Recycling Programs

Recycling converts waste materials into reusable objects to prevent waste of potentially useful materials.  UBC has a number of recycling programs to meet these goals and you can help create a green, zero waste campus!

RMS runs some programs while other programs are available through Building Operations. Recycling stations are available to sort your food scraps and recyclables into proper bins.

Battery Recycling

Why do we recycle batteries on campus?

Every year millions of batteries make their way into normal landfills. The heavy metals and toxic chemicals from the decomposition of these batteries have the potential to contaminate soil and pollute our waterways. Our goal is to provide a safe, convenient and environmentally responsible way to recycle used batteries. We recycle both rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries free of charge. The service is provided by Call2Recycle. UBC’s battery recycling program has been named one of Canada’s Top 100 recyclers every year since 2013. Read the latest Call2Recycle Summary Report (PDF).

In addition, large lead acid batteries are recycled through Metalex Recycling.

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Where do we recycle batteries on campus?

The program currently includes several participating buildings (PDF) at UBC Point Grey Campus. Look for the Battery Recycling Boxes in your area.

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How to implement the battery recycling program in your department?

Spread the word throughout UBC about battery recycling. You don’t have to be an environmental expert to make a difference! We’re looking for motivated individuals from throughout the UBC community to help our Battery Recycling program grow. As a Battery Recycling contact you will create awareness about the program and educate your coworkers. Signing up is fast and easy!

Sign up to start a battery recycling program in your building:

  1. Contact the ESF technician, 604.827.5389
  2. Download our Battery Recycling Poster (PDF)
  3. See detailed Battery Recycling Instructions (PDF)

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What are the battery recycling procedures?

    1. Segregate your batteries into non-rechargeable and rechargeable/lithium.
    2. Non- Rechargeable Batteries (single use Alkaline AA, AAA, D, 9V, Lantern batteries, Ni-MH, Ni-Cd)can be placed directly into the box without any packaging.
    3. Rechargeable batteries (cell phone batteries, laptop batteries, electronic batteries, cordless hand-tool batteries) and Lithium Primary batteries (button batteries, camera batteries) must be placed in their own appropriate plastic bags and placed into the box
    4. When your box is full or over 25Kg in weight, properly fold in flaps and place tape around the edges
    5. Call Purolator at 1.888.SHIP.123(744.7) to arrange pick up directly to your building
    6. Await arrival of new box in 2-3 weeks

Note: entire cellphones can be bagged and recycled in our battery boxes!

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Lab Plastic Recycling

How to recycle lab plastic containers?

The Laboratory Plastic Recycling Program offers a simple solution for recycling lab plastic containers.

  • Identify what plastics can be recycled (see the Plastic-Code-Ref-Sheet (PDF) for more detailed information)
  • Empty, clean and dry the containers
  • Place the plastic containers into a grey Lab Plastic Collection Bin (15″Hx14″Lx10″W)
  • Empty full Lab Plastic Collection Bins into larger building-provided UBC “Recyclable Containers” (grey or blue) bins on wheels

Laboratory Hard Plastics accepted for recycling

All plastic containers (e.g. bottles, jars, boxes, trays) that:

  • previously contained non-hazardous materials
  • are empty, clean and dry
  • have plastic code #1,2,3,4,5,6 (rigid PS only), or 7

Laboratory Hard Plastics not accepted for recycling

  • Plastic code #6 (extruded polystyrene, i.e. Styrofoam)
  • Any plastics that could be perceived as having come from a lab, such as vials, syringes, tubes, pipette and pipette tips, etc.)
  • Empty vessels or plastic materials previously containing or contaminated with hazardous materials. Ie. any toxic corrosive, flammable, reactive, radioactive, oxidizer substance, or Biohazard Risk Group 1 or 2 (excluding recombinant DNA)

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How to implement plastic recycling in your lab?

We’re looking for volunteers from departmental labs to help us run the Lab Plastic Recycling Program. Registration is simple and the time commitment is minimal. Sign up now to help your lab recycle!

The Plastics Recycling Volunteer will lead:

  • Education – Inform your co-workers and create awareness about the program and guidelines.
  • Collection – Ensure only accepted plastic is recycled.
  • Transferring – Coordinate the transfer of full collection bins to large UBC plastic recycling bins.

Ready to sign up? Please email the Plastics Recycling Program with the following information:

  • Contact Name
  • UBC Email
  • UBC Phone Number
  • Building Name
  • Full Address of Your Lab

Once your plastic recycling account is ready, you will receive the following:

  • A grey plastic recycling collection bin for your lab
  • A poster for the program

For additional information or questions, email the UBC Plastic Recycling Program or call 604-827-5389.

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Still have questions about lab plastic recycling?

Review our FAQ (PDF).FAQ (PDF)

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Paint Recycling

What is required for recycling paint?

Surplus paint (non-industrial) is collected and consolidated by ESF for recycling through Product Care. This includes solvent based, latex, and acrylic paint, in containers or aerosol form.

Paint must be dropped off at the Environmental Services Facility (ESF).

For more information contact Bang Dang, ESF Technician, 604.822.1285 or refer to the Pollution Prevention and Hazardous Waste Management Manual (PDF).

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Silver Recovery

What is required for silver recovery?

Photographic waste containing greater than 5 ppm of silver is considered hazardous waste and prohibited from entering the sewer system. Silver, if introduced to the water system, is toxic to fish.

The Environmental Services Facility developed the Silver Recovery Program to comply with the Metro Vancouver Sewer Use Bylaw (PDF). Silver is recovered by running the fixer through an ion exchange column.

The silver is recovered and reused by a silver refinery, and the corrosive liquid is neutralized before disposal.

For more information contact Bang Dang, ESF Technician, 604.822.1285.

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Solvent Recovery

What is required for solvent recovery?

The Solvent Recovery Program identifies, segregates and purifies organic waste solvents for re-use on campus. The purified, distilled product is technical grade.

The Solvent Recovery Program is successful in recovering acetone and methanol. The recovery laboratory consists of two spinning band distillation units which are capable of distilling up to 60 liters of solvents per day. Purified products are analyzed on the gas chromatography unit. Gas chromatography analysis ensures the quality of the product.

The program allows UBC faculty and staff to save on purchasing costs and the University saves on disposal costs.

Contact ESF for more information at 604.822.1285 or refer to the Pollution Prevention and Hazardous Waste Management Manual (PDF).

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Styrofoam Recycling

How to reduce and recycle Styrofoam?

The Styrofoam Reduction and Recycling program aims to reduce Styrofoam packaging through collaboration with suppliers to find Styrofoam alternatives as well as providing a convenient means of recycling Styrofoam on campus. This program is intended for the UBC core research laboratories.

Styrofoam is harmful to the environment both in disposal and in the chemicals and processes used to create it. Styrofoam takes over 500 years to degrade in normal landfills, and has been piling up for years to make up nearly 30% of garbage by volume found in landfills today. Along with filling up our landfills, when Styrofoam is burned over 90 different hazardous chemicals are released into the environment.

The goal of this project is to see no Styrofoam enter our landfills from UBC by providing a convenient and environmentally responsible way to reduce and recycle Styrofoam across the UBC-Vancouver campus. Over 600 cubic meters of Styrofoam have been recycled to date through the UBC Program.


Collect Styrofoam boxes and packaging blocks in large clear bags (supplied by the Green Labs Committee). Remove all packing chips. Waste Management will collect full bags from the eight locations listed below on a regular pick up schedule and the Styrofoam will be hauled off-campus by WCS Recycling. Follow the guidelines below:

Download the Styrofoam Poster (PDF) to display in your lab or office.

Styrofoam that can be recycled

  • EPS Packing blocks & boxes
  • Clean and dry
  • All labels & stickers removed

Styrofoam that can’t be recycled

  • Styrofoam peanuts no longer accepted!
  • Plastic Foam wrap & packing blocks (LDPE #4, HDPE #2)
  • EPE Food Trays, Food Cups, Egg Cartons
  • Starch Based Packing Peanuts (How to tell the difference? If you squish them, they do not re-inflate or break).

Styrofoam packing peanuts are NO LONGER ACCEPTED by the recycling company due to restrictions of their process and equipment (March 2014).

  • Non-Styrofoam peanuts cannot be composted in the UBC in-vessel composter.
  • Packing chips will have to be trashed until we find a viable solution.
  • Email to let us know which vendors use any packing peanuts and we will ask them to use alternative (recyclable) packaging materials (e.g. paper).

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Where are the Styrofoam pick up locations at UBC?

The program currently includes 28 participating buildings with nine pick up locations throughout UBC Point Grey Campus. Waste Management picks up Styrofoam recycling from the following locations:

Building/Department Contact Phone Email
Beaty Biodiversity Centre Katie Beall 604-822-0862
Biological Sciences Katie Pikor
Isabel Ferens
Brain Research Centre Melanie Bertrand
Julie Boyle
Chemistry Patrick Olsthoorn 604-822-3003
Forest Science Centre Robin Poirier-Vasic 604-822-6784
Leonard S. Klinck David Indita-Jones 604-822-2553
Life Sciences Centre LSC Stores 604-822-1793
Michael Smith Labs Dan Fayant 604-822-4901
Pharmaceutical Sciences Jon Van Drunen 604-822-3034


Pick-ups are scheduled every 2nd Wednesday. Contact the person in each building for pick-up details.

Please note that we cannot accept Styrofoam from outside UBC due to limited resources and the cost involved. See below for other options:

  • Pacific Mobile Depots via Britannia Community Centre (Call 311- ask for recycling – in Vancouver they pick up Styrofoam every 3rd Saturday at Britannia Centre)
  • WCS Recycling can also be contacted directly to arrange for pick-up. For more information about the Styrofoam Recycling Program or to request plastic bags, please contact Ligia Gheorghita, Environmental Services Advisor, 604-822-9840

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What additional ways are there to reduce Styrofoam use?

There are three ways to reduce the Styrofoam used in your building:

  • Participate in the Styrofoam Recycling Program. Collect Styrofoam (EPS) boxes and packaging blocks in large clear bags (supplied by the Green Labs Committee). Remove all packing chips. Waste Management will collect full bags from the eight locations (see Styrofoam Pick Up Locations) on a regular pick up schedule and the Styrofoam will be hauled off-campus by WCS Recycling.
  • Participate in the Styrofoam-Questionnaire (PDF). The Lab Styrofoam Reduction Questionnaire will help UBC work with our suppliers to reduce Styrofoam packaging. Please provide a list of products that are currently received in Styrofoam packaging at your laboratory. Supply Management will then negotiate for better packaging alternatives on behalf of your lab. We ask all lab managers or purchasers to fill out this form prior to launching Styrofoam Recycling in their building.
  • Directly contact suppliers. Request that suppliers use alternative packaging or make the change to a more sustainable option.

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