Elon University has a recycling program for recoverable materials such as paper and paper-related products, cardboard, plastics, glass, tin, aluminum, and glass. To a lesser degree, automotive batteries, household batteries, fluorescent bulbs, motor oil, tires, shipping pallets, electronics, and printer cartridges are also recycled.

Elon’s recycling efforts, on average, save more than 85 tons of cardboard, 45 tons of paper related recyclable materials, and 40 tons of plastic, aluminum, and glass from being taken to the landfill each year.

Collection & Processing

Recyclable materials should be deposited in appropriate containers found within buildings and throughout the campus grounds. Recycle bins have a blue label, lid, or body. Recyclables are picked up by members of the Environmental Services department and deposited in designated containers at the Physical Plant office.  Cardboard is also taken off campus by a vendor for processing. Other common recyclables are sent to Greensboro for separation and further processing. Recycling receptacles can be found in residence halls, classrooms, offices, athletic venues and throughout the campus grounds.

Elon University is a member of the Collegiate Recyclers Coalition, a Council of the Carolina Recycling Association. If you have any questions or comments about recycling or have a need for a pick-up service, please contact David Worden, Director of Environmental Services at (336) 278-5463.

Paper & Paper-Related Recycling

Permissible items to recycle include:

  • junk mail
  • newspaper / magazines
  • cereal boxes (& similar packaging)
  • course packs
  • any color paper
  • copy ready or printer ready paper
  • letterhead
  • lined notebook paper
  • computer printout
  • envelopes (plastic windows are okay)
  • post-it notes
  • manila folders
  • blueprints
  • cardstock (any color)
  • phone books  / student directories (also can be arranged for a pick-up service)
  • books – both paperback and hard bound (also can be arranged for a pick-up service)

PIZZA BOXES – although cardboard, mostly are considered contaminated as a cardboard recyclable BUT are VERY WELCOME items to COMPOST.  Please place pizza boxes in any compost related container or for multiple boxes, please call (336) 278-5500 to ask for pick-up service.

Visit the Sustainability website for more information on recycling at Elon, including locations for specialty item recycling (e.g., batteries) and permissible recycling items.


Recycling Facts

According to Weyerhaeuser’s Environmental Savings, the effect of recycling a ton of paper saves:

  • 17 trees
  • 6950 gallons of water
  • 460 gallons of oil
  • 586 pounds of air pollution
  • 3 cubic yards of landfill space
  • 4,077 kwh of energy

Decomposition rates for trash:

  • Paper 2½ months
  • Orange peel 6 months
  • Milk carton 5 years
  • Cigarette butt 10 – 12 years
  • Plastic bag 10 – 20 years
  • Disposable diaper 75 years
  • Tin can 100 years
  • Beer can 200 – 500 years
  • Styrofoam never

Americans generate 5 million extra tons of trash each year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Elon provides opportunities for the entire campus community to recycle.
Find out what’s recyclable and where to find bins.


Recycling Plastics

Plastics Recycling Explained:

Plastics are the most misunderstood item when it comes to recycling. Some consumers see the familiar symbol with the chasing arrows and conclude that ALL containers are recyclable. It depends on where the plastics end up to be processed. For example, the 7 number codes found on the bottom of plastic containers simply identify the type of plastic resin from which the item is made.

Because different types of plastic resins have different properties and cannot all be processed the same, the rules for recycling plastics are determined by the local recycling facility, which, in turn are dictated by technology, processing equipment, and supply and demand economics.

Elon’s plastics are recycled at ReCommunity, a facility in Greensboro.  They accept plastics #1-#7, and therefore so does Elon. We cannot accept thin plastics, such as grocery bags, and anything smaller than 2″x2″.

PET #1 or HDPE #2 plastic containers, like water bottles, milk and detergent jugs, are “blow molded.” This means the shape is made by blowing air into a mold, similar to blowing air into a balloon.

The PP #5 tub- or cup-shaped plastics are “injection molded,” whereby the plastic is “stamped” into its shape. These plastics cool and melt at different temperatures, and therefore are not compatible with “blow molded” plastics in the reprocessing stage. In other words, if the plastics are mixed, it would be like trying to blow bubbles with regular chewing gum, so they are not always accepted for recycling.

The identification system that categorizes hundreds of resins into 7 categories was developed by the Society for Plastics Industry (SPI) in 1988. SPI, in conjunction with the National Recycling Coalition (NRC), attempted to overhaul the coding system in 1994, without success. In case you are wondering, each code represents the following:

  • #1 PET – Polyethylene Terephthalate. Accounts for 20-30% of all plastic bottles manufactured. Most commonly found in 2-liter soda bottles, and water bottles.
  • #2 HDPE – High Density Polyethylene. The most common plastic used in plastic bottle manufacture, about 50-60%. Usually found in milk and detergent jugs, shampoo and lotion bottles.
  • #3 V – Vinyl/Polyvinyl Chloride.
  • #4 LDPE – Low Density Polyethylene.
  • #5 PP – Polypropylene.
  • #6 PS – Polystyrene. Used in disposable food service tableware, plates and cups. The “foam polystyrene” variety is often mistakenly called “Styrofoam” and is used for rigid packing material and peanuts.
  • #7 Other All other plastic resins and multi-material plastics