Recycling & Waste

Comprehensive Recycling Program


In support of a commitment to environmental sustainability, Columbia University executes an extensive recycling initiative, driven by key departments across its campuses.

Read more about what to recycle at Columbia and where.  


Annual Reuse Events

During Clean + Go Green, Environmental Stewardship collaborates with Environmental Health & Safety, Facilities and other University partners to sponsor an event that provides staff, faculty, and students a unique opportunity to lower the campus’s environmental footprint. Receptacles are made available across Morningside campus, at no cost, for the collection of large items to be recycled, re-used, or disposed of in an environmentally sound way. Clean & Go Green encourages responsible waste segregation, which helps divert trash from landfills. Give and Go Green, held by the EcoReps every spring during move-out period. Students donate their unwanted dorm-room items that would otherwise be thrown in the trash, to be sent to landfills. The EcoReps then sell these items in the fall so that students are able to purchase severely discounted fridges, hangers, fans, etc. The earnings are used to fund programs such as bikeshare, or composting, or earth week.   


Solvent Recycling

Environmental Health Safety partners with the Departments of Pathology and Dermatopathology at CUMC to begin an on-site recycling program for spent xylene and ethanol used in these laboratories and returning to it use over and over again. Many years and many thousands of gallons later (these laboratories recycle in excess of 3,000 gallons of xylene and ethanol annually) the program is running strong and maintaining green benefits, both environmental and financial. 
The program has recently expanded to include methanol and ethanol, and now includes laboratories in Chemistry, APAM, Biology and Engineering. Additionally, a second solvent recycler, purchased in 2011, is servicing the Northwest Corner Building, Pupin, Shapiro, Mudd, Fairchild, Engineering Terrace and Schermerhorn, thereby increasing the total yield of recoverable solvents.
Since 2008, the acetone recovery program has returned almost 2,500 gallons of recycled acetone to participating labs in the Department of Chemistry and is on pace to recycle more than 1,000 gallons of solvent at the Morningside campus.
Read more about the solvent recycling program.

Reusable Sharps Containers

Environmental Health & Safety has created a reusable sharps containers program, replacing single-use containers with re-usable containers.  A single container may be used as many as 500 times.  In less than one year, the University had eliminated nearly three tons of plastic and two tons of CO2 emissions from just the Morningside Campus.  Read more about the reusable sharps containers.  


Department of Sanitation Composting Pilot

Columbia is working closely with the Department of Sanitation to bring to Columbia a composting pilot program in 560 riverside, a residential building, and in Ferris Booth Commons!



Green Commencement Gowns!

Columbia University undergraduate and masters graduation gowns are made from recycled plastic bottles! Beginning with the 2014 graduation ceremonies, each "green gown" is now made from 46 water bottles. 2014 served as a transition year, in which 50% of the gowns were made from recycled material, and the other 50% were from inventory. Since 2015, all gowns are now made from recycled plastic bottles. Every 100 students wearing one of these recycled gowns diverts 4,600 plastic bottles from landfills.


Paper Reduction Campaign

The goal of this initiative is to identify and implement strategies to reduce paper entering the waste-stream. The initiative explores ways in which we can reduce consumption, thus reducing paper entering the waste-stream.  

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