New Recycling Signage

Campus Sustainability Office October 31, 2018

Major recycling restrictions went into effect during summer 2018 across the country. Cornell University and Tompkins County have adapted recycling rules to adjust to the new, national changes.  Every community member is encouraged to learn the new rules, and share new signage to ensure waste is sorted properly. These rules are in effect for every space on campus, and throughout Tompkins County.

recycle and landfill sign

Sorting Your Waste

Effective July 2018

  • Items to Recycle
    Plastic #1, #2, #5 only 
    Aluminum cans, foil
    Glass bottles, containers
    Paper, mixed paper products
    Drink boxes, cartons
  • Items to Landfill
    Wax paper
    Disposable plates, cutlery
    Coffee cups
    Dirty containers
  • Items to Compost
    Food scraps
    Napkins, paper towels

New Rules for Cornell Recycling

Effective July 2018

  • 1-2-5, Keep Recycling Alive!
    #1, #2, #5 plastics only in recycling (used to be #1-7).
  • Keep it Clean
    All recycling must be clean– no visible food debris, oil, or other remnants.  Recyclable materials with food waste may be thrown into the landfill.
  • When in Doubt, Throw it Out
    Don't be a "wishful recycler."  If you're not sure, throw it in the landfill bin. Contamination of recycling bins with non-recyclable content will significantly lower recycling rates on campus - a single bin with contamination in a building may cause an entire truck-load of recycling to go to the landfill.
recycle and landfill sign

Important Ongoing Recycling Rules

  • No Styrofoam
    Styrofoam can never be recycling, even if it has a recycling # on it.  Waste providers in California sometimes accepts styrofoam recyclables, but most of the United States cannot recycle this content.
  • Compostable Service-ware to the Landfill
    Compostable service-ware such as forks and plate must go in the trash. They just don’t break down in the compost!


Image of sticker with hands holding a recycling, landfill, and compost symbol with text "Cornell's Waste is in Your Hands"
Cornell Waste Sticker - New resources to help keep our waste stream clean.  Click here to visit the full resource page.

The Campus Sustainability Office and Cornell R5 Operations have created posters and signage to help spread the word. Campaign resources include:

Resources in this folder include:

  • Posters summarizing the new rules and important "old" waste management rules to help keep the waste stream clean.  Can be used in common areas such as shared kitchens, above recycling bins, or in high-traffic areas on bulletin boards.
  • Digital Well signage for screens across campus
  • Small Sticker (right)
  • New signage for waste bins

Share these items in digital screens or physical spaces in your building.  Before you change signage on or around bins, please contact your Building Manager or building care team. 

Why are these changes happening?

For decades, China purchased a large percentage of the world’s recyclable materials (including from the United States). China often received highly contaminated loads of recyclables rendering them unusable. In response, China recently changed their policy and will heavily restrict the recycled materials they accept from foreign states. Most communities in the US are not equipped to recycle the same variety as the US shipped overseas, and many US plants need materials to be cleaner than before.


For information about recycling or waste bins on campus, composting, or clarification on the new rules, contact Cornell R5 Operations team in Facilities & Campus Services:


Cornell R5 Operations Logo

Cornell R5 Operations
R5: Respect, Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle