biodegradable/compostable plastics.

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Items to Discard

Some paper, cardboard, metal, glass or plastic items cannot be recycled. These items should be donated or discarded.

Paper and Cardboard

Hardcover books, napkins, paper towels, tissues, paper soiled with food or liquid, paper with a lot of tape and glue, plastic- or wax-coated paper, photographic paper, frozen food containers

Metal, Glass and Plastic

Styrofoam, plastic bags, shower curtains, containers that held dangerous or corrosive chemicals, lighters, plastic tubes (toothpaste, lotion, and cosmetics), single-serve food and drink squeezable pouches, VHS or cassette tapes, pens, disposable razors, 3-ring binders, umbrellas, garden hoses, luggage, sponges, sports balls, mirrors, plate glass, light bulbs, ceramics, glassware, batteries, electronics, extension cords, diapers

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Recycling & Composting in the Residence Halls

To encourage increased recycling in the residence halls, Housing, Facilities, Environmental Stewardship, and the New York City Department of Sanitation have initiated a recycling program that features a new bin layout and improved signs. The bin layout and signs will continue to be replicated in other residence halls to standardize the way that students recycle in their residence halls.
Residents in buildings where recycling and/or composting bins are provided should note the following recycling/composting locations and procedures:
  • We are working to provide recycling bins for every student room in our residence halls. If your room is equipped with recycling receptacles, please use blue bins for glass, metal, plastic and cartons and green bins for mixed paper. Recycling bins will be provided upon request in residence halls where in-room recycling bins are not available. 
  • In doubles, recycling receptacles are to be shared between roommates. Residents must take their recycling and trash to the central recycling and waste station on their floor for disposal.
  • If recycling receptacles are removed from your room, you will be charged $25 per bin. 

Composting is currently available in Broadway, East Campus, Ruggles, and Schapiro and will be available in all residence halls in the future.

  • It is the student's responsibility to compost approved items in the provided compost bins and to adhere to posted collection methods.
  • If you live in one of the residence halls where composting is available and were not provided with a composting bin, please contact the Housing Hospitality Desk.