Recycling at NIU

Recycling and resource use are critical components of our campus sustainability efforts. We are dedicated to improving our current recycling systems and minimizing resource use. In a world of finite resources, the ways in which we use resources to support university operations and campus life, and the way we manage our waste products play a key role in defining the university's environmental footprint. By implementing recycling options for all materials and improving management of materials, we will reduce our consumption, minimize our contribution to the landfill and reduce our carbon footprint.

Recycling Categories

"Commingle," or single stream recycling, allows you to recycle materials without taking the time or effort to sort them. With commingled recycling service, all of your approved recyclables can be tossed into one easy-to-use recycle bin. We provide adequate recycling bins to ensure that there is always a convenient choice between trash and recycling. Bins are available through Central Stores for departments to purchase (use the Office Max portal).

Are you wondering how your recyclables are sorted? Check out Waste Management's video on what happens to your recycling.

Unsoiled paper products, all unbroken glass bottles, unsoiled cardboard and paper, all mixed paper and books (including those with bindings and staples), aluminum cans and all plastics are accepted except for plastic bags, packaging and Styrofoam. All items must be empty of liquids or food waste.

Acceptable Not Acceptable


  • Plastic bottles labeled with numbers 1 and 2
  • Any unsoiled plastic with recycling symbol or RID number 1-5 and 7
  • Juice boxes
  • 6 pack/12 pack rings


  • Aluminum foil
  • Beverage cans
  • Disposable baking pans
  • Food cans
  • Food can lids
  • Staples and paper clips


  • Clear
  • Brown
  • Tinted and colored

Mixed Paper

  • Envelopes (open window, labeled, inter-office)
  • Junk mail
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Notebooks
  • Office paper (white, colored, ledger)
  • Office paper (computer paper, glossy, carbonless or NCR)
  • Paperback books
  • Post-it Notes
  • Telephone books
  • Cardboard (must be flattened)
  • Corrugated paper cartons


  • Styrofoam
  • Plastic wrap and packaging
  • Plastic bags (can be recycled at local grocery stores)



  • Broken glass (safety reasons)
  • Cookware
  • Lightbulbs
  • Window glass

Mixed Paper

  • Paper cups
  • Carbon paper
  • Dark-colored paper
  • Facial tissue
  • Hand towels
  • Hardcover books (unless cover is removed)
  • Wax paper


Plastics come in many varieties and utilize a numbering system from 1-7. Plastics accepted in typical recycling programs are #1, #2 and #5. #1 and #2 are clear beverage containers and #5 are typically yogurt and cottage cheese containers. At NIU, we recycle all plastics numbered 1-5 and 7. Any plastic with an RID number also is recyclable through Waste Management with the exception of polystyrene (Styrofoam). Polystyrene, plastic bags and most plastic packaging are not recyclable. Hard plastic caps are also not recyclable.


Make sure paper recyclables are dry, wrapped in twine or in a paper bag, and contain no plastic or other materials before placing them in a recycle bin. Acceptable recycle bin paper includes newspapers, printer paper, junk mail, magazines, notebooks, cardboard and phone books. There are some papers that will not be accepted, such as food-contaminated paper, wax paper, wax milk cartons, carbon paper, etc. Tissues and used paper towels are not recyclable. At NIU, there are some recycling bins specifically for paper, but paper and cardboard can also be mixed in our single stream recycling system.


All colored glass is recyclable: brown, green, clear, etc. Pyrex glass, window glass and ceramics are not recyclable in our program. Broken glass should not be placed in the recycling bin for safety reasons. Most glass that is recycled at curbside in your recycle bin is bottle glass. Other types may require a local recycle hauler to come to your home and pick it up.


The vast majority of aluminum recycling consists of aluminum beverage containers. Make sure they are empty and clean. Other types of aluminum are acceptable if they have been imprinted with a recycling symbol and are small enough to fit in the recycling bin.


Other materials such as motor oil, batteries, tires and toxic items must be recycled elsewhere. It is best to find a reputable hauler who can be trusted to recycle those materials properly.

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 at 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. The Illinois EPA also keeps a list of registered e-waste collection sites.

Examples of E-waste

  • Televisions
  • Monitors
  • 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 Lowe's 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, Illinois.
  • 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 recycling 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 we used to recycle pens and other office supplies at NIU has 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 toward 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.

Campus Programs That Support Recycling

Community members and students who don't have access to campus recycling can use the community recycling bin located off of Lincoln Highway on the west side of Stadium Drive. This bin is available for anyone to use at any time. The bin is located in a turnabout area just west of the Dorland Building.

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