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Frequently Asked Questions About Waste Diversion

 Compost. Photo from SCU Office of Sustainability.

Find out how, where, and what to compost on and off campus. Compost FAQs.

 Recycling. Photo from SCU Office of Sustainability.

All plastics, metals, glass, and paper can be recycled on campus. Recycling FAQs.

 Landfill. Photo from SCU Office of Sustainability.

Chip bags, wrappers, and off-campus disposable items can be placed in landfill bins on campus. Landfill FAQs.

 Electronics. Photo courtesy of UC Merced 2012.

Find out how to properly donate, recycle, or dispose of your electronics here. Electronics FAQs.

 Office supplies. Photo from SCU Office of Sustainability.
Office Supplies

Have old office supplies that you no longer need? There are many recycling options you can take. Office Supplies FAQs.

 Batteries and ink cartridges. Photo courtesy of UC Merced 2012.
Batteries/Ink Cartridges

Batteries and ink cartridges need to be recycled separately. Batteries/Ink Cartridges FAQs.

 Donations. Photo from Pixabay.

Find out how to donate unwanted items such as books, clothes, and other supplies. Donations FAQs.

 Plastics. Photo courtesy of UC Merced 2012.

All plastics, including thin-film plastics, can be recycled on campus. Candy wrappers and chip bags must be sent to landfill. Plastics FAQs.

 Move-out. Photo from SCU Office of Sustainability.

Find information for Spring Move-Out here. Move-out FAQs.


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At SCU, where do we send our ink cartridges to be recycled?
There are three easy options to recycle empty ink cartridges. Read More »
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.

Here's how:

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.

Read More »
How do I recycle floppy disks?
Recycle your old floppy disks Read More »
What do I do with clothes that aren't in good enough condition to donate to places like Goodwill?

Organizations like Goodwill and Salvation Army are happy to accept clothes in 'good' condition, which means they shouldn't be ripped or stained. However, for those clothes that have seen better days, there are still a number of options that will put them to good use:

  • 7th Generation Recycling accepts cotton clothing scraps, along with used clothing or textile items like pants, dresses, hats, shirts, drapes, curtains, blankets, towels, sheets, handbags, belts, paired shoes, and even stuffed animals! Conveniently, they have a green collection bin located on Lafayette St. near Frozo's.
  • Contact your local animal hospital. Some will accept clothing scraps to use as bedding for hospitalized animals.  

You can also reuse old clothes in the following ways around your home: 

  • Old tshirts are great to cut up and reuse as cleaning rags.
  • Use them in arts and crafts projects.
  • Save the buttons in case you lose some from your other clothes.

Be creative! These are only a few suggestions out of an infinite number of possibilities for reuse!

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Are CD's recyclable?

Currently, our Facilities department does not accept CD's as recyclable materials. However, there are a couple different options for you to recycle or reuse CD's:

  • If you're getting rid of store bought CD's (with the case and paper insert), you can donate them to a used CD store, or bring them to Goodwill/Salvation Army.
  • Or, you can send them to: 

             The Compact Disc Recycling Center of America
             68H Stiles Road
              Salem, NH 03079 

              This center will recycle the case and paper insert as well!

  • If you want to really get creative, here is a page with lots of suggestions for how to reuse the disk.  


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I'm always washing my reusable coffee cup and drying with paper towels. Are we sure that's better for for the environment than tossing paper cups?

Water is part of a cycle. The water cycle is a natural process, rain flows to rivers, rivers flow to bays, water is evaporated and forms precipitation as rain, etc. We manipulate the system with our municipal utilities (like using tap water) but, used (or wasted) water ultimately goes down the drain and out into the bay, and back into the water cycle. Yes, it's good to conserve water use. But when comparing to other wasteful practices, it's important to consider the larger system/cycle.

Paper cups aren't part of a cycle. When you're done with them, they get hauled to a landfill where they sit forever. Things never breakdown in a landfill. So using a one-use cup is not cyclical... Even if it's a compostable cup, it's still going to sit in a landfill. Unless you can compost. That's a whole can of worms (literally, ha).

I'd recommend to keep on keeping on with your reusable cup and minimize the washing/drying if you can. Otherwise, you're better off continuing with what you're currently doing (but try a reusable towel)!

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Are napkins and paper towels compost or waste?

Napkins are compostable because they break down easily and are typically used with food.

As for paper towels and facial tissue, that depends on how you're composting. They are technically compostable and are fine to put in compost if you're making your own. However, for large scale composting (like we're doing at SCU), they should be considered waste as they can contain pathogens.

Read More »
How do I recycle my prescription bottles?

Prescription bottles for the most part aren't recyclable. However, there are a couple things that you can do with your bottles after you've finished your medication:

-Leiter's Pharmacy (1700 Park Ave., 408-292-6772) will take unwanted and expired medications.

-There are many different ways to reuse a prescription bottle! They are great for storing small things that need to be kept dry or out of the reach of children. Here is a link that provides a couple ideas on how to reuse your bottle.

Read More »
Is there a charge on very large E-Waste?

E-Waste is treated the same no matter what the size; there are no limits or extra charges depending on the size of it.

Students in the residence halls should place e-waste in the designated spot in their recycling and waste area (there should be a sign that reads "e-waste")

Faculty and staff should contact Facilities at extension 4742 or email to arrange for a pick up. If you are set up to use FAMIS, you can also submit a work order directly to Facilities.

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Are Refrigerator Magnets Recyclable?

Refrigerator magnets are not commonly recycled materials, but they can be reused for other purposes. Here is a video on how to 'recycle' a refrigerator magnet:

Here are some other tips on how to reuse your magnet:

-Attach a strip to the side of your desk and use for storage of paperclips.

-Keep in the sewing kit for quick clean up of spilled needles and pins.

-Glue to a refillable pen and keep it on the fridge next to the grocery list or calendar.

Read More »
Should paper towels be placed in the trash or compost bin?

We cannot compost paper towels from bathrooms, so they need to go in the trash.

Napkins (and paper towels other than those used in bathrooms) are compostable.

Read More »
When will academic buildings get compost containers?

SCU started our compost collection program in May 2009. We began by collecting compostable waste from the kitchen in Benson Center. In September, we expanded our compost collection to Market Square and all residence halls.

SCU's composting program is still new, and we're phasing it in slowly to give the campus community time to adjust to our new waste diversion practices!

Academic buildings are undergoing a transformation to a new desk-side recycling and waste collection system. As we phase in a new building, we are adding compost collection containers in those buildings' kitchen/break rooms. All academic buildings will be transitioned this academic year.

Read More »
What are "Plastics #1-7"?

Plastic containers typically have a triangle stamp on their undersides, containing a number. This number is the Resin Code, i.e. the type of plastic used to make the container.

  1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE/PET #1)
    Most commonly used for soda botles, water bottles, shampoo bottles, peanut butter jars, etc.
  2. High Density Polyethylene (HDPE #2)
    Most commonly used for milk, water, and juice bottles, detergent bottles, yogurt and margarine containers, grocery bags, etc.
  3. Polyvinyl Chloride aka Vinyl (PVC #3)
    Most commonly used for clear food packaging, shampoo bottles, etc.
  4. Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE #4)
    Most commonly used for bread bags, frozen food bags, squeezable bottles like mustard, etc.
  5. Polypropylene (PP #5)
    Most commonly used for ketchup bottles, yogurt and butter containers, etc.
  6. Polystyrene (aka. Styrofoam) (PS #6)
    Most commonly used for meat trays, egg cartons, hot beverage cups, plates, etc.
  7. Other (#7)
    Ketchup, large water bottles, etc.

Uses once recycled:

  1. PET: Fibers, soft drink bottles.
  2. HDPE: Bottles, grocery bags, recycling containers, playground equipment, plastic lumber.
  3. PVC: Pipe, fencing, and non-food bottles.
  4. LDPE: Plastic bags, 6-pack rings, tubing, some laboratory equipment.
  5. PP: Auto parts, dishware, food containers.
  6. PS: Cafeteria trays, toys, desk accessories, insulation.
  7. Other: Unknown.
Read More »
How frequently does our departmental compost container get emptied?

The compost bin will be emptied by your custodian as often as needed. If it is not emptied frequently enough for you, please contact Facilities (x4742).

Read More »
Where do I put used tissue?

Used facial tissue should be placed in waste containers.

Read More »
Does extra butter and the butter wrapper go in the trash or in compost?

The extra butter goes into compost containers.

If the butter wrapper can tear easily (like paper), go ahead and throw it in the compost.
If it doesn't tear (or if it's made from foil), please put it in "landfill waste". If it looks like paper but doesn't tear easily, it's been plasticized and shouldn't be composted.

Also, check out this article about re-using butter wrappers for baking!

Read More »
What do I do with my yogurt container?

The yogurt container and the foil (or plastic) lid can be recycled. Look for any recycling container on campus.

Read More »
I live in Sunnyvale and have a lot of old papers lying around; do I have to recycle it separately from my newspapers?
Mixed paper can be recycled along with newspaper. Read More »
Can I recycle the compostable containers that hold the fruit and salads in Benson? Or should I just throw it in the trash?

UPDATE: You can now compost these containers! Look for the bright green compost collection containers in Benson!

Please don't recycle these containers! When bioplastics end up in recycling processors, they cause expensive problems for recycling facilities, so it is better to throw containers in the compost. If you can't compost, please put them in the trash.

Read More »