Sustainability at USM

Recycling & Waste Minimization

Public Notice: Until further notice, USM will not be hosting the Annual E-Waste Collection Event due to construction on the new Residence Hall and Student Center. 

USM’s Waste Minimization Goals

Waste Guide

  • Increase waste diversion to 70% by 2020
  • Improve efficiency of waste operations
  • Reduce total waste creation across all three campuses by 25% by 2025
  • Develop innovative handling methods and new outlets for materials
  • Build community, engagement, and awareness around issues related to waste 
  • Reduce throughput through responsible purchasing, use, and reuse of resources across all sectors of University operations.

Want a print version of this poster for your office? 

For more information, read USM's Waste Minimization Policy.

Check out our Waste Minimization & Recycling Overview Report


Links to Single Stream Recycling Info


Other Waste Reduction Initiatives at USM


What goes into single stream recycling?

On the Portland and Gorham campuses of USM we collect single stream recycling so all recyclable materials go into one bin together. From campus the recyclables are taken to the EcoMaine recycling facility in Portland where they are sorted. All recyclable materials can go into any blue bin on campus.

 plastics, cardboard, paper, metal, and glass

Recyclable Materials include: 

  • Paper, paperboard, cardboard: Office paper, newspaper, paper envelopes, books & magazines, wrapping paper, cereal, pasta and frozen meal boxes, clean paper plates, paper cups, drink cartons, cardboard & pizza boxes
  • Plastic: Any empty rigid container marked with a recycling triangle #1-7 such as frozen meal trays, cups, to-go containers, detergent & shampoo bottles. Plastic grocery sacks with handles marked #2 or #4 are also recyclable.
  • Metal: Empty aluminum, tin & steel food cans, aluminum foil
  • Glass: All colors of empty glass bottles & jars, lids removed

Pile o' Trash

Non-Recyclable Materials that belong in the Trash: 

  • Napkins & paper towels
  • Any styrofoam including cups, peanuts & packaging
  • Plastic wrap
  • Granola & candy bar wrappers
  • Plastic bags, trash bags & potato chip bags
  • Wax paper
  • Disposable gloves
  • Food scraps

Additional Info:

  • Styrofoam of any size and shape is not recyclable at USM, nor are most plastic bags except those from the grocery store (with handles) marked #2 or #4
  • Please empty all containers before placing them in the recycling or trash - liquids cause spills and contamination. They are also heavy and therefore expensive to dispose of!
  • Containers must be empty of liquids or food but do not have to be clean in order to be recycled.
  • Returnable bottles and cans are recyclable but are collected separately in waste stations found in public areas around campus.


Bin full of recyclables like plastic bottles, tin cans, cardboard, paper

Signage, literature, and resources to view or print


Where to find waste stations & what they look like


   USM Waste Collection Stations have openings for Returnables, All Recyclables, and Trash     Deskside small blue recycling container

All buildings on the Portland and Gorham Campuses are equipped with blue recycling bins.

In hallways and public areas, you'll find the waste stations with circle openings for returnable bottles and cans (those marked with a ME deposit), saturn-shaped openings for Single Stream Recycling, and square openings for Trash. In classrooms, offices, and other smaller spaces you'll find blue deskside recycling bins as well as small trashcans. Residence Halls have communal bins on each hall or floor.

+ I Our goal is to have a blue recycling receptacle and Tiny Trash in every space on the Gorham, Portland, and Lewiston campuses. If you know of an office, classroom, or other space that needs a recycling bin please let us know.

Why do we recycle at USM?

Recycling is one of the best ways for you to have a positive impact on the world in which we live. Recycling is important to both the natural environment and humans. By reducing waste, reusing, and recycling, we are reducing the need for space in Maine's already limited landfill space; decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating the need to extract new resources from the environment; reducing fossil fuel consumption through the transportation of goods; and preserving natural resources. 

Every time you recycle you are playing a small role in creating a brand new product without utilizing our limited natural resources. So what does your recycled glass, paper, plastic, and metal turn into? Find out here! 



Where recycled materials go after they leave campus

USM's recycling is taken to EcoMaine in Portland. They have a state-of-the-art sorting facility that enables them to capture many more types of recyclable materials, sort them, bale them according to variety, and sell them to manufacturers to be turned into new products. Because EcoMaine is able to sell the materials as commodities, we are able to bring recycling there for free.

+ EcoMaine serves USM, the City of Portland, and 20 other municipalities so recycling at USM might be the same as recycling at your home. To see if your hometown recycles through Ecomaine, visit this list on their website of partner communities. To learn more about EcoMaine, their facility, and their recycling program, please visit their webpage.


 Shoppers return bags, they are baled, hauled, turned back into pellets which are shaped into new bags

YES: Plastic grocery sacks with handles are recyclable if marked with a #2 or #4. Other plastic bags are not recyclable at USM or in Portland. They are, however, reusable! Please reuse plastic bags whenever possible and bring your own bags or totes for shopping to limit the number of plastic bags in the system. 

Internal Resources for Recycling and Responsible Disposal of:

USM Electronic Waste Recycling Kiosk located in all three USM Libraries


  • Cell Phones and rechargeable batteries can be recycled at USMCell Phones & All Batteries — Drop these off to be recycled at wooden recycling kiosks in the lobby of all three libraries: Glickman,Bailey, and LAC
  • Printer Ink & Toner Cartridges — drop these off to be recycled at wooden recycling kiosks in the lobby of all three libraries: Glickman, Bailey, and LAC
  • Printer Cartridges can be recycled at USMFluorescent, CFL, Halogen, or LED Light Bulbs — Facilities Management collects these and other universal waste upon request: (207) 780-4658. If you break a fluorescent lamp you should first air out and evacuate the area for 30 mins. For full instructions, check out the EPA's Guide to cleaning up a broken CFL.
  • Oil-based paint, lab waste, chemicals, biomedical or other hazardous waste —To ensure safe and environmentally friendly disposal call the Environmental Health and Safety Office: (207) 780-5406 or fill out the appropriate form here to request a pick-up.
  • Office Supplies - Call USM Recycles ((207) 780-4658) to donate these to our Free Shelves. Visit the Free Shelves in the Portland Library AAA Cafe, the Gorham Library Lobby, or outside of the Surplus Store in the lower level of the Sullivan Gym on Portland's campus for reused treasures!
  • Large Volumes of Books, clothing, or other recyclable or reusable materials - Please call Steve Sweeney at USM Recycles to coordinate the handling, removal, and recycling of these materials: (207) 780-4658