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Frequently Asked Questions

Terrific! Please start by emailing We look forward to hearing from you.

Visit to learn more about researchers and staff who are implementing sustainable practices in their labs to positively impact the campus.

Please call or email Kathy Svitil, Caltech's director of research communications and media relations. You can find her contact information here.

You can find contact information for people leading campus sustainability efforts here or email

You can find alternatives to commuting alone in a car and paying for parking every day, from walking, biking, carpooling, vanpooling, and taking trains and buses to teleworking or using Caltech's dedicated rideshare program and app. There are many perks, including parking discounts for those days you do drive. Caltech's Parking and Commuter Services office manages these programs and provides details about them. You can also find more information on this site.

Environmentally Responsible Disposal

Caltech staff members can request pickup of e-waste, hazardous waste, refrigerators, and recycling or garbage generated on campus: log in to Access Caltech and click on "Facilities Service Requests." On the Facilities Service Requests home page, click on the relevant icon, such as waste, recycling, or refrigeration disposal, and follow prompts from there. See the Environmental Health and Safety office for more detailed information on e-waste and hazardous materials.

For e-waste specifically, staff members may also email to request an e-waste pick-up at an on-campus office. E-waste is not to be left on loading docks or dumpster areas as electronics can contain hazardous materials and need to be handled through the hazardous waste program. The types of electronic waste accepted include batteries, computers, copiers, CDs/DVDs, fax machines, flat screens, keyboards, laptops, monitors, phones, printers, scanners, servers, computer mice, and more.


Caltech staff members can request recycling containers. Log in to Access Caltech and click on "Facilities Service Requests." You may need to enter your Caltech credentials. On the "Facilities Service Requests" home page, click on the recycling icon and follow prompts from there. Alternatively, call Caltech's Buildings and Grounds Department at (626) 395-4738 for options to obtain additional bins.

Here are links where you can download and print signs for a recycling overview and bottle and can, mixed paper, and all other recycling.

Recyclables are picked up once a week from all campus buildings. Your building's custodial team will collect the recyclables from the central stations and take them to a loading dock or collection point. The recycling team will take the items for further processing.

If bins are filling more quickly than they are emptied, some bins are not used at all, or you would like to provide feedback on recycling in your building, please contact Caltech's Buildings and Grounds Department at (626) 395-4738 or email Caltech Sustainability at Caltech selected bin locations based on building traffic and occupant convenience, and is always looking for ways to improve recycling on campus. Your feedback can help.

The following materials can be recycled in recycling stations or at building loading docks:

Mixed Paper

  • Yes: Office and copy paper, magazines, glossy paper, folders, newsprint, envelopes, phone books, paper board (i.e. cereal boxes, etc.), and booklets
  • No: Food, liquid, napkins, paper towels, tissues, wax paper, or foil

Cans and Bottles

  • Yes: Any aluminum, plastic, or glass containers with a cash redemption value. This includes most water bottles, soft drinks, sports drinks, bottled coffee and tea, fruit drinks under 46 ounces, vegetable juice under 16 ounces, beer bottles, and wine/spirit coolers.
  • No: Food, liquid, coffee cups, plastic cups, or bottles and cans without a cash redemption value (milk, medical food, infant formula, 100% fruit juice over 46 ounces, or 100% vegetable juice over 16 ounces)

All Other

  • Yes: clean metal and clean plastic and glass bottles without a cash redemption value
  • No: food, liquid, napkins, paper towels, electronic waste, or hazardous waste


  • Yes: Flattened cardboard can be recycled in green bins located at most building loading docks. Additionally, if flattened cardboard is placed next to central recycling bins, the custodial team will take the cardboard to outdoor cardboard bins.
  • No: Packing material (plastic wrap, foam, peanuts, air packs, packing slips, etc.). Clean packing materials can be brought to the Caltech Post Office for reuse by other customers.

Foods, liquids, and dirty or waxy paper are the most common types of contamination found in Caltech's recycling. While Caltech is committed to recycling as much waste as possible, these common types of contaminants can render a material unrecyclable or cause problems in the recycling process that create more harm than good.

  • Paper towels and napkins: Paper towels and napkins, even when not contaminated with oils and grease, typically are not recycled because their fibers are too short to be woven into new paper products.
  • Dirty paper products: Paper products are recycled by mixing them with water and turning them into slurry. However, oil and grease from food residues cannot be separated from the paper fibers during the pulping process, making the slurry unusable.
  • Coated paper products: Most facilities cannot process paper products that are coated with plastics, polymers, or wax. These include paper coffee cups, milk cartons, frozen food containers, and aseptic non-refrigerated containers such as soy milk or soup.
  • Food and liquids: Food and liquid residues on recyclables can be a major problem for processing facilities, leaking out and ruining materials such as paper and damaging equipment.


Caltech community members find and rehome items on the Caltech Marketplace listserve (campus network or VPN required) and at the Caltech Women's Club casita exchange (email link), and donate laboratory equipment to schools and community colleges that need it, via the Laboratory Equipment Access Program (LEAP).

While bubble wrap, foam peanuts, and air packs are not recyclable, people bring them to the Caltech Post Office for reuse by other customers. If you have a lot, consider the Caltech marketplace listserve (campus network or VPN required), where offers of moving boxes and packing materials are usually readily accepted.

Yes, reusables are safe for use during the COVID-19 pandemic as long as proper hygiene practices are followed. This article from MIT helps explain in more detail.