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Recycling and Zero Waste

Did you know that 42% of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the production and use of goods, including food, products, and packaging? That's why at UIC, everyone has a role to play in the Zero Waste Campus goal of getting to a 90% diversion rate by 2050.

What is Zero Waste?

Zero waste includes the purchase of fewer disposable materials and more products made to last. Not only is recycling is required by Illinois Law, but recycling keeps waste out of landfills and incinerators and provides manufacturers with recycled instead of raw materials to make new goods. Zero waste promotes addressing social inequities, including leftover food donations to shelters.

Here you will find what and where you can recycle on campus, more sustainable alternatives, and information about zero waste events.

What materials can be recycled at UIC? Heading link

Recycling stations of different shapes and sizes can be found in the hallways in every building at UIC and should be no more than a few steps away from your office, classroom or lab. These stations usually consist of three bins (“Paper”; “Bottles & Cans”; and “Landfill”). You can recycle paper, broken-down cardboard, empty containers of glass and metal. Certain buildings also have collections for pipette tip boxes, batteries, writing utensils, and plastic bags (and other plastic “film”).

Find out what materials can be recycled at UIC and download and print recycling posters for paper, glass/ metal/ plastic and landfill bins.

How do I recycle at UIC? Heading link

If you work in an office, you should have a small, blue or grey bin for paper recycling and an even smaller black or grey bin for landfill material. You can empty the blue, desk-side recycling bin it into the larger hallway or common area bins whenever it is convenient for you. A Building Service Worker (BSW) will come through to empty the hallway bins. Don’t be alarmed if you see the BSW place all bags into one cart – they will separate the bags into the proper containers in the dock area of your building.

If you need assistance obtaining recycling bins for your office contact us at the link at the bottom of the page.

Steps to properly recycle at UIC

Zero Waste Events Heading link

Holding a Zero Waste event can be easy! One of the most critical things in zero waste planning is assuring that 90% of your event’s waste is diverted from landfill. This means reusable, compostable, or recyclable materials are used when needed. You can also participate in resource recovery for donating untouched, packaged items. Carefully differentiating between each material and recognizing the exact materials used may seem like a lot of work, however, we are here to help you through your zero-waste event planning.

The UIC Zero Waste Planning Guide includes a case study for an example, definitions, a list of operations to be done before, during, and after your event, and a list of sustainable resources. With careful, thought-out planning, zero waste is easy and sustainable!

Check out this page for resources how to create a zero waste event at UIC!

Zero Waste Sample Plans Heading link

To help your unit create a Zero Waste Plan, look at the reports for a similar building. The PDF version includes pie charts and bar graphs of the findings from the waste audits; strategies for source reduction, materials reuse, recycling, and composting for materials. The strategies are arranged first as a laundry list, then with a prioritization suggested by PSPM. The last set of recommendations address other parts of the zero waste agenda, for example empowering building service workers to be ambassadors for zero waste efforts in their areas.

Download examples of Zero Waste Plans (both Word and PDF format) for a variety of UIC units,  named by the building or activity zone.

Performing a Waste Audit Heading link

For an effective waste reduction plan, you need to know what waste you are generating. And the way to discover what waste is being generated is to look inside the bins. Here, we show documents like a diagram to plan a waste audit, with steps including needs assessment, audit set up and execution, action plan development, and program implementation categories. It complements the other documents and prompts departments to consider all the measures required to plan, execute, and follow up on a waste audit.

Download these documents to perform a successful waste audit: Building Waste Audit Plan, UIC Waste Audit Sorting Categories, Planning a Waste Audit.

Sustainable Materials Management Plan for UIC Heading link

The Sustainable Materials Management Plan for the University of Illinois at Chicago was created in accordance to section 20/3/1 of the Illinois Solid Waste Management Act (2014) by the Planning Sustainability and Project Management with assistance from Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois.  The Plan outlines current waste management practices, campus engagement, as well as a review of the comprehensive waste audit study including analysis and recommendations for diversion scenarios and implementation strategies for the university.

With this process, the Sustainable Materials Subcommittee has a comprehensive road map to build from the 47% recycling rate today and prime the conditions for a zero waste campus by 2050.

Access the Sustainable Materials Management Plan for UIC. For a fully accessible version of the plan, please email

Plastic Free UIC: Earth Day 2020 Heading link

For the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we asked the UIC Community what the university can do to celebrate the environment and we received an overwhelming response to curb the plastic pollution problem – particularly single use plastics – on campus.

Read all about how UIC is taking steps, and how you can help, to reduce single-use plastics on campus

GSX: Great Stuff Exchange Heading link

The Great Stuff Exchange (GSX) is an office supplies giveaway program. UIC collects items like binders, desktop filing systems, and other office supplies from departments that can no longer use them and makes them available for students, staff and faculty – for free! All donated items must be in clean and working condition.

Learn what items you can get for free at GSX

CERC: Campus Electronic Recycling Collection Heading link

Every September, there is a centralized collection event for university-owned electronics. Simply fill out the appropriate paperwork, bring your items and a copy of the FABWEB disposal request, and we will make sure it is recycled properly in accordance with the Illinois Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act and the OBFS Equipment Disposal Methods.

Discover how to properly recycle electronic products at UIC

LabShare Program Heading link

UIC accepts donations of unwanted – but working – laboratory materials especially glass flasks and beakers, and plastic pipettes and centrifuge tubes. The LabShare program also accepts equipment without university property tags (“P-Tags”). Researchers may request these items for use in the lab.

Find out how to donate or obtain used lab supplies

Sustainable Purchasing Heading link

It all starts with smart materials.

It begins when the materials available for use on campus are chosen based on compatibility within our recycling program. If an item (for example, Styrofoam cups) is provided for use on campus, it is everyone’s responsibility to ask why it was chosen in the first place.

Choosing materials with more recycled content helps the economy and the environment.

Follow these steps to purchase the most sustainable materials for use on campus

Questions about the Recycling Program? Contact Us! Heading link

1140 S. Paulina Street, Paulina Street Building, MC 996, Chicago, Illinois 60612

Zero Waste in UIC News Heading link