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Frequently Asked Questions About Waste Diversion
Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
What Should I Do With My Plastic Bags?
Are Frozen Food Packages Recyclable?
Is bubble wrap recyclable?
What can I do with my old cassettes?
Can Plastic Bags Be Recycled On Campus?
Morning after. What do I do with all these solo cups, bottles, and cans around my house?
I'm confused about our new Starbucks cups. Are they compostable?
At SCU, where do we send our ink cartridges to be recycled?
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.
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.
- Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE/PET #1)
Most commonly used for soda botles, water bottles, shampoo bottles, peanut butter jars, etc.
- High Density Polyethylene (HDPE #2)
Most commonly used for milk, water, and juice bottles, detergent bottles, yogurt and margarine containers, grocery bags, etc.
- Polyvinyl Chloride aka Vinyl (PVC #3)
Most commonly used for clear food packaging, shampoo bottles, etc.
- Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE #4)
Most commonly used for bread bags, frozen food bags, squeezable bottles like mustard, etc.
- Polypropylene (PP #5)
Most commonly used for ketchup bottles, yogurt and butter containers, etc.
- Polystyrene (aka. Styrofoam) (PS #6)
Most commonly used for meat trays, egg cartons, hot beverage cups, plates, etc.
- Other (#7)
Ketchup, large water bottles, etc.
Uses once recycled:
- PET: Fibers, soft drink bottles.
- HDPE: Bottles, grocery bags, recycling containers, playground equipment, plastic lumber.
- PVC: Pipe, fencing, and non-food bottles.
- LDPE: Plastic bags, 6-pack rings, tubing, some laboratory equipment.
- PP: Auto parts, dishware, food containers.
- PS: Cafeteria trays, toys, desk accessories, insulation.
- Other: Unknown.
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!
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 »
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 »
How do you take care of an empty Starbucks coffee cup?
- Brown sleeve, lid, sweetner packet: recycle
- Cup*: landfill waste
- Stir stick: compost
*If you're drinking out of a compostable cup provided by SCU Dining Services, please compost the cup when you're through!Read More »
I have been keeping bottled waters to give to guests at meetings in my office and need to reorder. I understand the use of plastic bottles of water is not environmentally correct and want to do what is right. What suggestions can you give me so I can
Bottled water is unsustainable for a number of reasons. Their production is energy and resource intensive due to the actual production of plastic bottles as well as the energy needed to transport the finished products.
Tap water is your best option over bottled water. It is just as clean and safe, and oftentimes even more so. If you don't like the taste of tap water, there are a number of different filters available. Carbon filters (like the Brita ones) are very popular and help to get rid of unwanted chemicals or taste. The Brita filter is also recyclable. Whatever filter you pick, make sure that it is certified by NSF. Depending on how large your meetings tend to be, you can have reusable cups on stock, or encourage your guests to bring a reusable water bottle.Read More »
Should bottles and cans be cleaned before they are placed in recycling bins around campus?
Can I recycle the tops of pizza boxes when they are clean?
Please place pizza boxes in COMPOST containers.
If this is not an option where you are, please remove the top of the box (only if it is clean) and recycle with corrugated cardboard.
Generally, we do not recycle pizza boxes because the cheese and grease from the pizza contaminates the box, rendering it unable to be recycled into new products. However, since many times only the bottom part of the box is contaminated, it is sometimes possible to separate and recycle the top. If, and only if, the top of the box is clean, recycle it with corrugated cardboard.Read More »
What do I do with printer/copy paper packaging?
Paper ream packaging IS RECYCLABLE.
In the past, these wrappers needed to be discarded in the waste bin because their waxy coating put them in a different paper recycling category.
Now, ALL PAPER TYPES can be recycled in the blue paper recycling bags near copiers, and in any container on campus labeled "recycling".