All trash, recycling and composting is managed by Environmental Services.

All items placed in trash cans at Elon University go to a landfill. Currently about 20% of the solid waste stream is recycled or composted. Elon has a number of initiatives to help ensure recyclables and compostables are kept out of the landfill.

Learn more about recycling.

Learn more about composting.

Learn more about waste reduction programs.

COVID-19 Related Waste

Single-use, disposable personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves and masks, should be placed in the landfill bin. Disposable wipes, paper towels used for cleaning and used tissues should be placed in the landfill bin. Mask elastics should be cut to avoid harm to wildlife.

Plastic bottles, such as hand sanitizer bottles, are recyclable, if properly cleaned out and pump (if applicable) removed.

Recycling at Elon

Elon’s recycling program began in the late 1980s as a student initiative and is now managed by Environmental Services. Elon has single-stream recycling, which means all recyclables go in the same bin: glass (all types), plastic (except thin plastics), paper (all types) and metal (aluminum, steel, tin) cans. Small plastic items (smaller than 2 inches square, such as silverware) should not be placed in recycling bins.  Thin plastics, such as plastic bags (grocery and sandwich), can be placed in designated bins located in each neighborhood office as well as the Moseley Center.  Cardboard is recyclable and should be broken down and placed next to a recycling bin. The university also has recycling bins available for household batteries, small electronics, printer cartridges, and writing instruments.  Learn more about the recycling process at Elon.

Students, faculty and staff are also able to recycle textiles, such as clothes and shoes, in designated bins located in the Moseley Center as well as each neighborhood office.

Paper, Plastic, Metal, and Glass

Plastics (except thin plastics and small plastic items less than 2 inches square), glass (all colors), metals (aluminum, steel, tin) and all types of paper (newspaper, magazines, office paper of any color, sticky notes, envelopes with plastic windows, paperboard, etc.) can be recycled in the same bin.

Bin Location: Bins are located near trash cans in classrooms, hallways, offices, lounges, common spaces, outdoor campus locations and trash/recycling rooms of residence halls.

Thin Plastics

Thin plastics, such as grocery bags, food storage bags, produce bags, plastic air pillows, bubble wrap, paper towel and bathroom tissue wrap, and case wrap (used to wrap water bottles, etc…) can be recycled in the same bin.

Bin Locations:  Bins are located in the Moseley Center, as well as each neighborhood office.


To recycle cardboard, break it down flat and put it next to any recycling bin inside a building, preferably in offices and trash/recycling rooms.

Bin Location: Everywhere there is a blue recycling bin.

Printer and Toner Cartridges

Inkjet cartridges: Cartridges may be deposited in collection bins. For large cartridges, call physical plant x5500 to request they be picked up.

Laserjet cartridges purchased from Laser Consultants: Return empty cartridges to Purchasing CB 2950.

Laserjet cartridges from Office Depot or other vendors: Some vendors offer a buy-back or take-back option. Contact your vendor for details. Typically a new cartridge is shipped with a label or pre-printed envelope for returning the empty cartridge. If your vendor does not have a take-back option, deposit empty cartridges in a collection bin.

Canon printers/copiers: See the Technology Knowledge Base for how to recycle toners and cartridges.

Bin Locations – inkjet and laserjet cartridges: bins located in Moseley Center: Student Involvement Office and near the mail room; Johnston Hall 2nd floor copy room; McMichael near office 102; Oaks McCoy Commons 1st floor; Mooney 1st floor copy room; Gerald L. Francis Center student lounge; School of Law upper stack copy room; laundry or trash rooms in residential neighborhoods.

Household Batteries

Bin Locations: Belk Library main stairwell; McEwen Communications main floor near elevator; Center for the Arts 1st floor near elevator; Moseley Center near the mail room;  Johnston Hall 2nd floor copy room; Whitley office area; Gerald L. Francis Center student lounge; Arts West 102 lounge; Colonnades E; The School of Law upper stack stairwell.

Small Electronics (cell phones, CDs, DVDs, cords, etc.)

Many electronics are banned from the landfill in North Carolina.  Large, university-owned electronics can be recycled by contacting Physical Plant (ext. 5500).

Small electronics such as: cell phones, digital cameras, MP3 players, computer speakers, hard drives, CDs, DVDs, CD/DVD drives, disks, headsets, cords, cables and chargers can be recycled in grey collection bins located throughout campus.

Bin Locations: Belk Library main stairwell; Moseley Center near mail room; Center for the Arts 1st floor by the elevator, McEwen Communications main floor elevator; McMichael Science Building by office 102; Mooney 1st floor copy room, Lindner Hall 1st floor break room; Johnston Hall 2nd floor copy room; Koury Business Center main stairwell; Janice Ratliff Building lobby; Gerald L. Francis Center student lounge; School of Law upper stack stairwell.

Writing Instruments (pens, pencils, and markers)

Used writing instruments may be recycled in the container located in Belk Library’s main stairwell. Recyclable writing instruments include pens, pencils, mechanical pencils, markers, highlighters, sharpies and dry erase markers.


Textiles include: clothes, shoes, and any item made from cloth or an artificial fabric like vinyl.  Any textile item, even if it is worn, torn, or stained, can be recycled.

Bin Locations: the Moseley Center and each neighborhood office

Recycling FAQs

What should I do with pizza boxes?

If the box is free of grease stains and food residue, recycle the box.  If the pizza box has food residue and grease stains, compost it.

Do I have to wash an item before putting it in a recycle bin?

No, but removing as much beverage or food residue before recycling an item helps ensure all items, particularly paper, remain viable for recycling.

What do the numbers inside the arrows mean on plastics?

These numbers indicate the type of plastic used to make the object; it is not an indication that the item is recyclable. Learn more about the numbers used on plastic bottles.

Composting at Elon

Yard and food waste are collected and composted.   When biodegradable materials are composted they are processed into a material that can be used as a soil amendment.  Conversely, when biodegradable materials are placed in landfills they do not break down in the same manner and do not result in a useful product.

Yard Waste Composting

In fall 2008, Elon began collecting and composting its own yard waste in a facility located on the edge of campus. The facility closes the loop on the University’s yard waste as the final compost product is used in campus landscaping to improve soil quality and reduce water and fertilizer requirements.

Fall 2020 Update on Post-Consumer Composting

Post-consumer compostables are not being composted due to challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are the factors that contributed to this decision:

  • In response to COVID-19, Elon Dining transitioned to using compostable containers and silverware in all dining halls. By eliminating reusable dining ware in the short term, Elon Dining can keep guests safe, while offering responsible serviceware. The compostable to-go containers add flexibility for guests to be able to take items to-go so that physical distancing requirements and limited dining hall capacities can be met. A few of the products Elon Dining needs to utilize with the dining format this semester, such as condiment/sauce containers, are not compostable due to major financial ramifications and order minimums associated with the compostable alternatives.
  • The post-consumer compostable waste stream is too contaminated with non-compostable products for it to be composted. The university’s compost contractor cannot accept waste for composting, if it is too contaminated. The university’s compost contractor received a large post-consumer compostable waste stream sample from campus at the beginning of the fall 2020 semester and determined it contained too much contamination to effectively separate.
  • Hand sorting post-consumer compostable waste is not feasible due to the risk of potential transmission of COVID-19. The high volume of post-consumer compostable waste also makes hand sorting impractical.

Pre-consumer food waste continues to be composted from the back-of-house in all three dining halls.

Food and Biodegradable Serviceware Composting

All food waste and compostable food containers that are collected are composted in a commercial facility off-campus.

What can I compost at Elon?

All food scraps (meat, bones, dairy, fruit peels, coffee grinds, etc) and serviceware labeled as compostable can be placed in compost bins on campus.
Compostable items at Fountain Market     Compostable items at Winter Garden Cafe 

Where can I dispose of my compostables?

Compostables can be disposed of in orange bins throughout campus.

Residential Neighborhoods

  • Colonnades and Historic: Compost bins located in each trash room.
  • Global: Orange compost bins are located in the lobbies of each building.
  • Danieley and the Oaks: A compost bin is located in the waste corals.  Simply take your compostables out at the same time as your recycling and trash.
  • Station at Mill Point: Plant-based food scraps can be taken to the compost tumbler by the Station at Mill Point community garden.

Dining Facilities

Customers with leftover food or compostable to-go containers can dispose of items in the compost bins located at Winter Garden, Fountain Market and Daniel Commons.  Outdoor compost bins are located at Lakeside and McEwen. All dining facilities collect food scraps ‘behind the scenes’ for compost.  This includes leftover food that cannot be donated to Campus Kitchen and food scraps left on plates.

Athletic Events

Many athletic events have ‘Mind the Bin’ stations.  Compostable items can be placed in the orange bin.

Special Events

As of October 1, 2015 Mill Point Catering is using compostable serviceware as their default.  Due to this change, event organizers utilizing Mill Point Catering no longer need to request compost bins.  They should be automatically provided. If the bins are not provided call Physical Plant (336-278-5500) to get one immediately and report the issue to Catering.

For university approved events involving food from off-campus vendors, temporary compost bins are free and can be ordered by submitting a work order through FixIt. Simply specify the number of bins needed, where and when (date and time) they are needed.

Composting FAQs

Why can I compost my plastic looking cups and utensils?

Though some cold cups and silverware may look like plastic they are actually made from plant materials, not oil-based plastic so it is safe to compost them.

Are meat, dairy, citrus and bones allowed in the compost?

Yes. Though not a good idea for a backyard system, these items break down just fine in a commercial facility.

How do I request compost bins for a special event?

You can request compost bins by placing a work order through FixIt for the number of compost bins you would like. Be sure to include the date of the event, the time you would like bins to be there and an expected end time.

What type of serviceware can I buy in a pinch if I am hosting an event?

Typical grocery stores carry paper plates and bowls that are compostable.  Some are labeled as such, but as long as they are paper based and do not have a waxy coating they should be OK to compost.  If you are hosting an approved, non-catered event with food for fewer than 50 people, talk to your neighborhood’s Eco-Rep about having compostables provided.


Waste Reduction Programs

Mind the Bin

Recycle Bins

This is a campaign to put waste items in the correct bin so only trash, not recyclables or compostables, goes to the landfill.  Bins for compost, recycling and trash are color-coded, labeled and are conveniently located next to each other in a single ‘Mind the Bin’ station. The Elon University Department of Athletics partnered with Environmental Services and the Office of Sustainability to provide ‘Mind the Bin’ stations at some athletic events and select campus locations.

Earth Week

April 20-24, 2020
Elon’s Earth Week focuses on waste reduction, with a variety of events and activities aimed at helping participants recognize and change their waste-producing behaviors. Participants are asked to collect all of the waste they produce for the week in an effort to understand their own consumption habits.

Don’t Trash It!

The Don’t Trash It! campaign runs at the end of the school year. It provides collection points for gently used items that would otherwise be thrown away. Various items, such as gently used furniture, working appliances, small house wares, lamps, electronics, usable clothing and non-perishable, un-opened food items are collected in designated locations. Once collected, items are donated to local non-profit organizations. Don’t Trash It! is made possible by multiple campus and community partners. Campus partners include the Kernodle Center for Civic Life, Residence Life, Environmental Services and the Office of Sustainability.

For additional details about what is collected and where to drop off donations read the Don’t Trash It! FAQs .