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Rethink Waste

Announcement: Blue bags cannot be placed in recycling dumpsters on campus. They are considered a contaminant. Please empty recyclables out of blue bags into the recycling dumpster and place the empty blue bag into the landfill dumpster.

University of Richmond has set an ambitious goal of 75% waste diversion by 2025. This means that by 2025, we are striving to have 75% of our waste recycled, composted, or donated for reuse instead of going to the landfill. In order to achieve this goal, we need the help and participation of all faculty, staff, and students on campus. 

This campaign is all about rethinking our relationship with waste. When you dispose of a recyclable item, place it in the right receptacle so those materials can be reused. If you think someone else may find value in an item you no longer want or need, donate it to be used again. Best of all, consider where an object or its packaging will end up once you are done with it before you purchase it. Factor that into your thinking when deciding what, and if, to buy.

Why Does Waste Matter?

Though we talk about throwing things "away", all the materials that make their way into the waste bin end up somewhere else. There is no away. Far too often, our waste goes to the landfill. Although landfills help us keep our cities clean, there are better solutions. Landfills are anaerobic environments, which make it very difficult for waste to decompose. Contamination can also occur if leachate - water that has percolated through landfill waste - leaks into groundwater or nearby habitats. Diverting recyclable and compostable items from the landfill to be made into valuable goods is a better option.

Sending waste to landfills also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change. Landfills produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. On top of that, when items end up in a landfill, new items must be made from raw materials, ultimately using more energy and water than if items had been donated for reuse or recycled into something new.

University of Richmond's Waste Diversion Efforts

Recycling has been in place at the University since 1991, beginning as a coordinated effort between the University’s Custodial and Environmental Services department and interested students. Today, the University has two dedicated recycling technicians working in Facilities, and an extensive recycling program for a variety of materials. University of Richmond's current waste diversion rate is 36.1%; 25.5% of our waste is recycled, 9.2% is composted, and 1.4% is donated.

Currently, yard waste and some pre-consumer food waste in Heilman Dining Center is composted. In 2020, the University will begin expanding back of house composting in dining locations around campus.

There are also policies in place to promote purchasing items that use recycled or sustainably sourced materials. When purchasing products and services, University offices are encouraged to consider third-party sustainability certifications—such as Green Seal, GreenGuard, Energy Star, and the Forest Stewardship Council—whenever possible. Contracts also have specifications for recycled content for custodial, office, and food service paper products; 80% of these products must contain 30% recycled content.

Facilities partners with Athletics, Dining Services, Events, and the Office for Sustainability to put on Rethink Waste events like basketball games, football games, and commencement. Learn more about attending or volunteering at a Rethink Waste event.

Frequently Asked Questions

Read through guidelines for recycling and composting below and check out our tips for how you can reduce waste and be a green spider.

Why do we use blue bags and why can't I recycle them?

We line recycling bins on campus with blue plastic bags. This ensures that bins stay clean and that custodial staff can easily transport recyclables outside to dumpsters. Unfortunately, blue bags are now considered a contaminant and cannot be placed in recycling dumpsters. At the materials recovery facility where our recyclables are sorted, these bags can get tangled up in machinery and cause damage. If you are taking recyclables to a dumpster, please empty recyclables out of blue bags into the recycling dumpster and place the empty blue bag into the landfill dumpster.

What can I recycle?

-Plastics 1-7, including disposable cups, shampoo bottles, water bottles, takeout containers, peanutbutter jars, and yogurt containers, among many other items.  For more information regarding what types of plastic are recyclable, please visit .

-Clean cardboard


-Mixed paper including notebook paper, printer paper, newspaper, envelopes, magazines, and sticky notes

-Glass bottles and jars


-Tin and aluminum cans

Items should be emptied of food or liquid before being recycled. Please pour excess liquids into a compost or landfill bin before placing items into a recycling receptacle. Soft plastic (like plastic wrap), straws, plastic utensils, and plastic-lined paper cups (ex: a paper cup from Starbucks) cannot be recycled.

What cannot be recycled?



-Plastic wrap

-Plastic wrappers

-Plastic grocery bags

-Greasy pizza boxes



-Plastic utensils

-Paper or Styrofoam coffee cups

-Electronics (save these for the University's annual e-waste collection)

When any of the above items are put in a recycling bin, they contaminate that batch of recycling. After a certain amount of contamination, that whole bin's worth of material must be sent to the landfill. Reduce contamination by rinsing and emptying all plastic or glass bottles, jars, and containers before recycling them. 

Where does UR's waste go?

- Municipal solid waste is transported to Old Dominion Landfill located to the east of the city of Richmond in Henrico, 14 miles away.
- Single stream recycling is transported to the County Waste Material Recycling Facility in Chester, 18 miles from campus.
- Cardboard is taken to Weyerhaeuser in Richmond, 10 miles away.
- Metal goes to Sims Metal Management 11 miles away in Richmond.
- Yard Waste is taken to Gillies Creek Recycling in Richmond, 14 miles away.
- Wood waste goes to SB Cox 10 miles away in Richmond.

What if I want to recycle plastic bags?

Plastic shopping bags, sandwich bags, and soft plastic packaging cannot be recycled on campus. However, many grocery stores offer plastic bag recycling programs. If you would like to collect and recycle your plastic bags, use A Bag's Life to find a recycling location near you. 

The company Trex, has a program that allows universities to recycle soft bags in exchange for a free bench made from plastic. 

The goal is 40,500 bags (or 500 pounds) by May 1, 2020. If we hit the goal, Trex will provide us the bench out of recycled plastic, which will be located in the Eco-Corridor for all to use.   Click here: Recycle Beyond The Bag to view what types of soft bags you may recycle. 

Below is a video that Trex has made about how the plastic collected is recycled. Video:  How plastic film is recycled with NexTrex!

Drop off box locations are:
International Center 3rd floor
Jepson Hall ground floor entrance
THC 2nd floor
Dhall Lobby
Post Office Lobby
North Court Academic 1st floor
How can I recycle Styrofoam?

Styrofoam cannot be recycled in bins on campus. Many Publix stores, however, have bins for Styrofoam recycling. If you are a Publix customer, you can call a store near you and see if a Styrofoam recycling bin is available at a particular location. 

Can I recycle Keurig pods?

The foil on top of Keurig pods is recyclable, but the pods themselves are not. There is a program for recycling them that involves ordering a collection bin. This is a good option for offices. 

What can be composted?

Heilman Dining Center currently composts over 40,000 pounds of pre-consumer food waste each year.

What can I do with e-waste, like computers and batteries?

Batteries and electronics often contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment, so it's not a good idea to put these in a landfill bin. The University hosts an annual e-waste disposal event where you can bring batteries, electronics, hard drives, and more. 

Batteries can be recycled in the bin at Boatwright Library outside Eight-Fifteen.

Items, like laptops, purchased by the University should be returned to Information Services

Where can I dispose of prescription drugs?

In order to dispose of prescription drugs in a safe and environmentally responsible way, URPD has placed a container for drug collection in the lobby of the Special Programs Building located at 31 UR Drive. Please place expired or excess drugs in the drug collection bin rather then throwing them in a landfill bin.

What can I donate?

-Donate office supplies through the UROSE Office Supply Exchange in Puryear 101A.

-Donate clothing, school supplies, small electronics, and more through Goodwill bins at Marsh Hall, North Court, or Lora Robins.

-Contact Facilities to donate office furniture.

-Donate items from your residence hall or apartment to the Big Yard Sale each May.

How can I reduce waste every day?

-Take a reusable bag with you for shopping

-Have a reusable water bottle or coffee cup on hand

-Skip the tray in the dining hall to reduce food waste

-Avoid printing when possible

-Carry a reusable cutlery set to avoid plastic spoons and forks

-Skip the straw when ordering a drink

-Shop for things second-hand before searching for a new item

-When eating out, bring a reusbale container instead of using a disposable take-home box

How can students get more involved?

-Become a Sustainability Advocate

-Take a sustainability related course

-Intern with the Office for Sustainability

-Join a student organization

-Attend or volunteer at Office for Sustainability events

How can faculty get more involved?

-Participate in a River City Project workshop

-Join a Faculty Learning Community

-Attend or volunteer at Office for Sustainability events

How can staff get more involved?

-Become a Green Office

-Attend or volunteer at Office for Sustainability events

Who can I contact with questions?

Please direct your questions and comments to

Where can I find additional links regarding recycling?

Informative links regarding recycling:

NPR Plastics-recycling

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Rethinking Waste