By UW Recycling | Oct 20, 2017

Guest submission by Audrey Taber, UW Recycling Student Waste Diversion Coordinator

UW is home to a diverse and vibrant student body, with individuals coming from over 100 different countries, all 50 states and various counties within Washington state. Since many locations outside of campus follow different waste diversion procedures, confusion arises when it comes to figuring out what items can be discarded in which bin. There are plenty of common questions that come up when talking with students on campus, so UW Recycling is here to provide some definitive answers below:

Do coffee cups from campus go in the recycling or compost bin?
• Hot and cold coffee cups from campus (including Starbucks) are compostable.
• Coffee cups purchased on the Ave. are not compostable and should be recycled.

What should I do with bottle caps and lids?
• Bottle caps and lids that are smaller than 3 inches in diameter must go in the garbage bin, but lids that are larger than 3 inches in diameter can go in a recycling bin.
• Lids labeled “WorldCentric”, “INGEO”, “Compost Me” and/or “100% compostable” can go in a compost bin.

Aluminum cans are recyclable, so foil should be too, right?
• Yes, aluminum foil and food pans can be placed in a recycling bin, but only if the item is clean, empty and not crumpled.

Which takeout containers are recyclable and which are compostable?
• 95% of the packaging and serviceware used for takeout containers on campus are compostable, but read the label to be sure.
• If it has a recycle symbol with numbers 1-6, then it cannot be composted.

How do I recycle small electronics and batteries on campus?
• At UW, batteries, cell phones, calculators and other small electronics are recycled through a separate recycling stream.
• Look for a bin labeled “eMedia” – they’re located in over 70 buildings on campus, including the HUB and all residence halls.

A pizza box is made of cardboard, so it should go in the recycling bin, right?
• Actually, any food-soiled paper product should go into the compost bin, including pizza boxes or napkins.

What do the numbers in the chasing arrows mean?
• The number within the recycle symbol only indicates what type of plastic resin is used to make the product.
• On campus and in Seattle, we recycle based on shape: typically jugs (like an empty gallon of milk or laundry detergent), non-compostable cups and  tubs (such as empty yogurt or hummus containers) are recyclable types of plastic.

For more information about how to dispose of specific items on campus, check out the UW Recycling Disposal Guide, or email UW Recycling at