By Sarah Martinez, Sustainability Ambassador
Greetings my fellow students! Today’s topic is of cosmic proportions. The topic is *drum roll please*… Recycling. In all seriousness, recycling is important, and I’m here to tell you why and clue you in on some fun facts about recycling here at the University of Utah. With a little attention, education, and action we can all become expert recyclers that make a difference in our collective waste management.
Did you know there are actually two methods of recycling? And that both forms of recycling are used on various parts of campus? Let me break it down for you.
SEGREGATED STREAM RECYCLING
On main campus we utilize segregated streams, where we separate different types of recycling (i.e. paper, plastic, and aluminum). By separating the recycling, we decrease the potential contamination and increase the efficiency and profit.
Additionally on main campus, we have separate streams for white paper, mixed paper, aluminum, and plastics #1 and #2. Keeping aluminum separate from other streams means it fetches a higher price as well, partially because the U doesn’t have to pay a company to sort it. White paper, sometimes called office pack, is more valuable than mixed paper, making it wise to keep them apart. Luckily, for all paper, you don’t need to remove staples, paper clips, or even spirals.
So what about plastics? In addition to separating recycling based on material, we also only recycle certain plastics on main campus. We recycle plastics #1 (PETE) and #2 (HDPE). By only recycling these higher quality plastics on main campus, we are able to sell them on the recyclables market for a profit. This profit goes directly back into our campus recycling programs! So always make sure to check the bottom of the plastic you want to recycle on main campus!
SINGLE (OR MIXED) STREAM RECYCLING
The second method, single or mixed stream recycling, is used in student housing. This differs from segregated stream recycling because recyclables can all be thrown together in the same bin and are then separated later at the recycling facility. Included in this form of recycling are all seven plastics, yes, you read me right, ALL SEVEN. This means if you get Panda Express at the Union, you can take your plastic bowl back to your residence hall. As with mixed and white paper on main campus, you can also include papers that have staples, paper clips, and all those good little organizational doo-dads. Even recycling old notebooks with the spiral is OK!
Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, there are some drawbacks. This method can lead to to a lot of contamination, which can mean the whole bin ends up being thrown in the trash. Contamination can be a number of things but most of the time, especially on a college campus crawling with hungry students, this contamination includes food and liquid from uncleaned recyclables. Paper coffee cups aren’t recyclable, folks. It’s all fun and games until the recycling gets contaminated. If you recycle responsibly, contamination is not an issue!
Now that you know the systems, go forth and conquer recycling. Through collective action, everyone doing their part can make a huge difference.