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Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions about Recycling, Composting, and Waste
The SCU community can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org their questions about recycling, composting, and waste on campus. This blog will provide answers to those questions.
Morning after. What do I do with all these solo cups, bottles, and cans around my house?
I'm an off-campus student. What are the rules for Santa Clara's curbside recycling program?
How do I recycle long fluorescent lighting tubes?
I don't live on campus so I was wondering if there's somewhere I can take empty ink cartridges, batteries, and old cell phones to be recycled?
What exactly is 'recycled water'? Doesn't it still contain chemicals and bacteria that would be harmful to us?
I recently received a promotion and have old business cards that I can no longer hand out. Are there good ways to reuse these, or should I just send them to the recycling bin?
I'm confused about our new Starbucks cups. Are they compostable?
What are 'green' dry cleaners, and where can I find them in this area?
Even though it can be a huge relief to pick up your dry-cleaning and see that stain has magically disappeared, the chemicals used at standard dry-cleaners can be toxic both to the workers who clean your clothes and to yourself. Most dry cleaners use a chemical called perchloroethylene, a known carcinogenic according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Fortunately, there is a burgeoning population of environmentally friendly dry-cleaners that have found alternatives to this chemical. One company, Green Earth Cleaning, uses a liquid silicone solution. This solution is no more expensive than standard dry-cleaning, it doesn't jeopardize the health of the employees, and doesn't end up as toxic waste after it is used. So, the next time you dig out your nice suit crumpled in the bottom of your closet and need to get it dry-cleaned for your aunt's cousin's wedding in two weeks, keep an eye out for your sustainable alternatives!
Listed below are some local Green Earth Cleaning affiliates, but there are plenty of other eco-friendly dry cleaners in our area:
A French Cleaners
5205 Prospect Rd. Suite 150
San Jose, CA 95129
Dry Clean 4 U
3787 Stevens Creek Blvd., Ste. 101
Santa Clara, CA 95051
641 South Bernardo Ave.
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
At SCU, where do we send our ink cartridges to be recycled?
I have a stack of carbonless copy forms that I can't use. Is it harmful to recycle this kind of paper?
Quick answer: Nope, carbonless paper can be safely recycled like most other paper.
What is carbonless paper?
Carbonless paper is typically used when filling out forms. It consists of sheets of paper (usually of different colors) that are coated with micro-encapsulated dye or ink and/or reactive clay. Pressure applied to the top sheet breaks tiny micro-capsules on the backside of the paper, which then react with the clay on the top the next sheet to form a permanent mark. This is repeated for however many sheets are in the stack, often resulting in stronger markings near the top sheet and fainter markings near the bottom sheet. Carbonless paper can be used for longhand as well as mechanical writing, such as typewriters.
Carbonless paper should not be confused with carbon paper, a black inky sheet placed between two sheets of paper to make a pressure copy. Carbon paper cannot be recycled.Read More »
What's the deal with polystyrene?
On Earth Day, Palo Alto issued an ordinance that restricts food vendors from providing take out containers that are made from expanded polystyrene or non-recyclable plastic. This ordinance affects a broad umbrella of food service vendors such as retail food vendors, cafeterias, outdoor food vendors, food vehicles, and caterers. While the ordinance applies to containers, it does not apply to straws, utensils, or hot cup lids. These vendors are expected to comply within a one year period.
What is Polystyrene?
Polystyrene is an inexpensive and commonly manufactured plastic; companies make items like clear disposable cups, razors, and CD cases out of polystyrene. The take-out containers in question are made of expanded polystyrene foam, and are of the same material as packaging peanuts and insulation. While this product is very similar to what is commonly known as Styrofoam, it is different because of its beaded texture.
What is the problem with it?
While this foam is good at keeping your food hot or cold, it causes a number of significant issues for ecosystems. What makes it convenient and durable for humans is what makes it so problematic for the environment; it is lightweight, it floats, and it can easily break into smaller pieces from factors like wind and sun. When these pieces break down, they can be mistaken for food by marine and land animals. It is non-biodegradable, so it will not break down in the environment like plants and other compostable matter. Even though some recycling companies will accept the plastic (polystyrene is the #6 recycling category), the expanded foam that is contaminated by food is nearly impossible to recycle. So, most containers either wind up in landfills or as litter; polystyrene containers are currently the second most abundant form of beach debris in California due to their common and widespread use. Finally, some scientific studies suggest that styrene is a harmful carcinogen to both humans and animals.
What can I do?
If you're not in an area that bans polystyrene, you still have options. Invest in some reusable containers, or if the place offers it, get a paper container instead (like when you get frozen yogurt at Frozo's). Even though the ordinance is exclusive to expanded polystyrene, Styrofoam is no better. Avoid it when you can! While Bon Appetit offers compostable to-go containers, you can do one step better and sign up for our Eco-Clamshell program.
1. Sign up at Market Square. If you're a faculty/staff member, you can do this at Adobe Lodge as well. Bring your campus ID and a refundable ten dollar deposit. You'll be given a keychain to exchange for your first EcoTray.
2. Every time you make a to-go purchase at Market Square or Adobe Lodge, you exchange your keychain for a clean and sanitized EcoTray.
3. Once you're done, you can drop off the tray at any on-campus Bon Appetit venue during regular hours in exchange for a new keychain.