The 3Rs of the “waste hierarchy” (reduce, reuse, recycle) are so ordered because the impact on waste reduction is highest when we reduce consumption first, reduce waste further through reuse, and reserve recycling as the final step in dealing with resource management and scarcity. UNE’s recycling program represents the roots from which grew all of the University’s sustainability initiatives.

Two students sort through a trash bag to look for items that can be recycled
A student placing compost into a compost dropoff bin

Currently, the University disposes of approximately 561 tons of waste annually. Roughly 21% of this waste is recycled. While this is a good start, the University community is capable of increasing this recycling rate, and we look forward to partnering with campus groups to achieve this goal. The Environmental Council and Campus Services support the program, and the Sustainability Office works closely with UNE’s waste hauler and Ecomaine to recycle as much material as possible through the single-sort recycling program adopted in 2009.

Explore ways to get involved in UNE’s recycling program through work-study positions, citizenship hours, or volunteering or by joining the Environmental Council or Earth’s E.C.O.

Recycling Details (FY '22)

Click image to enlarge

Single Sort Recycling Systems at UNE

UNE is committed to reducing its negative impacts on the environment and managing its resources wisely. To encourage everyone to participate in this goal, a single-sort recycling program was fully implemented in 2009 on both campuses. Single-sort systems imply that most materials — paper, glass, metal, and plastic can all go in one bin. Recycling stations have been strategically located all over both campuses to ensure that recycling is an easy waste disposal option.

Color-Coded Bins

An important feature of the recycling program is the color-coded bins. The system includes a green bin for single-sort recycling, a blue bin for returnable bottles and cans (containers with a 5-cent deposit), and a gray bin for non-recyclable trash. Signs on the wall above the bins and on the lids of the containers provide information about what waste goes in each bin to ensure that everyone can be successful in helping UNE reach its environmental goals.

What Goes in the Blue Bin?
Recycling icon for cans and bottles
Returnables: Bottles and Cans Labeled "ME 5 cents"

Money from returnables is reinvested into UNE’s Recycling Program.

What Goes in the Green Bin?
Recycling icon for paper, plastic, glass, and metal
Recycling: Paper, Plastic, Glass, and Metal
Recyclable Materials
  •  Paper
  •  Pizza Boxes
  •  Magazines
  •  Books
  •  Cardboard (break down large boxes)
  •  Junk Mail
  •  Window Envelopes
  • File Folders
  • Milk Cartons/Jugs
  • Juice Boxes
  • #1-7 Plastic Containers
  • Foil
  • Metal Cans
  • Glass Bottles/Jars (empty, unbroken)
  • Empty Aerosol Cans
What Goes in the Gray Bin?
Recycling icon for food scraps
Waste: Non-recyclable Waste and Food Scraps
Waste Materials
  • Food
  • Bubble warp
  • Plastic wrap
  • Snack bags
  • Styrofoam
  • Paper towels
  • Napkins
  • Tissues
  • Straws

Recycling FAQ

What is single-sort recycling?

Single-sort Recycling is a system the University of New England adopted that allows us to recycle more than ever. You can put paper, glass, metal, and plastics in one bin. View the complete listing of what can go into the green, single-sort recycling bins

If everything recyclable can go in the single-sort bins, why is there a separate bin for returnable bottles and cans?

The university is investing the revenue generated by the bottles and cans into the recycling program. Those 5 cents may not seem like a lot, but they add up to make sure we can keep our waste disposal as environmentally friendly as possible.

What are the benefits of single-sort recycling?

Single-sort recycling saves time. The majority of the waste generated on the campus is recyclable, which helps reduce UNE's waste and decreases our carbon footprint. For information on your personal carbon footprint, visit The Nature Conservancy's Carbon Footprint Calculator.

Is there anything that can’t go in single-sort recycling?

Light bulbs, hypodermic needles, sharp objects, bubble wrap, food, styrofoam packaging and peanuts, food bags, diapers, potato chip bags, and other non-recyclable waste cannot be put in single-sort recycling. View the full list of what can go in the green recycling bins

Can I bag my recyclables?

No. Only shredded paper should be bagged. The sorting equipment at Ecomaine will get clogged with bags of recyclables. Full plastic bags are considered trash and will be put into a trash dumpster. Shredded paper in clear plastic bags is recognized when the recyclable material is dumped on the floor of the recycling center and pulled out with hooks and brought directly to the paper recycling station.

Where do I recycle cardboard?

Corrugated cardboard can be recycled in any dumpster marked "Cardboard Only." On the Portland Campus, there are cardboard dumpsters located behind Alexander Hall and behind Blewett Hall. On the Biddeford Campus there are cardboard dumpsters located near Champlain Hall, behind the Campus Center, past Sokokis Hall near the compactor, in the lower Morgane Hall parking lot, behind Facilities Management by the mailroom, behind Decary Hall, and behind Stella Maris Hall.

What do I do with my fluorescent light bulbs?

Because fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury, all fluorescent bulbs on campus must be recycled. Never dispose of fluorescent bulbs in the trash or in a dumpster.

Normally, fluorescent bulbs on campus are changed by Facilities Management (FM). FM has fluorescent bulb accumulation points on each campus. When they change your bulb, they save the bulbs for recycling.

To have fluorescent bulbs picked up for recycling, or to report abandoned fluorescent bulbs, call Facilities Management at x2368.

Who should I call about getting new bins or a different sized bin for my office?

If you are a faculty or staff member, you can place a work order request for housekeeping to bring you a deskside recycling bin. Even though the color is blue, these desk-side recycling bins should be emptied into the nearest green recycling toter.

What if my personal, desk recycling bin is full?

Since we encourage everyone to participate in the program, and because we often search for something thrown in our recycling bins inadvertently, we prefer for you to empty your own office recycling bin and not ask our housekeeping staff to do it. Just bring it to the nearest large green toter on wheels; there's one on every floor of every building. Thank you for participating.

How often are the recycling bins emptied?

UNE's housekeeping staff consolidates the tall, thin bins from area recycling stations into the larger toters on wheels daily. Our recycling staff transports these toters to the compactor, where they are emptied. There is a toter recycling route established. High-traffic areas are emptied every workday. Residence halls are emptied twice weekly and some of the office and academic areas are emptied weekly. However, if you notice that a recycling bin is full (or will be full very soon) please let us know by calling ext. 2368.

What if the recycling bin in my residence hall is full?

Ask your RA to place a work order. Recycling staff will then empty the bin as soon as possible.

What do I do if I see a recycling bin that needs to be emptied?

Placing a work order is the fastest way to have a bin emptied, and the best way for us to track the frequency needs of a particular area.

I have seen recycling bins being emptied into the trash. Why?

This happens when people contaminate recyclables with trash. Ecomaine will refuse to accept loads of contaminated recyclables. Please help us keep trash out of the recycling bins.

How do I recycle shredded documents?

Please keep shredded documents in a plastic bag. The plastic bag ensures that the thin scraps of paper are processed correctly. If your shredded paper is not in a plastic bag, it cannot be recycled and may contaminate the bin of recyclable material. Place the plastic bag with shredded paper into a green single-sort recycling bin. Leaving it loose makes a mess on campus during transport and at the recycling facility.

How can I find out if my plastic container is recyclable?

Plastics numbered 1-7 are recyclable in the green single-sort bins. On the bottom of most plastic containers, there is a triangular symbol (that looks much like the recycling symbol). The number within that triangle is the number of plastic from which your container was made.

Unfortunately, if there is no number, there is no way to identify the type of plastic, and it cannot be recycled using our system.

Styrofoam (even though it is labeled as number 6 plastic) is not recyclable in the state of Maine.

Recyclable plastics are further identified if they are rigid (not flimsy, like plastic wrap) and larger than a Post-It note. Plastic lids, straws, and utensils are small enough to fall through the sorting machinery and will end up on the floor of the recycling facility, so just put it in the trash bin for disposal. 

How can I find out if my bottle or can is returnable/redeemable?

To find out if a bottle or can is returnable or not, search the container for "ME." It is typically located with a list of other states near the bar code on bottle labels and imprinted on the top of cans. Returnable, or redeemable, bottles and cans should go in the blue "Returnable Bottles and Cans Only" bin.

Can our club or organization do a bottle drive as a fundraiser?

UNE uses the funds from the returnable bottles and cans to reinvest in the recycling program. Any bottles and cans in the blue recycling bins on campus are considered university property. Reinvesting the funds in this way makes the recycling program more financially sustainable, as well as environmentally sustainable.

Can I recycle beverage straws, lids, and caps? What about plastic utensils?

While these items can be placed in the single-sort bins, they are too small for Ecomaine’s equipment to salvage; they'll literally fall through the cracks. They will end up as trash at the recycling facility and should be separated and placed in the trash whenever possible. It is not considered a contaminant, however.

Can I recycle my pizza boxes?

Yes. Pizza boxes can be placed in the green single-sort bins. They can even have some oil and a little bit of cheese stuck to them. However, please remove all crusts, pizza pieces, and large clumps of toppings before recycling.

Can I recycle waxed paper or cardboard?

Unfortunately, wax is not recyclable. However, in modern products the “wax” coating is often actually a thin layer of plastic. To tell if your product is waxed, lightly scratch it with your fingernail. If the coating comes off under your nail, it is waxed and cannot be recycled. If it is plastic coated, it can go in the recycling because the recycling process will separate the layers of paper and plastic.

Where does my recycling go? How does it get there?

Waste Management comes to the Portland Campus on Wednesday mornings and empties the 65-gallon toters into a truck that is used for recycling only. The material is taken to Ecomaine in Portland. On the Biddeford Campus, our recycling staff brings the green toters to the compactors located beyond Sokokis Hall or in the Ripich Commons. When the compactors are full, Waste Management is notified and they bring the material to Ecomaine in Portland.

What happens to all the material that students need to throw away from their residence hall at the end of the year?

UNE started "SWOOP Days" in 2007 which was a collection drive during move-out week. The program evolved into a partnership with Goodwill for a donation collection. Large blue bins on wheels are placed in six residence halls (Champlain Hall lounge, East Hall commuter lounge, Avila Hall mailroom, Featherman Hall lobby, Assisi Hall lounge, and Sokokis Hall lounge) where all resident students can access them. Students can place gently used clothes, furniture, small appliances, decorations, and household accessories in the bins and Goodwill will sell them to benefit their many community projects. Unopened non-perishable food can also be collected in the blue bins, and Goodwill will pass these on to the Good Shepherd Food Bank.


Approximate tons of waste UNE recycles annually


Percentage of UNE’s annual waste that gets recycled


gallons of food waste composted by UNE in 2022


Portland Campus

Kitchen and Dining Hall Composting

Nor'easter Cafe has been composting kitchen food scraps since 2012. Kitchen preparation food scraps are composted, and diners are asked to sort their waste into three bins: trash, recycling, and compost. Anything that was ever alive can be thrown in the compost; this includes napkins, food scraps, and compostable service ware, such as the to-go containers and paper coffee cups.

Biddeford Campus

Kitchen Composting

In January 2017 the dining hall kitchen began composting food scraps. Garbage to Garden hauls the food waste to Benson Farm in Gorham, where it is composted. In the first semester of the program, more than 16,000 gallons of food waste were composted. Prior to 2017, the food scraps from the dining hall kitchen at the Biddeford Campus went to a local pig farmer.

Residential Hall Composting

A residential composting program was rolled out in the 2017 fall semester for students on the Biddeford Campus. There is no fee for residential students, and members receive a roll of compostable bags and a key to the locked collection bins. The recycling fund covers the cost of the waste disposal. This is a great option for students who want to practice sustainable living in their residence halls. There are two collection sites located on campus: one between the gateway tunnel and Sokokis Hall and another near the basketball court behind Avila Hall. To participate in the program, contact the Sustainability Office, at 602-2507 or