Iowa State Solar recycling compactor.

Iowa State University practices single stream recycling for glass, metal, plastic and paper for all students, faculty and staff. All campus offices are provided recycling bins and buildings host various locations for two wheeled single stream totes. Residence in the halls can request on a volunteer basis to practice recycling in their rooms. It is the student’s responsibility to take out their recycling to the dumpster around their residence. Iowa State has achieved an average diversion rate of 68% as of fiscal year 2022 and has a goal of achieving 85% by the end of fiscal year 2025. 

Recycling also takes place through campus operations. Items such as (but not limited to) electronics, chemicals, rechargeable batteries, light bulbs, toner cartridges, lab equipment, cell phones, confidential documents and demolition and construction waste are diverted from the landfill through various recycling streams. Other items recycled at Iowa State are mattresses and used cooking oil, while not an established program, mattresses have been sent to recyclers and cooking oil sampled into biofuel. 

ISU Dining practices recycling through reuse of plastic pallets used for food delivery and recycles cardboard in which product is delivered. Broken kitchen equipment is also recycled into scrap metal.

Though a part of the university’s single stream recycling system, glass has a unique companion recycling opportunity at ISU. In 2012, through a partnership with the City of Ames' Resource Recovery System, focused on diverting all glass waste from the community’s waste stream, the Laboratory Glass Recycling Program was established. This program, developed and implemented through a collaborative effort of FP&M, Environmental Health and Safety, and the Office of Sustainability provides durable, leak-proof and reusable glass recycling bins for campus laboratories. The City of Ames also provides glass collection containers across campus, specifically targeting glass waste from campus operations.

In addition, a number of targeted recycling efforts take place throughout the academic year to increase awareness and engagement in waste diversion for the on-campus community, as well as visitors to Iowa State, such as the TreeCYcle program, which recycles downed campus trees into furniture.

"The biggest challenge is to heighten the awareness that this is your legacy, you live here, clean up after yourself. It's the right thing to do to take the extra step and throw that gum wrapper away or recycle that piece of paper and be a sustainable person."

-Norm Hill, Logistics and Support Services Director