You’ll Never Believe What We Recycle at UK!

‘What do you do when the students aren’t on campus?’ is a common question I receive as the Recycling Coordinator for the University. With that job title, it is easy to think that my job (and the recycling program here at UK) only applies to recycling only bottles and cans.

However, what we recycle on campus is so much more than that! 

Don’t get me wrong, we do recycle a LOT of bottles and cans (and paper, cardboard, plastic jugs, and glass jars), but there is so much more to our diversion efforts! 

Here are a list of my top 5 ‘other’ items that we recycle here at UK:

  1. Styrofoam
    I’ll start with one of my all time favorite recycling programs we have here in UK. The University has done an incredible job reducing and in some cases eliminating Styrofoam use on campus. However, in our research and healthcare sectors, it is really difficult to eliminate Styrofoam coolers when shipping temperature dependent items. 

    In 2019, Sophie Beavin, a former UK Recycling Intern was able to implement our Styrofoam Recycling Program as her independent project. That year, we collected over 3 TONS (6,000lbs) of styrofoam from campus. It’s a great reminder that students can have lasting impacts on our campus!
  1. Batteries
    We, here at UK Recycling, are really proud to accept and recycling ALL types of batteries from campus. Certain types of batteries are considered universal waste and need special handling. Check out our ‘How to Recycling Batteris at UK’ flier for more information! 

Don’t forget, we provide battery containers to any UK College, Department or office for FREE! 

  1. Hardbound Books
    Although hardbound books are primarily paper, they cannot be recycled in our blue recycling containers on campus since they can damage equipment at the recycling center. Instead, we collect them separately to send to the Woodford County Recycling Center. They are able to remove the binding from the paper in order to recycle. In 2020, UK recycled over 46 TONS (that’s 92,000lbs) of hardbound books. 

    Need a hardbound book container for your office? Fill out our online container request form to receive a hardbound book container. 
  1. Printer Cartridges & Toner Bottles
    I know there has been a movement to cut back on printing, which is exactly what we want to see. Despite those efforts, there is a LOT of paper printed on campus. The good news, we can both recycle the paper and empty printer cartridges and toner bottles!  To provide a little perspective, over 18,000lbs of cartridges and toner bottles were collected and recycled last year! Shout out to Ricoh, the University’s printing partner, that recycles all their cartridges and toner bottles! 

    It is always best to reduce what we produce, when possible. When we cannot reduce, I am happy to be able to provide a recycling opportunity.  
  1. Blue Wrap
    As I talk with students and even faculty/staff on campus, it is easy to forget that we have a large healthcare network on campus. UK Healthcare is so different from campus, and therefore provides a totally different opportunity for our recycling program. Since 2015, UK Recycling has been collecting clean blue wrap, which began thanks to a group of dedicated nursing staff! Although blue wrap looks like a fabric, it is made from plastic (#5, polypropylene) and can be recycled. 

    I love this program and it continues to remind me of the incredible partners we have at UKHC. In 2020, we were able to collect close to 8,000lbs of this material! 

Want to know more? Check out our ‘other recycling’ website for a complete list of items we accept! Plus, for all of our UKHC partners, check out our ‘UKHC other recycling’ website. 

Still have questions about what and how to recycle at UK? Or, have a suggestion for an item we should begin recycling? We have the ‘I Don’t Know’ virtual recycling container. Just upload your photo or description of the item in question and someone from UK Recycling will answer your question within 24 hours! And remember, there are no stupid questions when it comes to recycling! 

If you want to know more about our general recycling program, check out ‘10 Things You Should Recycle Today‘!

Joanna Ashford

Joanna has served as the Recycling Coordinator for the University of Kentucky since 2018. She continues to work with campus partners to minimize waste and find creative solutions to waste generated. As staff advisor for Lexington Environmental Youth Outreach, Joanna is passionate about environmental education and outreach!

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