Recycling Made Simple

By Kelsey Davis

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” - Zora Neale Hurston

Let the data collection begin!

After conducting a preliminary survey of our new study area and creating a data collection schedule, the Recycling Team is ready to begin our research! Starting week 8, we will monitor outdoor trash and recycling bins in North Campus near Lu Valle Commons, the Public Affairs building, the Sculpture Garden, and Macgowan Hall. While working out the kinks in our data collection took a little longer than we thought, we feel well-prepared and confident!

The Recycling Team surveying our study area in the Sculpture Garden on UCLA's North Campus.

The Recycling Team surveying our study area in the Sculpture Garden on UCLA's North Campus.

As we’ve planned our research project, we’ve learned a lot along the way. One thing we’ve learned is that understanding what’s recyclable and what’s not can often be complicated and confusing. However, the Recycling Team wants to make recycling simple! Here’s some of what we’ve learned so far from our stakeholder, Recycling Coordinator Jesse Escobar, about UCLA’s recycling policies:

Understanding the Recycling Process

One reason why recycling policy can be complicated is that each waste hauler is different. Materials considered recyclable by one waste hauler, can be considered trash by another.

UCLA uses an industrial waste hauler, which can process many goods often considered un-recyclable. The material from UCLA’s recycling bins is taken to our waste hauler’s facility, where they are sorted, baled, and then sold to manufacturers who use recyclable materials in their products.

What’s Recyclable and What’s Not (at UCLA)


  • Paper (newspapers, cardboard, etc.) 
  • Plastics (plastic bottles, plastic grocery bags, etc.)
  • Glass (glass jars and bottles)
  • Aluminum
  • Recyclable food containers with a little food waste (e.g. pizza boxes with grease)


  • All food
  • Paper (napkins, paper towels, etc.)
  • Other (plant trimmings, biodegradable food containers)


  • All food (if compost bins are unavailable) 
  • Chip bags
  • Candy wrappers
  • Wax-lined cups

Remembering all these intricacies can be challenging, so let’s keep it simple. When in doubt, recycle! All recyclable material will be sorted by our waste hauler and, during that process, any trash will be removed. In contrast, the contents of trash bins go straight to the landfill, unsorted, so any recyclable material present in the trash will not be recovered.

Through our research and an upcoming waste audit with Jesse, the Recycling Team will build on our current knowledge of recycling. We look forward to sharing our knowledge with the rest of the student body during Spring Quarter!