Most Johns Hopkins undergraduates study at Homewood, the 140-acre North Baltimore campus that has been home to our School of Engineering since 1914 and our School of Arts & Sciences since 1916. Today, about 5,400 undergrad and 2,000 graduate students take courses offered by those two schools at Homewood, which is also home to dozens of research labs, two libraries, residence halls, administrative buildings, and athletic and recreation facilities. Greater Homewood includes the School of Education, just across the street, and the Eastern campus, an administrative building home to University and Hospital employees.
To request recycling services, including bins for your academic or administrative area, waste or recycling bin deliveries, or pickup for special items, please submit an online request. To request recycling services in a housing area, contact Housing Facilities at 410-516-7962 or 410-516-8282. In Eastern, contact Property Management Office at 443-997-8988. In the School of Education, contact Campus Operations at 410-516-4925.
To report a plumbing and heating, cooling, ventilation, and exhaust air systems in your academic or administrative area, submit a ticket at www.jhfre.jhu.edu or contact the Service Center at 410-516-8063. To report an issue in a housing area, contact Housing Facilities at 410-516-7962 or 410-516-8282. In Eastern, contact Property Management Office at 443-997-8988. In the School of Education, contact Campus Operations at 410-516-4925.
To request facilities, recycling, and compost support for your event, submit an online request.
While recycling as a personal behavior does have many environmental benefits, it is a business at its core that is based on a commodities market for specific materials such as paper, cardboard, aluminum and different types of plastic. Materials from Johns Hopkins are sent to Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) where they are sorted by type then sold to a processor. Once processed, manufacturers can use the raw material to make a new product instead of using virgin material that was harvested, mined or drilled out of the ground.
In order for a MRF to accept a type of material, it must be able to sell it to make a profit. Buyers for certain commodities can vary by region, and the sorting technology at different MRFs varies greatly so not all items can be sorted and sold everywhere. Also, if manufacturers no longer want to use recycled material to make a new product, either because of a change in manufacturing processes, low quality or a cheaper alternative, they won’t buy it from the processor. Markets change rapidly and can be quite volatile, so MRFs can continue to collect the item and sell it at a loss, store it until the price of that material goes up or, sadly, throw it away. Just like other markets, price is based on supply and demand, which affects decisions made at the MRF. In the current recycling climate, there is a shortage of processors to receive recyclable materials, which has lowered the prices for many commodities causing MRFs to restrict what they are willing to accept from institutions like JHU. This is a global issue that is affecting us locally.
For the past few decades, China has been the main recipient of the world’s recyclable materials. As the industry tried to increase recycling collection, they promoted single stream recycling in which previously items like paper and cardboard were collected separately from metal and plastic. Unfortunately, the public was not uniformly well educated about what exactly can and cannot be put into a single stream bin and not all MRFs were prepared for the onslaught of contamination from hoses, bulk items and diapers that residents and businesses were putting into the bin. But we continued to send these items mixed in with the good recyclable materials to China.
In 2017, China imposed strict restrictions on the quality of imports requiring that there be less than 0.05% contamination, essentially banning the import of recyclables from around the world. With very few other countries able to take the material the price for all commodities plummeted and MRFs had nowhere to send their material or couldn’t make any more to justify the sorting all of the material.
The best thing individuals can do is Reduce and Reuse first. Buy less and use reusable mugs, bags and other items so that you have less to throw away. The majority of the negative environmental impacts of consumption happen at the production stage, so consuming less will always be better for our health and our planet.
Buy things with post-consumer recycled content. This strengthens the market for recycled materials to be the feedstock for new products.
Look for alternatives to glass and plastic that have much stronger recycling markets and reliable infrastructure like aluminum cans.
The recycling world is ever evolving – just like your smart phone – so stay informed.
Waste bins on campus are color coded by waste type. It is important to learn which color is associated with each waste stream. Outlined below are the colors of the different types of bins on campus and what goes into each one.
Blue: Paper and cardboard (non-food or beverage related)
Green: Plastic #1-2 and metal
Yellow: All food products, food and beverage paper products and compostable plastics #7
Grey: All other trash
Refer to our waste sorting cheatsheet for more guidance!
Using the correct bin is important because contamination (i.e. recyclable plastic mixed in with compostable food items) can reduce the quality of the downstream material and lead to our recycling or compost being rejected at the MRF.
Glass is still recyclable, but because there are a variety of issues that make it troublesome for recycling facilities, we cannot accept it in our recycling bins. The biggest challenge is that glass gets broken during the single stream recycling collection process, making it difficult to sort out from all the other materials using existing sorting technology. Secondly, the broken shards contaminate other materials like paper and cardboard, lowering their quality resulting in an inability to sell the material to mills.
Not all plastics have equal value, but in order to make recycling easier, many communities were told to put all types of plastics into the recycling bins. When the value of the recycling commodities decreased, it cost facilities too much to sort out and dispose of lower value plastics #3-6, so now we are only accepting plastics #1 & 2, bottles and jugs.
All non-food or beverage related paper should be recycled in the blue bins found on campus. This includes all copy paper (white and color), all types of envelopes, file folders, magazines, newspapers, brown paper bags, post-it notes, cardboard, and paper board (cereal boxes), etc. Staples and paper clips do not need to be removed. Large cardboard boxes should be flattened with packaging materials removed and placed next to the recycling bin.
Food and beverage related paper should be composted, NOT recycled. These items are likely contaminated with food, which is troublesome for MRFs and is oftentimes not high enough quality to recycle.
Plastic containers are marked by #1 – #7. These numbers indicate the type of plastic resin. Plastics #1 and #2, typically bottles and jugs, should be recycled on campus. Plastic #7 represents bioplastics, plastics made from plants like corn and should be composted. Almost all of the plastics used by campus cafes and coffee shops are made from corn resin, which is compostable. These include cups for cold beverages, sandwich and salad containers, and utensils.
However, due to the limitations of bioplastics, there are a few items sold on campus that are not compostable. These include sushi containers, black containers used for hot food items and some grab and go items. To be safe, check the bottom of the container for the #7. Plastics #3-6 should be put into the grey incinerate bin on campus.
Your city may work with a waste management program with different recycling capabilities than the waste management program we contract here on campus. Different recycling facilities accept slightly different products and use slightly different technologies, so small differences are to be expected.
Fortunately, much of what you generate on campus is compostable or recyclable; however, there are still some items that we don’t accept for recycling or composting. This includes glass, plastic #3-6, polystyrene (a.k.a. Styrofoam), plastic grocery bags, potato chip bags, candy wrappers, condiment packets, single brew coffee cups (e.g. Keurig cups), ceramics., and non-container glass.
Remember, there are special Terracycle programs for the highlighted items listed above, so while they cannot go in the standard recycling bins, departments can collect them and submit a recycling request for pick up, and students in residence halls can place them in the blue bin located in the lobbies of each residence hall.
We know that recycling can be a little confusing and sometimes stressful so we hope the information provided above has made it easier. However, it is important to reduce contamination in the bins as much as possible so when in doubt, throw it out (into the incinerate bin)
Custodians usually have a cart with only one bin, so they cannot separate the bags as they collect them for transport outside. However, you will notice that the recycle bags are clear, compost bags are green and the trash bags are black, so even though the custodians sometimes combine them into one cart, they are separated at the loading dock. When the Recycling Office collects the bags from the loading dock, staff know by sight which bags should be placed in the recycle, compost or trash dumpsters.
At least three types of bins can be found at all Hopkins spaces: Recycling (Green), Compost (Yellow), Incinerate (Grey). Spaces, depending on their specialties, may contain fewer or additional bins as explained below.
Academic Buildings: Academic buildings on the Homewood campus have a dual stream recycling program with separate paper and cardboard recycling collection in blue bins and container recycling (metal and plastic containers) collection in green bins. The reasons for this are 1) the university sometimes receives revenue for recycling paper and cardboard, 2) keeping paper separate ensures a higher quality raw material to make a new product, and 3) separating materials allows for greater flexibility in where we send our recycling.
Residence Halls: Residence halls and dining areas have a single stream recycling program, which means paper, cardboard, and metal and plastic containers can be put in one recycling bin. This helps save space in the dorms where little paper is generated.
Residence Halls also have collection bins for electronics (basically anything with a battery or a cord) and terracycle (which includes energy bar and candy wrappers, snack bags, empty makeup containers, old pens, and used toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes).
Yes! All residence halls have compost bins available. They may not be at every waste station so be sure to locate the most convenient one to you. If you would like to recommend additional bin locations for your residence hall please contact the Housing Operations Office.
If you live in a suite with a kitchen you can request a small countertop bin to store compostable material until full and then dispose of in the nearest common compost bin on your floor.
Yes you can! In fact, if you host a zero waste event, one in which only compostable disposables are provided, there is no charge for the compost and recycling bins. There is a charge for events that are not zero waste so save money by choosing a Preferred Green Caterer. To request event support, please fill out the request form at least 48 hours prior to your event.
TerraCycle is a program that allows you to recycle items that are not accepted in traditional recycling bins. TerraCycle bins can be found in your residence hall lobby. The following categories of items are accepted:
Additionally, electronics can be placed in the bins also located in your residence hall lobby.
Homewood Recycling has partnered with Housing Operations, Residence Life and the Office of Sustainability to offer a Green Move Out program in which you can donate items that are no longer needed, like clothing, housewares, toiletries and non-perishable foods to local charities. Learn more about Green Move Out, and plan ahead to donate!
Staff can submit a request for pickup of the following items for recycling:
Film Plastic – Any plastic that is stretchy like Amazon packaging, grocery bags, shrink wrap, etc.
Polystyrene (a.k.a. Styrofoam) – Only white #6 rigid polystyrene should be collected. Any other type of foam should be placed in the incinerate bin. This includes any other number or color foam and peanuts.
TerraCycle is a program that allows you to recycle items that are not accepted in traditional recycling bins. The following categories of items are accepted
Staff can submit a request for pickup of the following electronics and peripherals: computers, printers, batteries, cords, ink and toner cartridges