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Campus Recycling Program

Vanderbilt has a 20-year history of recycling efforts to reduce waste going to landfills. In addition to traditional recycling programs for materials such as paper, plastic, cardboard, and glass, Vanderbilt has recycling programs for non-traditional materials like construction and demolition debris, toner cartridges, batteries, light bulbs, scrap metal, and electronics.



  • All clean plastic containers (#1-7)


Containers contaminated with:

  • Food or liquid
  • Plastic bags
  • Plastic film
  • Lamination
  • Wrappers
  • Packing materials
  • Styrofoam

Mixed Paper


  • Office paper (white and colored; staples and paper clips are okay)
  • Newspaper
  • Magazines
  • Journals
  • One-ply cardboard/paperboard (cereal bozes, beverage boxes, tisse boxes, paper towel/bathroom paper rolls, and other thin, non-corrugated cardboard)
  • Envelopes (window envelopes, paper clips, and staples are all okay)
  • Coated paper (juice cartons, milk cartons, etc.)


  • Anything contaminated with food
  • Tissue paper
  • Paper towels
  • Napkins
  • Corrugated cardboard (packing boxes)
  • Laminated paper
  • Carbon paper
  • The spiral of a spiral notebook
  • Padded envelopes
  • Paper or Styrofoam cups
  • Phone books

Aluminum and Tin


  • Empty drink cans
  • Clean food cans
  • Aluminum foil
  • Aluminum food pans (pie tins, lasagna pans, etc.)


  • Aluminum or tin that is contaminated with food, liquids, or trash
  • Other types of metal items. 

Glass (Drop-Off Only)


  • ​Clean glass jars and bottles.

Drop-off only at these locations. Look for the specified glass recycling containers. Any glass placed near or in residential and office recycling bins will not be recycled - it will be thrown away. 


  • Lids
  • Bags
  • Bulbs
  • Beakers
  • Windows
  • Any tempered glass
  • Mirrored glass



  • Any corrugated cardboard (this is the thick cardboard made of two flat layers and a sandwiched spacing layer, e.g. packing boxes)


  • Any cardboard that has been contaminated with food (e.g. pizza boxes)
  • Any other corrugated item, like corrugated plastic
  • Packing materials (bubble wrap, peanuts)
  • Wax or plastic-coated cardboard

With the hustle and bustle of finishing up the semester, moving out can be a hectic process of trying to fit a year’s worth of stuff into cars, suitcases, and storage. For all the stuff that doesn’t fit, Vanderbilt’s Earth Friendly Move Out provides opportunities to keep a large volume of material out of the landfill while helping others at the same time.


OHARE will have donation locations set up across campus benefiting a variety of non-profit charities. You can donate many items, including old textbooks, at any of these locations or post them on Vandy FreeSwap!


In addition to donating, there are many convenient locations for recycling common items on campus.

  • Electronics: Personally-owned unusable or broken electronics, computers, and appliances may be dropped off in the specially designated areas outside of residence halls during move out. Be sure to erase or destroy any personal data! Any VU-owned computers, electronics, or appliances must follow the electronics disposal directions found in the specialized recycling section below. These cannot be placed in the temporary drop-off sites.
  • Batteries, ink/toner cartridges, CFL bulbs, and pens/mechanical pencils: Recycling is available year-round at various locations across campus. See a map of these recycling locations here.
  • Plastic, aluminum, paper, and cardboard: Recycling is provided for these materials near residence halls. See a map of these recycling locations here.
  • Glass: See a map of these recycling locations here.

For more information about Earth Friendly Move Out, please visit the Waste and Recycling website, contact, or call 343-2784 (E.ARTH on campus).

A map of campus locations for batteries, ink & toner cartridges, bulbs, and ink pen & mechanical pencil recycling can be seen here.


Small battery recycling containers have been placed at several convenient locations for used batteries generated from work-relatedactivities. Acceptable batteriesinclude normal alkaline batteries, such as AA, AAA, C, D, etc., as well as rechargeable batteries, such as nickel-cadmium, lithium ion, and nickel-metal hydride batteries, from cell phones, PDAs, and portable equipment. When recycling a rechargeable battery, please place tape over the metal contacts to prevent metal-on-metal contact.

Locations include:

  • Commons Center, Sarratt Student Center, Kissam Center, and Wyatt Center main desks
  • Library entrances at Heard and Peabody Libraries
  • Outdoor Recreation Center main desk
  • Peabody Maintenance Building lobby
  • Information Desks at Branscomb Quad, Carmichael Towers East, Carmichael Towers West, Hank Ingram, Lewis House, and Vanderbilt Barnard
  • Buttrick Hall (Room 029)
  • Home Economics Room 209 (break room)
  • Neely Auditorium (outside room 206)
  • Olin Hall, Room 101
  • Stevenson Center, 6th Floor Physics Building (across from elevators)
  • Wyatt Center 1st floor information desk (atrium area)
  • 1025 16th Avenue South Building, Room 120
  • All student Reeve desk locations (for residential students only)
  • and HR Express/Commodore Concierge locations in VUMC (Medical Center North main lobby, Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital second floor off sky-bridge from the South Garage)

Large batteries from Vanderbilt-owned equipment (towmotors, vehicles, etc.) can be collected by submitting a work request through ReADY using the Recycling/Waste Services tile. For questions about chemical waste collection, visit the VEHS website.



The Natchez Trace Leaf Compost Pile Vanderbilt’s scenic campus contains more than 7,500 trees, which produce a sizable amount of leaves each year. The Plant Operations Grounds Department at Vanderbilt collects leaf and other grounds-keeping waste from campus to compost at an on-site location off of Natchez Trace resulting in about 9,000 cubic feet of compost annually. The mature leaf litter compost is later used to fertilize Vanderbilt grounds. Plant Operations staff regularly turn the leaf waste pile with a front-end loader to allow maximum exposure to oxygen. Spreading compost helps to revitalize plants and trees in urban settings. Read more about how Vanderbilt uses its abundance of leaves to nurture and protect the trees on campus here.

Computer and Electronics Waste

The Vanderbilt Electronics Recycling Program is a mechanism for disposing of equipment such as monitors, CPUs, keyboards, printers, fax machines, and other electronic equipment such as TVs and even microwaves. All items are accepted regardless of functionality, age, or condition.

  1. If the equipment has stored data such as a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, etc., it should have hard drives cleaned of all personal and confidential information prior to requesting a surplus collection. VUIT provides Scrubbing Tools to assist with this process.
  2. If the electronics were purchased with grant funds, the department must contact the Office of Contract and Grant Accounting (, 615-343-6655) to determine whether the electronics are owned by Vanderbilt. Even if the electronics are not owned by Vanderbilt, they should still be handled appropriately satisfying all EPA and TDEC regulatory requirements. OGCA or the granting organization can give written/email permission to the surplus team to surplus the electronics. If the electronics are owned by Vanderbilt, then proceed to step 3.
  3. If the electronics are a tracked asset/capital equipment (initial purchase value of $5,000 or more), a Property Transmittal Form (PTF) must be completed by the department that owns the property. Follow the instructions on the form for submittal.
  4. If the electronics are not a tracked asset OR after the Property Transmittal Form has been approved by VU Finance, call Plant Operations at 615-343-9675 or submit a work request through ReADY using the Recycling/Waste Services tile to request a collection of electronic for recycling. All electronics recycling collections are completed at no cost.

Why can’t I just throw my old computer and electronics equipment in the dumpster?

Some electronic equipment contains levels of heavy metals that could leach out and contaminate water supplies if placed in an ordinary landfill. Environmental laws forbid this equipment from being disposed of as ordinary trash. Vanderbilt requires that all computers must be processed through the electronics recycling program (See current Conflict of Interest and Commitment Policy).

What happens to the equipment?

If the equipment is in good working condition, it will be redistributed, sold, or donated, if possible. If the equipment is unusable, it is shipped to an electronics recycling facility that disassembles or shreds the electronics, segregates the parts, and recycles the materials.

Ink and Toner Cartridge Recycling

Vanderbilt and Guy Brown are pleased to offer recycling for copier, fax, laser and ink jet toner cartridges at Vanderbilt University. Drop-off locations have been established at the following locations:

  • Commons Center, Kissam Center, and Sarratt Student Center main desks
  • Medical Research Building III (MRBIII) – 3rd floor lobby
  • Baker Building Lobby

Guy Brown will donate equal portions of the proceeds from recycling these items to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, the Susan Gray School, and the Work/Life Connections Faculty and Staff Hardship Fund. Simply take your copier, fax, laser, and ink jet toner cartridges or bottles to the recycling location nearest you! 

Confidential Paper Recycling

To securely dispose of confidential documents, Vanderbilt contracts with Shred-It to recycle paper once it has been shredded to destroy confidential information. Use this link to set up new Vanderbilt sites with Shred-it. If you have questions about existing sites, need additional pickups, or have service issues, please call  1-800-69–SHRED and have the sites account number available.  You can also contact Monica Walker for issues that can’t be resolved through customer service. 

Light Bulb Recycling

Because CFLs contain mercury, they are hazardous when broken. Therefore, it is especially important to not throw them away when they are at the end of their lifetime. Take them to 117 Peabody Maintenance and they will be recycled for you. Due to concerns regarding breakage, do not send them in campus mail! Please hand-deliver. Place the CFL in a sealed plastic bag or a Ziploc-type baggie prior to coming to the drop-off location in the event that the bulb is dropped during delivery. You can request a pickup for small light bulbs by submitting a work request through ReADY using the Recycling/Waste Services tile.

Pens and Mechanical Pencils

TerraCycle has partnered with Vanderbilt to implement a writing pen recycling drive in order to capture the pen barrels that get thrown away when a cartridge is out of ink. Just use your Campus Mail envelopes to send your empty pen or mechanical pencil barrels to RECYCLING MANAGER c/o Peabody Maintenence Building. You can also drop off pens and mechanical pencils at the Sarratt, Kissam, and Commons Center main desks (map of locations here). The pens are stored in a bucket until it is time to send off a full box to TerraCycle. Any name‐brand pen or mechanical pencil will be accepted in this program.

1. Where do I recycle if I live in residential housing?

Residential housing recycling stations are located next to the solid waste containers (dumpsters) closest to your building. Each station has containers for recycling of plastic, aluminum, and paper, and some have cardboard. If your area does not have a cardboard recycling bin, you are welcome to leave it FLATTENED in the enclosed recycling area. Recycled material is picked up from these locations and delivered to the university recycling center by student workers. Please see the Residential Recycling page. Each residential room is eligible to have one recycling container for collecting items to take to the residential recycling stations. If you do not have a recycling container and would like one, please contact your Area Maintenance Supervisor.

2. Where do I recycle in a Vanderbilt administrative or academic building?

Most of our campus buildings now have recycling containers at central locations. The most common locations are hallways, copy/mail rooms and break rooms. 3. If I am in a University-owned building, what do I do if I want to get recycling started in my building, area or department? If you are in a University Central campus building, submit a work request through ReADY using the Recycling/Waste Services tile. For information concerning recycling in all other areas, contact the Recycling Manager at 343-2784.

3. If I am in a University-owned building, what do I do if I want to get recycling started in my building, area or department?

If you are in a University Central campus building, submit a work request through ReADY using the Recycling/Waste Services tile. For information concerning recycling in all other areas, contact the Recycling Manager at 343-2784.

4. What do I do when my recycling is overflowing in an academic/administrative building?

Submit a work request through ReADY using the Recycling/Waste Services tile.

5. Why should I recycle?

Fiscally, it costs the University more money to dispose of garbage/ton than recycling/ton. Also, the University receives rebates for recyclable goods. Civically, it is a responsible way to keep the landfill in our area from filling up. Environmentally, it is an easy way to help protect the finite resources of our planet. Thanks for your efforts!

6. Where do I recycle _______?

Specialized items recycling information, including batteries, CFLs, electronics, confidential papers, ink pens, and mechanical pencils, can be found above, under “Specialized Recycling”.

7. Does recycling save energy?

Yes! Making aluminum from recycled cans requires 93% less energy than making aluminum from new minerals. Newsprint made from old newspapers requires 46% less energy to make than newsprint made from wood. Many people ask about the energy used by trucks to collect recyclables. Compared to the energy saved when the recyclables are turned into new products, collection trucks use relatively little energy. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality estimates that industrial energy savings from residential curbside recyclables are 72 times greater than the energy used to collect them from our homes. (Source: Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Solid Waste Policy & Program Development)

8. Who do I contact for chemical waste collection?

For questions about chemical waste collection, visit the EHS website.

9. I’m interested in volunteering with Recycling, how can I help out?

There are many ways to get involved with recycling on Vanderbilt’s campus. Students Promoting Environmental Awareness and Responsibility (SPEAR) coordinates recycling initiatives throughout the year including Cardboard Crew at Move-In, Game Day recycling at all home football games and Late Night Rites of Spring Recycling. If you are interested in getting involved email SPEAR.

10. Can I recycle ________?

Every recycling system has different rules about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable for recycling. If you have a question about whether or not a particular item is recyclable on campus you can refer to the "What can be recycled" list above. If you are still unsure, feel free to contact or 34-EARTH (3-2784).

The Vanderbilt University ReUse Surplus Program manages unneeded items owned by Vanderbilt University departments, offices, and laboratories. ReUse Surplus cannot legally accept VUMC items, please contact VUMC Storage and Services at 615-936-4626 for instructions on how your surplus should be managed.


All surplus property must follow Vanderbilt policies and procedures (See current Conflict of Interest and Commitment Policy).

To send items to surplus, follow the steps below:

Download the flowchart and surplus flyer here.

  1. If the surplus item is a biological safety cabinet (BSC), laboratories must follow the instructions on the VEHS Biological Safety Website to relocate or surplus a biological safety cabinet. Complete decontamination, then affix the decontamination report to the equipment prior to requesting surplus removal.
  2. If the surplus item is not a BSC but was previously used for the processing or holding of biological materials, laboratories must follow the instructions on the VEHS Biological Lab Equipment Release form. Complete decontamination, then affix the form to the equipment prior to requesting surplus removal.
  3. If the surplus item has stored data i.e. a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, etc., consider removing or cleaning hard drives prior to requesting surplus removal. Any hard drives remaining are physically destroyed off-site by a contracted vendor.
  4. If the surplus item is capital equipment, a tracked asset, or has an asset tag (i.e. initial purchase value of $5,000 or more), a Property Transmittal Form (PTF) must be completed. Follow the directions on the form for submittal.
  5. If you use an outside moving company such as Alexander’s, please call 615-343-2784 or email to schedule a delivery day and time as the new surplus location is not staffed throughout the workday. One hour notice is needed for deliveries to ensure ReUse Surplus staff can meet the moving truck.
  6. To request surplus removal, submit a work request through ReADY using the Recycling/Waste Services tile.

Please contact the ReUse Surplus Program with questions at or 615-343-2784 (34E.ARTH).


Central storage is not offered for departments due to space limitations on campus. A list of approved turnkey storage vendors with rates negotiated for VU that will collect your items, provide storage, and then deliver the items back to you when needed is below:

Please contact the ReUse Surplus Program with questions at or 615-343-2784 (34E.ARTH).