Resource Use + Recycling

Progress Indicators

Percent reduction of waste generated per person from 2016 figures.
Percent of waste diverted from landfills.
Percentage of waste stations in academic buildings that contain a recycling bin.

Progress Spotlight: Consistent Waste Signage

Following a waste characterization study completed in 2019, we are implementing strategies from our Sustainable Materials Management Plan to reduce IU's waste footprint. A key component is to institute consistent signage and labeling across campus. For questions relating to the signage rollout schedule or about waste manage in your building, please contact Sustain IU.


Example of recycling sign
Example of compost sign
Example of waste sign

Recycling Best Practices and Tips

Empty, Clean, and Dry

Be sure your recyclables are empty, clean and dry before you put them in the recycle bin. It suffices to simply rinse containers. They don't need to be sparkling clean, but there should not be much food residue.

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When in Doubt, Leave it Out

If you're unsure if an item belongs in recycling bin, leave it out. Our goal is to have a contamination rate of less than 10%. Too much contamination poses challenges for our recycling processor.

Recycling Basics

Common Contaminants


Food waste, soiled or wet paper and cardboard, liquid in bottles, coffee cups, and more.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. A recycle symbol means the product is recyclable somewhere, but not necessarily at our local recycling center. IU sends its recycling to Republic Services in Indianapolis, where it is sorted and then baled to send to manufacturers who use the product to turn it in to something else. This regional recycling center can only process aluminum, steel, plastics #1 and #2 (the most common plastics), paper without plastic or wax coating, cardboard, and glass. Flimsy plastics and Styrofoam cannot be recycled. Items smaller than a credit card cannot be filtered by the processing machines – leave them out of the recycle bin or, in the case of caps on bottles, leave them on the bottle.
  2. Because plastic cups, including takeout beverage cups, are usually made of thin plastic, these sometimes get crushed and cannot be sorted by processing machines like more robust bottles and jugs can, so unfortunately sometimes plastic cups are not recycled. This is why reducing our plastic use and reusing are such important steps before recycling.

  1. No, this isn’t true. Waste management at IU is made up of dedicated custodial, facilities, and administrative staff who work hard to properly collect, sort, haul, and then track (through weight data and financial data) the proper disposal, diversion, or compost of our waste. Sustain IU and Facilities staff are in constant communication with our recycling hauler and visit the recycling plant about once a year.
  2. Our recycling processor can accommodate 10% contamination rate. Occasionally staff may choose to put a ‘recycle’ or ‘compost’ bag in the landfill dumpster if the bag clearly shows more contaminants than recyclables or compostable matter.
  3. The best way to support sustainable waste management at IU is to participate; reduce your waste generation, reuse everything you can, encourage your unit or student org to host Certified Green Events, and learn what is recyclable or compostable for everything else.
  4. If you have specific questions about waste management at IU or would like a Sustain IU staff member to speak to your class, please contact us at


  1. Yes, IU composts both landscaping waste and food waste.
  2. Food waste can only be composted if it is served on compostable serviceware, offered in IU Dining Facilities and the Tobias Nutrition Center. At present, we are only offering compost bins in these facilities, but we hope to expand to academic spaces in the future. Compost is then hauled to a local composting facility in Bloomington where it is ground and aerated, turning it in to nutrient rich soil that can be used in farming, gardening, and landscaping applications
  3. If you get takeout at an IU Dining facility and eat your meal in your dorm room or in an academic building and toss the plates and leftovers in the trash, that gets sent to the landfill.
  4. Dining staff in kitchens compost all pre-consumer food scraps like coffee grounds and carrot peels.
  5. Landscaping Services staff compost grass clippings, leaves, tree clippings, etc. on IU property near the IU Foundation. This mulch and soil is then used on campus again for landscaping.

Though technically paper, napkins get crumped and soiled with food, making them difficult for the recycling processing machines to sort and process them like paper. Keep napkins, paper straws, straw wrappers, etc. out of recycling, or compost them in IU Dining facilities.

No. We want to avoid bags in our recycling stream, as they are difficult for custodial staff and our recycling processors to cut through. Our campus shredding contractor, GRM, recycles shredded documents when they service the shredding machines.

Working together to reduce our consumption and effectively divert waste from landfills

Greening Cream & Crimson

Working with IU Athletics to increase recycling and improve overall waste management at IU sporting events!
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IU Surplus

Diverting waste by collecting university property and equipment for resale
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IU Dining

IU Dining works continually on sustainability initiatives, including zero-waste dining halls and compostable packaging!
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Reducing waste through Green Event Certification

From small departmental meetings to large-scale campus community gatherings, IU hosts hundreds of events throughout the year. Implementing green practices at these events, no matter the size, can help reduce our waste, conserve resources, and set an example across campus by engaging the community to sustain IU. Click below to access the Green Events Checklist and resource guide.

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Sustain IU

Office of Sustainability
704 E. 10th Street
Bloomington, IN 47408
Phone: 812.855.9195