In 2009, Harvard made recycling easier by adopting single stream recycling across campus—meaning all recyclable materials, including paper, boxes, bottles, cans, and containers, can be mixed together in the same receptacle. Eliminating any guesswork or confusion, the ease and convenience of single stream recycling helps to increase the amount of recyclables we divert from the waste stream. 

Harvard's Schools and departments also run programs for e-waste and ink and toner cartridges. From piloting recycling at football tailgates, to challenging undergraduate Houses and staff offices through competitions, recycling at Harvard continues to evolve and reach new heights.

The Campus Services Recycling & Waste group also sends out a bi-monthly Harvard Recycling Update email to the community. Learn more

Single stream recycling

What can be recycled in the single stream bins?

Paper Items & Cardboard Glass Jars & Bottles Plastics Metal Cans & Foils
  • White and colored paper
  • Shredded paper
  • Paper plates and bowls
  • Paper clamshells
  • Wrapping paper
  • Newspaper
  • Magazines & Catalogs
  • Phone Books and junk mail
  • Coffee cups
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Pizza boxes
  • Paperboard (i. e. paper towel rolls, cereal, tissue, and frozen food boxes)
  • Beverage bottles
  • Food jars
  • Wine bottles
  • Plastic items #1-7
  • Stiff plastic containers
  • Shampoo and conditioner bottles
  • Milk cartons
  • Juice boxes
  • Large plastics (i. e. laundry baskets)
  • Empty aerosol cans
  • Aluminum cans
  • Aluminum foil and trays
  • Metal food cans
  • Spiral cans (i.e. potato chip and nut cans

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What can’t be recycled:

Trash: Plastic bags, films and wrappers, Styrofoam, used napkins, tissues, paper towels, and plastic utensils.

Compost: Where available, compost all food, tea bags, napkins, paper towels, and compostable products. Learn more

Highlight: Recycling at Football Games

Harvard Athletics has partnered with the undergraduate Resource Efficiency Program to set up extensive recycling and waste reduction infrastructure during football games. As part of this effort, the student volunteers hand out trash and recycling bags to each individual tailgate, and they are picked up from the tailgates after the game. In addition, over 200 recycling and waste containers are provided throughout the grounds. Videos shown on the jumbotron in the stadium encourage attendees to recycle and reduce waste.

Since the initiative was first implemented in 2008, recycling at football games has increased from 2% to 30%. In 2012, during the Harvard/Yale game 120 cubic yards of recyclables were gathered which also translates to over 24,000 gallons of recyclables. In addition, composting is put in place during all large functions on Athletics grounds, like graduation and team dinners, but also including Freshman Parent’s weekend and alumnae weekend luncheons that occur during football game days.

Read the full case study for our top 3 tips and lessons learned