Proper recycling is a significant part of Brown's mission as it hits all three tiers of sustainability - economic savings, environmental conservation, and social well-being.  We are working towards achieving a waste diversion goal (amount of material kept out of the landfill) of 50% by 2020.  To reach this goal, we need your help to sort waste at Brown.

For help sorting your waste, take a look at the flowchart below.  You can also find a comprehensive waste sorting table at the bottom of this page.

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Single Stream Recycling

As of 2012, the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Center, also called a Materials Recovery Facility (or MRF for short), uses single-stream recycling. This means that you no longer need to sort your recycling into paper/cardboard and plastics/glass. You can drop them all in together. Just make sure that you're not putting any trash in with the recycling!

However, due to single-stream recycling, there are two new rules that you need to be aware of:

  • You cannot recycle flat plastic

* The Rhode Island Recycling Center uses a complex conveyor belt setup to sort recycled items based on shape and density, so flat plastics, like cup lids, inadvertently get sorted with cardboard, slowing down the system.

  • Containers must be larger than a shot-glass (1.5 oz.) to be recycled

*This is a similar issue related to the sorting methods of Rhode Island's MRF. Small containers, like single-use butter or cream cheese containers, fall through the gaps in the sorting machines and get discarded.

Another tricky item to deal with is plastic lids. It is still possible to recycle your plastic lids, but only if they are attached to a plastic container. This way, they do not get sorted with the cardboard. Make sure to follow this rule whenever you want to recycle your lids.

For more information on how your recyclables get sorted, watch this virtual tour of Rhode Island's MRF:

Plastic Bags

Unfortunately, plastic bags are not recyclable in Rhode Island because they get caught in the recycling center’s sorting machines, damaging them and slowing them down. Please do not discard your plastic bags in any recycling bins on Brown’s campus.

On the bright side, there are a few alternatives to simply throwing your bags in the trash. Many supermarkets, like Whole Foods, have receptacles to recycle plastic bags, and the store then recycles them in their own private facilities.

Alternatively, you can always reuse your bags. In fact, recycling is great, but if given the choice, you should always reuse your materials first.


Student Initiatives

Brown students are working tirelessly on a variety of sustainability issues, not the least of which being recycling. Every year, EcoReps hosts their Game Day Recycling event, which serves to teach students, parents, and community members about proper recycling practices and the importance of the sustainability movement. To get involved with this event and others, contact EcoReps at

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Student volunteer at Game Day Recycling event

For item-by-item sorting information, please review the table below:

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Standardized Recycling Signs 

If your area needs a recycling sign to place above bins, in the kitchen or in other areas, please use the sign below.  We recently switched to single-stream recycling, so we want to ensure that the Brown campus has correct signage (not the all old triple-sorting signs).

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