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This A to Z of recycling aims to explain where all common items can be recycled at the University. If you are searching for an item which isn't listed, or if you know of a disposal route for an item that we haven't listed, get in touch.

Remember that all waste collections should follow the waste duty of care. This includes ensuring that waste is stored and disposed of safely and legally, and that any waste contractor you use is registered. Contact the environment team if you have any queries about compliance with the duty of care.

Note: Elements of this waste A-Z may not apply to departments whose waste management is not overseen by the University, for instance those embedded in NHS buildings at Addenbookes.

A

Aerosols - Empty aerosol cans are classed as hazardous waste. Contact facman@admin.cam.ac.uk for details on disposal.

Aluminium cans/foil - Use the mixed recycling bins.

Asbestos - If you suspect that you have asbestos to dispose of please contact the Estate Management Helpdesk (ext.37784).

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B

Batteries - Send portable (standard) batteries, including laptop or phone batteries, to ‘Battery Disposals, Laundry Farm’ through the UMS. If you want to collect them together in one place before sending them, be sure to store them safely! Please note:

  • Send any lead acid batteries separately from non-lead acid batteries.
  • Lithium batteries can only be sent in small amounts - our contractor will only accept 5% by volume. Note that electrical items which include a battery, such as laptops, can be recycled through the e-waste collection service (See Electrical appliances).
  • Clearly identify any packages of lead acid batteries.
  • Large automotive or industrial batteries should be treated as hazardous waste.
  • Cut off all flying leads/ loose cables on any batteries before storage or sending.
  • Remember to mark your packaging for Laundry Farm with your Department/Institute name in case of any issues.

Battery recycling is funded by battery producers, so for departments producing large amounts there are options for free collection, and it is also possible to request a free battery collection box from some suppliers.

Bicycles - Unwanted bikes can be donated to OWL bikes, who accept donations and provide vocational training for disabled and disadvantaged people. It recycles and refurbishes unwanted bikes to sell to the public at reasonable prices. Another similar option is Re-Cycle

Books - Books, including older edition text books can be donated to READ International in the book bin on the Sidgwick Site: have a look for the marked-up collection point by the back of the Buttery Café. You can also contact Better World Books about setting up a collection in your department. Books can of course also be donated to local charity shops. As a last resort, books can be recycled in the mixed recycling bins. See the map for details of colection points available to University staff and students.

Bottles (chemicals and solvent) - If they are empty and free of toxic material and the labels removed or defaced, then these can be recycled through the glass recycling bins available on most sites. Some suppliers will take Winchesters back though, so it's worth asking your supplier first.

Bottles (plastic) - use the mixed recycling bins.

Brochures - Use the mixed recycling bins.

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C

Cans - Use the mixed recycling bins.

Cardboard - Use the mixed recycling bins. Please flatten any boxes to make room for all the rest of the recycling!

Carrier bags - Use the mixed recycling bins.

CDs - see "Media"

Chemicals - See our separate page on hazardous waste. This is also applicable to all water treatment chemicals and drums, including all biocides and water conditioning chemicals used for the control of legionella and other bacteria and similar water and air conditioning residues.

Cling film - Clean cling film can be disposed of in general waste bins.

Clinical waste - If a contract is not in place within your Department or Institute, please contact the School of Clinical Medicine or School of Biological Sciences Safety Officer. Read more.

Coffee capsules - Many types of coffee machine now use 'capsules'. There are a variety of suppliers and product types with different components, materials and recycling procedures. The best way to find out if your coffee capsule is recyclable is to visit the supplier's website, for instance Nespresso offer a dedicated collection service.

Coffee cups - Paper coffee cups can be placed in mixed recycling bins. Note that paper cups are often plastic lined making them difficult to recycle. If possible, contact your supplier to opt for paper-only or plastic-only cups, Vegware, or alternatively encourage the use of KeepCups by staff.

Cold packs / freezer packs  - The most common reusable cold packs have a blue gel contained in a sealed bag. According to the 3M Reusable Cold Packs Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), these noncombustible ingredients are primarily water (60 to 70 per cent), propylene glycol (20 to 35 per cent) and sodium carboxymethyl cellulose (less than 5 per cent), with a polypropylene cover. Tthese substances are all relatively harmless, however be sure to check with the manufacturer about contents, and check with the Safety office before pouring these down drains. once these are empty, the plastic cover is typically recyclable via the mixed recycling bins. Don't forget, it's always worth checking whether other departments have a use for them by putting them on WarpIt, or alternatively see if you can engage with your supplier to do engage in some form of ‘take back’ scheme.

Computer equipment - Usable but unwanted electronic devices can be advertised to others at the University via WARPit. All waste electrical and electronic equipment must be arranged through the University’s recognised contractor. This service is free for all departments. It is illegal for the University to send waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) direct to landfill; it should be stored and collected separately to enable reuse and recovery of materials. Read more about the process for requesting an IT disposal collection.

Confidential waste - Facilities Management (facman@admin.cam.ac.uk) offer a recycling route for confidential paper, however some departments opt to use their own suppliers - if your department does so, you must ensure that you are complying with the waste duty of care

Construction waste - Materials in this category would include hardcore, soil, stone and glass. All contractors are required to remove their own waste from sites. Recyclable inert waste produced by a Department should be taken to reclamation yards, builders' merchants or architectural salvage companies, for example Solopark Plc in Pampisford. Should this not be possible, the waste should be removed by a licensed contractor. Your EM Project Manager should have more information on conforming to regulations (such as around Site Waste Management Plans).

Crisp packets - These are one of the only items that you'll find in day-to-day office waste which are not recyclable! As they are mixed materials (plastic and foil) which can't easily be separated, they must go to landfill. Plastic-only and foil-only wrappers can be recycled in the mixed recycling bin.

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D

Discs - see "Media"

Drink cans - Use the mixed recycling bins.

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E

Electrical appliances - Usable but unwanted electronic devices can be advertised to others at the University via WARPit. All waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) must be arranged through the University’s recognised contractor. This service is free for all departments. It is illegal for the University to send waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) direct to landfill; it should be stored and collected separately to enable reuse and recovery of materials. Read more about the process for requesting a WEEE disposal collection.

Envelopes - Envelopes can either be reused for internal mail if in good condition or placed in mixed recycling bins.

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F

First Aid equipment - A charity called intercare can accept healthcare goods, however if dated these must have 6 months to expiry date. A simple registration form needs to be filled out before sending goods onto the organisation by post. A link to this form as well as the list of accepted good is available via this link.

Fluorescent tubes - Fluorescent tubes and spent UV, mercury and sodium lamps are classified as hazardous waste. Redundant lamps should only be disposed of via the University’s official route. Collection stills and points are available on most sites. Please contact Facilities Management (facman@admin.cam.ac.uk) for details or to arrange collection, specifying the approximate quantity. Alternatively, view the map locations of fluorescent tube collection points available to University staff.

Food - The University currently collects food waste (including tea bags or coffee grinds) on some sites. This currently goes to Anaerobic Digestion. To enquire about setting up a food waste collection in your department, contact Facilities Management (facman@admin.cam.ac.uk).

Fridges / Freezers - see Electrical appliances. Please ensure any decontamination procedures for non-domestic use items have been carried out and the appropriate HSO form attached directly to the appliance.

Furniture - Advertise any items that could go to another home internally before disposing of them: see the WARPit Website (Cambridge access only) for item transfer between departments. As a last resort good quality furniture, in a usable condition, can potentially be collected and stored until needed for further use. Contact Facilities Management (facman@admin.cam.ac.uk) to arrange collection of the equipment, specifying the approximate quantity. Furniture that is beyond repair should not be put into trade bins, they should be disposed of by skip. Please note that waste produced by University departments is designated ‘trade waste’ and therefore can’t be disposed of at household waste and recycling centres, e.g. Milton.
Another option for furniture is to repair and refurbish it for re-use. WARPit can provide support with this. Alternatively, a quick internet search shows that there are many office furniture suppliers and repairers in and around Cambridge. Be sure that any any organisation removing waste from your premises is a licensed contractor and can provide you with a waste transfer note.

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G

General waste - Material that cannot in any way be re-used, recycled or designated for recovery processes, and that is not hazardous, should be deposited in general waste bins (and subsequently the General Waste 1100 litre Eurobins) for collection by Mick George ltd, the university's main waste contractor. General waste undergoes a sorting procedure, with any non-recyclable materials incinerated to generate energy.

Glass - Glass should not go into the mixed recycling bins. Dedicated glass recycling bins are available on most sites and can be requested from Facilities Management.

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H

Hazardous waste - There are a number of contracts in place for the disposal of hazardous waste. For further details please contact the Health and Safety Office, or view our additional information page on hazardous wastes.

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I

Ink cartridges - See Printer cartridges.

IT equipment - See Computer equipment.

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J

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K

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L

Lab equipment (misc.) - Equipment that is no longer of use to a Department that has not been classified as hazardous by the nature of its use, and does not contravene current fire regulations, should be offered to other University departments (see the WARPit webpage). The Science Exchange will also pay for redundant non-radioactive laboratory equipment that remains functional. If you have to dispose of lab equipment, see Electrical appliances.

Landfill - See General waste. The current main waste contract across the University aims for zero non-hazardous waste to landfill.

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M

Magazines and catalogues - Use the mixed recycling bins.

Media (audio tapes, video tapes, CDs, DVDs) - The Environment and Energy Section does not have a specific system in place to deal with these wastes. CDs and DVDs can be sent to various external companies, such as Disc Recycling. For a charge to departments, confidential media may be able to be shredded or degaussed on-site through the Electrical appliances (WEEE) collection and recycling contract.

Metal - Small-scale metals recycling can be carried out through the mixed recycling contract. A skip can be arranged to dispose of large amounts of metal: please contact Facilities Management (facman@admin.cam.ac.uk) to make arrangements.

Mobile phones - A number of charity operators will collect defunct mobile phones, one example being Recycle4Charity.

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N

Newspaper - Please use the mixed recycling bins.

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O

Oil - This should be taken off site by the oil supplier. Waste engine and machinery oil, or waste fuel oil, produced by the University is hazardous waste, and should be disposed of by contacting the University Chemical Safety Adviser (via ext.33301).

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P

Packaging - Packaging can be made of many materials. Most plastic and paper packaging can be put into mixed recycling bins. Polystyrene is not widely recyclable so should be put into the general waste bins. One of the best options for packaging is to engage with suppliers to see if they offer a 'take back' scheme for packaging. For packaging of hazardous and chemical materials, there is guidance available on whether to classify this as hazardous or whether it can be disposed of through normal routes.

Paint - Community RePaint is an award-winning national initiative to prevent usable paints being needlessly landfilled and instead redistributed to those who need it most. To date there are over 60 schemes running across the United Kingdom. Our nearest scheme is in March. They do not accept paint thinners or strippers, varnishes, woodstains or specialist paints.

Due to the flammability of some oil-based paints if in liquid form, they may be hazardous waste and so should be disposed of as chemical waste. Please ensure that containers are tightly sealed. New guidance (April 2014): If packaging has previously contained hazardous material, such as a paint tin or oil drum, they should always be disposed of as a hazardous material. If they are cleaned thoroughly then they can be disposed of as non-hazardous, but the wash-water must be disposed of as hazardous. (Particularly if paying by volume, it may be less expensive to consolidate washwater for disposal than to send several containers through specialised contractors.)

For ease of disposal please ensure water-based and oil-based paint wastes are kept separate from each other. Unless otherwise labelled, water-based paints are unlikely to be hazardous, and should be re-used wherever possible. If in doubt always check the paint's label for hazard information. All empty containers or containers with dried water-based paint inside should be disposed of as general waste.

Pallets - Pallet recycling is available on some sites at the University, including on the Downing site where a dedicated pallet skip is located adjacent to the exit gate opposite Fitzwilliam Street. Email facilities.management@admin.cam.ac.uk for details on other pallet recycling locations.

Paper - Use the mixed recycling bins. Alternatively, note that some suppliers will collect paper free of charge if it is segregated into separate containers. Uncontaminated paper can be recycled easily and is therefore relatively valuable. One example is the University Library who have used DS Smith for dedicated paper waste collections. When using any waste contractor, always be sure to follow the waste duty of care.

Paper towels - Paper towels and tissue paper, used or unused, wet or dry should go into the general waste bin as it is not high quality enough to be recycled and can clog up recycling machinery. (At home, most councils ask for tissue paper to go directly into your compost/green bin).

Pens - You can recycle these through Terracycle's 'Writing Instruments Recycling Programme', a free recycling programme for most writing instruments (except wooden pencils and crayons). The scheme also acts as a fundraising opportunity for participants. The University Counselling Service's Green Impact team are undertaking a collection for Centre 33, a charity providing free counselling to young people locally, and hope to collect bulk amounts including from other departments at the University. Send your collected bundles of writing implements to the Green Impact Team at the Counselling Service via the UMS, and why not download the poster to advertise the collection in your department? Alternatively several collection points are available around the University - see the map for details.

Pesticides - All unused pesticides, diluted pesticides, sprayer washings and empty containers are classed as hazardous chemical waste and should be disposed of by contacting the University Chemical Safety Adviser. Minimise the amount of waste pesticide produced by prior estimation of the quantities of pesticide required. Contact the supplier to see if they will take back empty containers, otherwise thoroughly rinse out the containers and dispose of them as hazardous chemical waste.

Photographic material - Photographic processing involves the generation of a range of chemical wastes. These should be disposed of as chemical waste.

Pipette racks, refill wafers, and shells - See Plastic (below)

Plastic - Use the mixed recycling bins. Additionally, departments who use disposable pipette tips have the opportunity to recycle the plastic wafers and racks that come with the packaging, if not doing so already. The tip and wafers are ground down into polypropylene pellets and used again. For details of one recycling option, please see STARLAB UK, which can provide collection containers and arrange free collections. A poster detailing the scheme, along with a label to be used on bins is also available. 

Plastic bags - Use the mixed recycling bins.

Plastic bottles - Use the mixed recycling bins.

Polystyrene and other packaging - Where possible, use the mixed dry recycling bins for packaging materials. Expanded polystyrene must currently go to the general waste bins. Where you believe packaging to be excessive, try to discuss possible reductions and re-use possibilities with suppliers. Procurement Services are able to offer further suggestions (procurement.services.enquires@admin.cam.ac.uk). Some departments have asked suppliers to switch to packing made from corn starch, which can be composted. The Hutchison/MRC Research Centre has invested in a thermal compaction machine to reduce the volume of its polystyrene, after which it is taken away by a supplier for free, who recycles it into new products.

Printer cartridges - Mick George Ltd, the University's main waste contractor, can collect laser cartridges (not photocopier toner bottles - these are not recyclable) for recycling, however only in bulk amounts. If your Department does not have space to collect a number up at once, there is a self-deposit collection point in the Sidgwick Site waste area, behind the Buttery Cafe, and another on the Downing Site near the gate porter's hut. Alternatively, you can send laser cartridges through the UMS to ‘Toner cartridges, Laundry Farm’. Some printer manufacturers offer a free return service, for instance HP Planet PartnersRicoh Return and Konica Minolta consumable recycling - it's worth checking whether your printer or photocopier maker has a similar scheme in place. There are also a number of companies and charities which will collect empty laser, inkjet and photocopier cartridges and either make a payment to the University or a charity. One such contact used by Estates Management in the past is Andrew Keegan (01635 587060) - for every used cartridge collected and recycled, a donation is made to East Anglia's Children's Hospices. However there are also plenty of other contractors that can be found with a quick internet search, for example TakeBack and Recycle4Charity.

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Q

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R

Refurbishment waste - If you have a building clearance, decant, refurbishment or decommissioning project coming up, WarpIt can come in catalogue and add the assets to the University's Warp It system. If required, they can also then manage the redistribution of the surplus assets internally (if appropriate) and then externally on your behalf.

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S

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T

Telephone directories - Shred personal data and then use the mixed recycling bins. (This disposal method was advised by the University's Data Protection Officer in September 2013.)

Tetrapack - Use the mixed recycling bins.

Tissue paper - See Paper towels

Toner cartridges - See Printer cartridges.

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U

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V

Vegware - Vegware is a compostible packaging found in all University-run cafes. Vegware should only be put in the food waste bins which are provided in each of the cafes. If you take Vegware out of the cafes and don't have a composting bin available, it should go into the general waste bins.

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W

WEEE - See Electrical appliances.

White goods - See Electrical appliances.

Wood - A skip can be arranged to dispose of large amounts of wood. Please contact Facilities Management (facman@admin.cam.ac.uk). Small amounts of wood go in general waste bins. Wooden pallet skips are also available to university staff, at these locations.

Wooden stirrers – Use the general waste bins.

Wrapping - Plastic wrapping can typically go into the mixed recycling bins. Contaminated cling film should go into general waste bins.

Writing instruments - See Pens.

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X

X-ray film - X-ray film tends to be mostly plastic, however is likely to have quite a lot of contaminants that our waste contractor wouldn’t want mixed up in their plastic recycling stream (as a rule, anything which is ‘mixed materials’, such as crisp packets which are metallised plastic, can’t be easily recycled). Therefore these should go in the general waste/landfill bins. However note that that there are a number of companies which can offer a dedicated recycling service for this waste stream, and as the films contain silver, some may offer a recycling rebate. A search on the web will show up a number of suppliers who may be able to help dispose of these in a more environmentally friendly way. One department at the University has opted to post their used x-ray films to this supplier who will dispose of x-ray film at no charge.

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Y

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Z