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.


Commonly Confused Items

Not sure what to do with your Blue Java coffee cups? The plastic lid goes into the blue bin, while the paper cup and paper sleeve should go in the green bin.


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 and shoes can be donated via bins and shoe boxes located throughout the residence halls
  • Resuable batteriess, lightbulbs, 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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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, Ziploc 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, extension cords, diapers

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Recycling in Residence Halls

To encourage increased recycling in the residence halls, Housing, Facilities, Environmental Stewardship, and the New York City Department of Sanitation have piloted 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.
  • Many student rooms are equipped with recycling receptacles to facilitate and encourage recycling. Blue bins are for glass, metal, plastic and cartons. Green bins are for mixed paper. 
  • 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.