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Waste Reduction

Our campus has been reducing, reusing, and recycling since the 1980s and we continue to improve waste mitigation in accordance with the University’s Sustainability Plan.

Fast Facts

  • Sorting: We currently have a single stream recycling system: paper, cardboard, plastics, cans, and glass can all be combined. Look for the blue bins in academic buildings and office spaces. Our outdoor recycling bins are green.
  • Bagging: Recycleables should be loose, NOT bagged. Bagged recyclables are pulled out because the bags clog up machinery, so they end up in the landfill instead!
  • Plastics bags/film: Plastic grocery & newspaper bags, plastic film, and bubble wrap cannot be recycled in the blue bins. These materials clog the sorting system at a regular facility and must be recycled at a special facility. UWO partners with Trex to recycle this type of waste from our internal operations. Trex uses such plastic to create durable decking materials and outdoor furniture. You can also find plastic film recycling at many area grocery stores. In fact, Festival Foods partners with Trex as well!
  • Lids: Metal lids and plastic lids over 4″ may be recycled separate from their original containers. Small plastic lids, such as those from beverage containers, should be screwed back onto their rinsed container. This keeps small plastic bits from falling through machinery and contaminating other recycling processes.
  • Electronics: All campus units recycle any electronic waste that they generate internally and in 2016 we diverted 6.33 tons of such waste. We also have an e-waste drive every year (usually during Earth Week in April) to collect cell phones, single-use and rechargeable batteries, printer cartridges, computers, TVs, etc. If you’d rather not wait until April, Best Buy or Batteries+ are other good year-round drop-off locations for small items.
  • Construction waste: In 2015-16 three buildings were being renovated. The total of construction and demolition materials recycled, donated, or otherwise recovered totaled 3,297 tons; only 433 tons were sent to the landfill!
  • Our facilities and maintenance teams recycle tires, oil, and metals.
  • In 2015, we collected 537 pounds of food from students in res halls during Move Out Week and donated it to the Oshkosh Area Community pantry. in 2016, we increased our efforts and worked closely with Residence Life to divert 5,365 pounds of waste including 860 pounds of food that was again donated to the Oshkosh Area Community Pantry and 1,020 pounds of metal that was recycled. Check out the UWO Today article here.
  • In the past we have run public events involving the arts, called TRASHformation, in partnership with Los Angeles-based RuckusRoots.

UWO Recycling Guide

  • This recycling system is called “Single Stream Recycling,” which accepts paper, plastic, glass, and metal products.  However please follow the Recycling Guide’s “Dos and Donts” to know which specific items can and cannot be recycled at UW Oshkosh, as well as best practices for doing so.

    What to Recycle 

    (Please rinse/clean out all metal, plastic, and glass products before placing them into recycling bins)


    (Place LOOSE inside recycling bins)

    • Newspapers and advertisement inserts 
    • Books (hard and soft cover)
    • Paper bags (e.g., brown grocery bags)
    • Magazines and catalogs
    • Corrugated cardboard (flatten, place large boxes beside bins)
    • Pizza boxes as long as they do not contain large globs of food (grease or sauce stains are fine) 
    • Office paper (printer/copier of all colors) and paper cards (e.g., greeting cards)
    • Junk mail and envelopes (envelopes with windows are okay)
    • Beverage packs (e.g., soda and beer 6/12/24 packs)
    • Paperboard products (e.g., cereal boxes, tissue boxes and notepad backs)
    • Cardboard tubes 
    • Paper cups used for fountain beverages and coffee (such as those from Reeve) without lids and straws
    • File folders (remove metal hangers from hanging type folders)
    • Shredded paper (contained in a paper bag stapled shut)

    • Aluminum cans
    • Aerosol spray cans (without plastic nozzle)
    • Metal cans (e.g., food cans) including tin, steel, and bi-metal
    • Metal lids from glass bottles and jars 3 inches in diameter or larger


    (Lids larger than 4″ can be recycled separately, while lids smaller than this should be screwed onto the empty bottle they came with. This prevents small plastic objects from falling through machinery and contaminating the glass recycling process going on below! Please take the time to empy out your container prior to placing it in the recycling bin.)

    • Bottles
    • Jars 
    • Jugs 
    • Cartons 
    • All Plastic Containers
      • Milk and Cream cartons
      • Produce containers
      • Deli containers 
      • Dairy containers

    Plastic Bags/Wrap/Film 

    Special cardboard bins are scattered around campus for collecting clean plastic bags, wrap, and film. UW Oshkosh accepts the following items:

    • Shopping bags (e.g., from grocery stores) 
    • Plastic wrap (e.g., included in packaging)
    • Other pliable plastic film (see note below)
    Note: to determine whether or not the plastic film you have is recyclable through campus, hold the plastic taught in both hands and press on the plastic with your thumb. If it stretches, then campus can accept it. 
    Bins are located in:
    • Dempsey Hall (second floor, near Administrative Services)
    • Halsey Science Center (first floor, near Biology offices)
    • Polk Library (main entrance)
    • Reeve Union (near Bookstore)
    • Sage Hall (first floor, parking lot entrance and third floor faculty offices)
    • Clow (near MiTaza and Nursing faculty offices)


    (Metal caps larger than 3 inches in diameter can be recycled, but must be removed from containers)

    • Bottles 
    • Jars 

    Do NOT Recycle

    (Unfortunately at this time we are unable to recycle these items. Please throw away with your other landfill-bound waste.)

    • Pizza boxes that contain chunks of food (e.g., stuck on cheese; those that have only grease on them are okay to recycle)
    • Personal hygiene paper products (e.g., facial tissues) However, you CAN recycle the boxes or plastic that these products come in!
    • Frozen food boxes
    • Paper with food on it (although you may be able to compost it!)
    • Styrofoam containers and packaging materials
    • Containers that held motor oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, pesticides, paint or other hazardous/flammable materials
    • Window glass or kitchen glass, drinking glasses, canning jars, glass baking dishes
    • Ceramic plant flats and pots (although the UW Oshkosh Community Garden or Growing Oshkosh may be able to use them! Contact to arrange a pickup/drop-off)
    • Light bulbs
    • Aluminum foil and aluminum cooking trays
    • Plastic bags, film, wrapping cannot be recycled in the regular bins. We do have special bins around campus, however for recycling pliable plastic bags and wrap. 
  •  building’s heating and cooling comes from the geothermal system that includes 56 vertical wells

Items that cannot be recycled in a curbside bin

Many items cannot be recycled in a curbside bin, but can still be kept out of the landfill!

For an A-to-Z guide on recycling just about anything, including many brand-specific items, check out this article from Real Simple. Many items can be reused or upcycled into crafts, just make sure you aren’t exposing yourself to hazardous materials (or creating additional waste) in the process. Check out these upcycling ideas on Pinterest.

Visit Earth911RecycleNation or call 1-800-RECYCLING to search for places within your zip code to recycle any type of item!

  • Clothes, shoes, and other fabrics that are too worn out to be donated can be taken to The North Face (3001 S Washburn St, Oshkosh) and as part of their Clothes the Loop program you will get a coupon for $10 off a $100 purchase. 
  • Download the Stuffstr app to offer items to friends and family via your smartphone or find local donation stations.
  • Send your old denim in to Blue Jeans Go Green be turned into insulation!
  • Wire hangers are generally not accepted by curbside programs, but many dry cleaners will accept them for reuse.
  • Batteries+Bulbs (1667 W 20th Ave, Oshkosh)
  • Batteries+Bulbs (1667 W 20th Ave, Oshkosh) accepts lead acid, nickel cadmium, nickel metal hydride, litium ion and lithium polymer batteries. Fees may apply.
  • Best Buy (1550 S Koeller Ave, Oshkosh) accepts rechargable batteries.
Electronic Waste
  • Many mobile carriers, like AT&T, offer $$ for trade-in of old devices.
  • Best Buy (1550 S Koeller Ave, Oshkosh) accepts devices, appliances, ink & toner cartridges, music & movie disks. Fees may apply, especially for larger items, but you can also earn $$ off some new products!
  • Staples Rewards members earn $$ back for ink & toner recycling. Even if you are not a member, they will still recycle cartridges for free.
  • Staples (1126 S Koeller Ave, Oshkosh) offers a trade in program for high-value items where they will give you a Staples eCash gift card. Items not accepted for trade-in value will still be recycled for free.
  • Chargers and cords can be recycled at Best Buy (1550 S Koeller Ave, Oshkosh).
  • EcoATM kiosks will accept many outdated devices and pay you cash for them. There is one in Oshkosh at Citizen’s Community Federal Bank (351 S Washburn St)
  • Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity ReStore both accept furniture. If you live in the dorms, items collected during our move out landfill diversion efforts go to one (or both) of these locations.
  • Staples offers a trade-in and remanufacture program for office furniture through Davies Office.
  • Check out local FreeCycle groups.
Plastic Bags & Film

Did you know that many types of stretchy plastic film can be recycled at grocery stores? This includes bread bags, some produce bags, ziploc bags, cling wrap, etc. Not sure if your plastic is the right kind? Push your thumb into it; if it stretches, it can be recycled but if it tears (or doesn’t have any give) it cannot. 

(Have you ever wondered why plastic film cannot be recycled in curbside bins? Check out the video below to see what a mess they make at our recycling facilities!)

Over the years we have seen an increase in campus waste mitigation & diversion, but most importantly, we have also seen decreases in waste generation. For more information on the waste stream at UW Oshkosh, view the 2010 Waste Audit Presentation and Report produced by students in the Environmental Studies 390, a topics course focused on Campus Sustainability. Learn more about waste management at UWO in the Campus Sustainability Plan.


  • Move Out Week (Goodwill NOT Landfill) (2013-present)
  • Recycle Mania (2014 & 2015)

Wondering how to recycle waste at home? Want to know where you can take hazardous materials? Check out the Winnebago County Waste Department for more info!

Want more info about the process your recycled materials go through after they’re picked up? Watch this short video about how single stream material recovery facilities (MRFs) work!

   Goodwill, Not Landfill

Every year UW Oshkosh diverts landfill waste by collecting unwanted items from students living in resident halls and donating them to organizations that will re-purpose/resell the items. For the past three years UW Oshkosh’s Residence Life has been partnering with Goodwill for the event called Goodwill NOT Landfill. During this Move Out Event unwanted food has also been collected and taken to the Oshkosh Food Pantry.

The Goodwill NOT Landfill aimed at encouraging students who are moving out of the residence halls to donate unwanted gently used furniture and clothing and unused food items to Goodwill instead of throwing the items away.

The small items and food will be collected inside every residence hall the second week in May. Donation locations vary by site.

Last year’s Spring Move Out Day Drive diverted more than one ton worth of items to Goodwill. This year, the goal is to double the amount collected.

Sustainability Institute for Regional Transformations


UW Oshkosh
800 Algoma Blvd.
Oshkosh, WI 54901

Contact Info:

(920) 424-0440
SIRT Office: 4483 Sage Hall