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Environmental Resource Center


The Environmental Resource Center educates and assists residents, businesses, and organizations in Northern Illinois with environmental questions and concerns.

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Food Waste and Composting

Food waste problem...

Composting is one solution...

Types of composting include vermicompost (worms), manure (non-human), and food scraps and yard waste.

Composting has three basic ingredients:

  • Browns - dead leaves, branches, twigs, and other items typically thought of as yard waste (carbon)
  • Greens - food scraps, grass clippings (nitrogen)
  • Water - water allows the microorganisms to continue decomposing the organic materials

Learn more from the Environmental Protection Agency

What can you compost

  • Fruit and veggie scraps `
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Leaves and plants
  • Grass clippings
  • Clover
  • Feathers
  • Horse manure
  • Corncobs
  • Bread and grains
  • Nutshells
  • Eggs shells
  • Shredded paper
  • Paper towels
  • Dead leaves and plants
  • Straw
  • Pine needles and cones
  • Small twigs and wood chips
  • Sawdust
  • Dryer lint (only if you did not use dryer sheets)
  • Potting soil
  • Dried flowers
  • Hair
Not Acceptable
  • Weeds with seeds
  • Dead plants (only if they die of disease?)
  • Sand
  • Coal and charcoal ashes
  • Colored and glossy paper
  • Meat and fish scraps
  • Cheese and dairy products
  • Fats, oils and grease
  • Pet feces and cat litter
  • Dead animals
  • Large tree branches or pieces of woods
  • Treated lumber
  • Pallets that have been used in warehouses
  • Tin
  • Aluminum
  • Peanut butter


Did you know it is illegal to dump electronics in Illinois landfills? Recycling these products helps conserve valuable resources and mitigates harmful chemicals from getting into our environment.

NIU collects e-waste generated by university departments and recycles these products with a CMS certified recycler in accordance with state regulations. All NIU E-Waste can be dropped off to Shipping and Receiving near Campus Mail.

NIU does not accept any electronic waste from the outside the community. DeKalb County has established a schedule for community members to properly recycle their unwanted electronics. All non-university electronics can be recycled at a local collection event. See the schedule of DeKalb County collection dates and locations. The Illinois EPA also keeps a list of registered e-waste collection sites.

Examples of E-waste
  • Televisions
  • Monitor
  • Printers
  • Scanners
  • Fax machines
  • Computers (laptop, notebook, netbook, tablet, desktop)
  • Electronic keyboards
  • Electronic mice
  • Cameras
  • VCRs
  • DVD players and recorders
  • Projectors
  • Small servers
  • Credit card readers
  • Cell phones
  • Satellite receivers
  • Other miscellaneous electronic devices
Unacceptable Items
  • White goods (refrigerators, dish washers, stoves, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, etc.)
  • Light bulbs
  • Liquids or items containing liquids: gas motors, hazardous waste, etc.
  • VHS cassette tapes or data tapes
  • Gas cylinders (fire extinguishers, propane tanks, etc.)

Batteries disposed in the landfill contain heavy metals that are hazardous to the environment and health, and could leach into our local water supply. Many local stores such as Lowe's and Target offer battery drop-off locations for recycling.

Building Services works with Environmental Health and Safety to properly recycle batteries used on campus. When recycling batteries on campus, cover the ends of each battery with tape to prevent accidental discharge, place them in an envelope and address to "Campus Mail/Recycle." There are also several small brown recycling containers labeled "batteries only" throughout campus. Lithium-ion, Ni-MH, Ni-Cd, and alkaline (household) batteries are all accepted through this program. Lead-acid batteries are recycled through a CMS-approved metal recycling vendor.

NIU utilizes CMS approved vendors to recycle all battery chemistries.

Contact David Mannia at 815-753-2383 or with questions.

Fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury, which is harmful to both the environment and human health. Mercury is a greenhouse gas and releasing it into the atmosphere can effect global climate change. When mercury containing bulbs are disposed of improperly, the harmful chemicals can also leach from landfills into the groundwater. Starting in 2007, we switched to using lower mercury bulbs to comply with Illinois Law requirements and established an ongoing recycling program for fluorescent lamps on campus.

Building Services works with Environmental Health and Safety to properly recycle light bulbs used on campus. This program does not allow light bulbs brought in from home, however light bulbs from offices and students in the residence halls are accepted. Local stores such as Target and Lowes may collect used light bulbs for recycling.

NIU Light Bulb Recycling Process
  • Spent light bulbs are changed and collected by Building Services employees
  • Bulbs are brought to Environmental Health and Safety where David Mannia, Environmental Protection Specialist, sorts the bulbs and prepares them for shipping.
  • Bulbs are sent to Fluorecycle in Ingleside, IL.
  • Fluorecycle crushes the bulbs to remove mercury and other harmful chemicals, recycles the glass and aluminum from the bulbs, and reprocesses the phosphorus.
  • Glass and aluminum from the bulbs is then recycled.

Contact David Mannia at 815-753-2383 or with questions.

Printing ink and toner cartridges contain chemicals that are harmful for the environment and health. Many ink manufacturers provide free mailing labels to return used products for recycle and reuse at no cost. Please check the product's website if no such label is provided.

Local stores such as Target also offer ink cartridge recycling drop-off.

On the NIU campus, you can recycle your ink cartridges through our interoffice mail by placing used cartridges in an envelope addressed to "Campus Mail/Recycle."

Questions? Contact us at

The Terracycle Program that has been used in the past at NIU to recycle pens and other office supplies has recently been discontinued. As a result, Campus Mail is no longer able to accept these items, as they have no way to properly recycle them. Although efforts have been made to find an alternative source for office supply recycling, the NIU Green Team has been unsuccessful in finding another means for pen recycling.

At this time, departments should refrain from sending pens and other items to Campus Mail. Members of the Green Team are still working towards finding another source for pen recycling, and when one is found, an announcement will be made with further instructions.

Contact the Green Team at with questions.

Contact Us

Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy/ENVS
325 Montgomery Hall
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115