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Campus Recycling FAQs

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, contact Vanderbilt’s Recycling Manager in Plant Operations at 343-2784 (34-EARTH). For information concerning recycling in all other areas, contact the Recycling Manager at 343-2784.

4. What do I do if I work for the University, but the building in which I work is outside of the main university campus?

A number of Vanderbilt University organizations’ offices are located in buildings managed by Vanderbilt University Real Estate operations (VURE). Recycling services are coming to these buildings over time – several have already received services. However, VURE does not manage 2525 West End, Lowes Vanderbilt Plaza or Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) facilities on West End Avenue. For recycling suggestions in those buildings, please contact the Recycling Manager at 343-2784.

5. What happens to my recycling at VU?

The recycling is picked up from your building or the residential halls’ outdoor recycling locations and taken to the recycling center located on Peabody campus behind the Commons Center, on Appleton Drive. The recycling center consists of several containers for separated recycled material. From this location the recycling is picked up by Waste Management and it is transported to the Recycle America Rivergate and River Hills recycling facilities in Nashville.

At the River Hills facility, plastic bottles, metal cans, and aluminum cans (also known as used beverage containers, or UBCs) are compacted and baled together to make a bale of mixed recyclables. The mixed bales are shipped to the Recycle America facility in New Albany, Indiana (a suburb of Louisville, KY). The New Albany facility accepts mixed bales from several Recycle America facilities; these bales are broken apart, sorted by commodity, and sold to beverage container manufacturers and metal recyclers. Cardboard, standard office paper (SOP), and mixed paper are shipped directly to regional paper mills. The returns earned from this venture go back into paying for the recycling program.

Watch these videos to learn more about what happens to Vanderbilt’s recyclables once they leave campus!

6. How do I get to the Peabody Recycling Center on Appleton Drive?

From 21st Avenue South, take Edgehill Avenue east. Pass both legs of Magnolia Circle, then turn right onto Appleton Drive, just before the VU Child Care center. (If you’ve reached 18th Avenue South, you’ve gone too far.) The recycling center is on Appleton Drive just behind the Commons Center. It is open for everyone in the VU community (Students and Employees) to use at all times. View a map to the Peabody Recycling Center on Appleton Drive. You can also access an interactive map of Vanderbilt’s campus to locate the Peabody Recycling Center.

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

Buildings that are participating in the recycling program are scheduled for pick-up on a cyclic basis, based on the volume of recyclables they produce. Your building may already be scheduled for pick up on that day. If it is not, please call 34-EARTH and ask if your building is scheduled for recycling soon. You may ask for an extra pick up.

8. My department has confidential documents to dispose, how can I recycle these?

To securely dispose of confidential documents, Vanderbilt contracts with Cintas for main campus and the medical center and Secure Shred for satellite locations (OHO, Franklin, Cool Springs, etc.). Both of these vendors recycle paper once it has been shredded. To set up a new account or schedule a service with these vendors, contact John Otis at Cintas or Rachel Adams at Secure Shred.

9. 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!

10. What is currently being recycled at Vanderbilt University?

See the What We Recycle page for details on what is acceptable and non-acceptable under each recyclable item: paper, cardboard, plastic, aluminum and glass.  Several non-traditional items are also recycled.  Visit the Waste and Recycling page for more information.

11. What do I do with my University Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFL) that I’m using in my desk lamp?

CFLs are a great energy saver, with one bulb lasting up to 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb! 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 125 Bryan Building, or 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.

12. What do I do if my CFL breaks?

The best thing to do if you break a CFL is to clean up the residue with a damp cloth or paper towel, place the debris and cloth/towel in a sealed plastic bag and then wash your hands. Learn more about CFL clean-up from the Energy Star web page.

13. Where and when can I recycle cardboard?

Plant Operations is looking at ways to make cardboard recycling more comprehensive on campus with staffing and logistical constraints. Currently, we can offer the following: If you have saved a significant amount of cardboard, please call Services and Information Systems (SIS) at 343-9675 to submit a work order with your center and account number to have your cardboard removed and recycled. If you are a student and live in VU residence halls, the SPEAR Cardboard Crew will assist with Cardboard recycling during move-in, and student workers recycle the cardboard collected at the residence hall recycling locations throughout the year. Finally, all VU students and employees are welcomed and encouraged to use the cardboard compacting dumpster at the Peabody Recycling Center at any time. Just toss in your flattened cardboard, and our staff will compact it for you throughout the day.

14. Where can I recycle glass?

Vanderbilt students, faculty and staff can recycle empty glass containers in the small dumpster labeled “glass” at the recycling center on Appleton Place behind the Commons Center.  For more information click here.

Faculty, staff, and non-residential students are encouraged to use the Appleton Place location only for glass generated on campus and to utilize other glass recycling resources for glass from home.  For glass recycling locations near your home, check out these Davidson County drop-off sites or try Earth 911.

15. What do I do if I have a large amount of recycling?

If you have a large one-time generation of recyclable material (i.e. someone cleans out of their files, has years of old journals to get rid of, has several boxes of outdated brochures, etc.), your department should create a Work Order request through the Plant Operations web site. Just click on the big button that says “Work Request” or you can call 4-WORK (4-9675). Be sure to include your center and account number.

Our recycling workers are on a route. A little extra recycling will be picked up as a courtesy on our regular routes and shouldn’t throw the workers off schedule. Thank you for submitting a Work Order request for large amounts of recyclables.

16. Where can I recycle small batteries on Vanderbilt’s campus?

Currently, you can take your small batteries to any one of the locations listed here:

  • Commons Center information desk
  • Peabody Maintenance Building (by main office)
  • Heard Library (by main entrance)
  • Sarratt information desk
  • Bryan Building (in alcove)
  • Stevenson Library main desk
  • Outdoor Recreation Center main desk
  • HR Express/Commodore Concierge locations at Medical Center North, Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital

Residential battery recycling locations for residents only are available at Reeve desks in:

  • Hank Ingram
  • Vandy-Barnard
  • Carmichael Towers East
  • Carmichael Towers West
  • Lewis House
  • Branscomb Quadrangle

Small batteries include normal alkaline batteries such as AA, AAA, C, D, etc. as well as cell phone, laptop, pager, and radio batteries. Specific types of allowable batteries are: lead-acid, alkaline, ni-cad, zinc, lithium, and mercury. Rechargeable batteries are OK to recycle, too. If recycling a rechargeable battery, please place tape over the ends. Large batteries from university-owned equipment (towmotors, vehicles, etc.) are considered regulated waste and should be collected by submitting a Waste Collection Form through Vanderbilt’s normal waste collection process. Please do not bring these to Bryan Building or Peabody Maintenance.

17. How can I recycle my ink cartridges, cell phones and Personal Digital Assistants (PDA’s)?

VU recycles ink cartridges in partnership with two groups that help children at Vanderbilt. For more information about this program, please visit the Ink and Toner Cartridge Recycling page.

18. 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)

19. Where are recycling bins located?

Recycling bins for paper, plastic and aluminum can be found throughout our Administrative and Academic buildings on campus. The program is working to expand in each of these buildings. If we have not reached you yet, please be patient with us as we work with a limited budget to get bins placed everywhere they are needed.

Recycling bin locations for residence halls can be found on the Residence Hall Recycling page.

20. Who do I contact for chemical waste collection?

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

21. How do I recycle electronics?


Residential students can recycle their electronic equipment by placing all parts in a box or bag marked “electronics recycling” and setting the items next to any residential recycling area (located by the dumpsters).  Students are responsible for wiping information from their electronic equipment prior to recycling it.

Faculty and Staff

****Chapter 10 (page 43) of the Vanderbilt Procurement Policies and Procedures for Departments requires that all university-owned equipment, capital or non-capital, be processed through VUMC Surplus Services.****

Faculty and staff can recycle their Vanderbilt electronics by contacting VUMC Moving and Storage Services to get a work order form.  Prior to recycling pickup, all confidential information must be wiped from electronics.  Detailed information about this process including all necessary forms and contacts can be found here.

Faculty and staff wishing to recycle electronics from home have several easy options.  Davidson County residents can visit Metro’s Electronics Recycling page for details.  For residents of counties other than Davidson, just plug your zip code into Earth 911 to learn about electronics recycling options in your area.

22. 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.

23. 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 We Recycle page. If you are still unsure, feel free to contact or 34-EARTH (3-2784).