Recycling & Waste Reduction

When you recycle at Columbia University Medical Center, you’re not just keeping things from ending up in landfills. You’re also reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Since we launched our recycling campaign, recycling rates at CUMC have risen from one percent in 2008 to 26 percent in 2015—New York City's average is 17 percent. In 2015, our research buildings diverted 350 tons of materials from going to landfills.

We've made great strides, but we can still improve. We're happy to provide recycling bins and department training on recycling practices. Learn how to recycle on campus and submit a work order to request any recycling-related support.

Your Impact

Our primary recycling efforts start at the easy-to-access recycling bins throughout the CUMC campus, where you can drop off plastic, metal, glass, and mixed paper and cardboard. Our commercial carting partner delivers recyclables to their South Bronx depot facility for additional sorting, then sells materials to specialized facilities for recycling and reuse.

Learn more about where and how to recycle common materials.

Recycling in Research Environments

In coordination with Environmental Health and Safety, we're piloting a comprehensive training and bin expansion program to reduce "red bag" or regulated medical waste. In addition to encouraging conventional disposal of minimally contaminated waste, participating labs are also increasing recycling diversion. Learn more about our medical waste removal procedures.

If you're a lab manager, you can request additional bins to collect large quantities of #5 plastic waste from pipette tip boxes and certain types of rigid plastic bottles. Submit a work order.

Construction Waste Reduction

The Columbia University School of Nursing and the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center are registered LEED projects under review by the U.S. Green Building Council. Each project has already diverted a combined 8,000 tons, or over 90 percent of its construction waste.

Additional Recycling Services

We recycle a number of other more regulated items with the support of Environmental Health and Safety, including batteries and electronics.

Learn more about recycling and proper disposal:

Several times a year, Public Safety holds a Shred Fest/Electronics Destruction and Ride Your Bike to Campus event, where you can shred documents and dispose of electronics for free.

We are investigating options for composting at CUMC, particularly in the residential buildings. Until we start our program here, you can drop off compost at the seasonal farmers market on Fort Washington Ave.

If you'd like to recycle plastic bags, check in with your local grocery or retail store to see if they accept them. New York state law requires that all retail stores with more than 10,000 square feet of space, or that are part of a large chain, provide a way for customers to recycle plastic bags.