Frequently Asked Questions

Why can't I recycle pizza boxes?
Cardboard or paper that has been contaminated by food residue cannot be recycled.   A small amount of contaminated cardboard or paper may cause an entire load of paper to be rejected by a recycling collection facility.  We have to provide them with clean, ready-to-recycle products!Recycling in action

I’ve heard that all of our campus trash goes to an incinerator to be burned.  Is that true?
All non-recyclable trash that is deposited into the green waste dumpsters on campus is taken directly to the Xcel Energy waste to energy plant.  The Xcel Energy plant turns acceptable waste into refuse derived fuel (RDF) which is burned to make electricity.  You can find more information about the Xcel Energy waste to energy plant at:

I just moved off campus and found that I can’t recycle all of the items I was able to recycle when I lived on campus.  Why?
The City of La Crosse and other surrounding municipalities all meet the minimum level of recycling required by state law.  However, UW-L owns and operates its own rubbish collection truck, so we are not dependent on the City or a private contractor to provide trash and recycling collection services for campus.  As a result we have been able to develop a very efficient system for collection of trash and recycling that allows us to collect and recycle some items that other local communities do not yet recycle.  Because we are small compared to the City of La Crosse and our collection process is simpler, we are able to adapt to changing markets and make changes much more quickly.  If you live off campus and are unhappy with your recycling options please voice your concerns to your La Crosse city government representatives.  The City of La Crosse needs to know what services citizens need and want. 

Can UW-L faculty, staff or students living off campus, bring their trash and recycling from their home to UW-L for disposal?
No.  Wisconsin Administrative Code states that dumpsters at UW-L are only for waste generated at UW-L.  We try to keep our waste and recycling program as fiscally and operationally efficient as possible.  When people bring trash and recycling from home, UW-L incurs costs for disposal or recycling.    Every private individual in Wisconsin and Minnesota has access to recycling and waste disposal services through their town, city, village or a private contractor.

Does UW-L make money from recycling?
The value of recyclable materials varies depending on the type of material. Values are market driven and change as markets and economic conditions change.  Materials such as paper, cardboard and aluminum usually generate income when markets are strong, however when markets decline we sometimes must pay our vendors to take these materials for recycling.  Glass is made from an abundant and easily attainable natural resource.  It is easier and financially more cost effective for manufacturers to make new glass from raw materials than to recycle glass so it has no monetary value on the recycling market.  Even in strong market conditions recycling vendors charge a fee for accepting glass for recycling.  Certain types of plastic have more value than others, but generally speaking plastic has very little or no value and vendors either charge a fee or take plastics at no cost to either party.  The University does not recycle to make a profit. We recycle in an attempt to keep waste generated by the University out of the landfill as a part of our commitment to environmental sustainability.

How do I dispose of a rechargeable battery from a University owned laptop, cell phone or other appliance?
Rechargeable batteries from University owned appliances are collected and recycled through our Hazardous Materials Program.  Please contact Dan Sweetman, Hazardous Waste program coordinator, to arrange collection.

What should I do with my old cell phone (I know I shouldn't just throw it away)?
UW-L owned cell phones may either be returned to University Telephone Services or be disposed of following the procedures outlined in the Surplus Property Program.  Please contact University Telephone Services to see which type of cell phone you have and how it should be returned or recycled.

For personally owned cell phones there are a variety of charities that not only safely dispose of old phones, but actually put them to very good use. Go to to decide where to send your phone!  In addition, most wireless providers recycle used wireless telephones; just bring your telephone to the retail outlet and request that it be recycled.  For more options, see: How do I recycle electronics (e-waste)?

How do I recycle E-waste (e.g. computer, monitor, printer, cell phone), appliances or commercial equipment at UW-L?
E-scrap is loosely defined as discarded, surplus, obsolete or broken electrical or electronic devices.  E-scrap includes, but is not limited to: computers, computer accessories, TVs, cell phones, fax machines, VCR/DVD players and personal digital assistants (PDAs).  Appliances may include dorm sized refrigerators or microwaves or major appliances, such as washers, dryers, stoves or water heaters.  Commercial equipment may include but is not limited to: autoclaves, kilns, or specialty laboratory equipment.Recycling in action

If you have University owned electronic equipment, appliances or commercial equipment to discard it should be returned following the procedures outlined in the Surplus Property Program.

If you are a resident of University Residence Halls you have several options to dispose of your personal electronic devices or small appliances:

First see if the manufacturer or store from which you purchased your equipment participates in take-back or trade-in programs.  Several nationwide retail outlets accept this type of equipment for free or for a nominal fee.  You can also recycle these items through the La Crosse County Household Hazardous Materials Program. You can also look in the Yellow Pages, under “Recycling Centers”.  The Yellow Pages will list several local recycling and waste management companies that provide this valued service.  If residence hall residents are unable to dispose of their e-waste through any of these means they may leave e-waste items next to the dumpster screen for their dorm.  UW-L staff will pick up the materials and will deliver them to proper recycling facilities.  Each residence hall will pay recycling fees for e-waste collected from their hall.

University faculty, staff or students who live off campus are not allowed to bring e-waste or appliances from home to be recycled by UW-L.

Where do the UW-L collected recyclable materials go?

All recyclables are delivered to a collection site or recycling facility.  A collection site accepts recyclable materials from many generators (companies/municipalities) and co-packages similar materials prior to transport to a recycling facility.  The recycling facility converts the materials into usable products or raw materials for other manufacturers. UW-L partners with several different vendors to manage recyclables in an environmentally and fiscally responsible manner.  As a general rule UW-L uses local collection sites to reduce transportation costs.  The local collection sites have similar economic and environmental incentives associated with their service.  For example, the vast majority of paper and cardboard collected locally is recycled for reuse at one of several paper companies within Wisconsin.

How do I recycle empty printer/copier cartridges?
UW-L only accepts printer and copier cartridges from campus owned or leased equipment.  Cartridges from UW-L operations can be sent to Campus Stores through campus mail. 

A variety of options exist for recycling personally owned equipment.

  • If your vendor offers a mail-back program for empty cartridges, save the original carton and use the shipping label provided inside to return the cartridge to the vendor.  Check your packaging or the manufacturer’s web site for information.
  • The store you purchase a new or refurbished printer cartridge may participate in a take-back program.  Several local nationwide office/electronic supply retail outlets accept used cartridges for free, just call ahead to confirm their ability to accept the cartridges.
  • The La Crosse County Household Hazardous Materials Program accepts used cartridges for recycling.

If you could give a message to everyone on campus regarding recycling, what would it be?
The success of every recycling program depends on each of us sorting recyclables at the source. Everyone needs to place recyclables in recycling containers and trash in trash containers. If people contaminate the recycleable materials with trash, the recycler has no other recourse but to reject the recyclables and everyone loses.  When making purchases consider purchasing things manufactured with recycled material.  Recycling only works if we purchase items containing recycled content.  The key here is thinking about the environmental consequences of a purchasing decision before buying.