Don't trash recycling
Don’t toss that orange juice container in the trash. Put it in the recycling bin. And don’t put that empty coffee cup from Starbucks in the recycling bin. It goes in the trash. (But the plastic top can be recycled.)
It may not seem important whether a single aluminum can or old copy of Time magazine goes into the right receptacle, but overall, it’s crucial for ASU’s bottom line.
Dawn Ratcliffe, ASU’s recycling coordinator, explained that ASU pays $50 per ton to have co-mingled recyclables picked up, as opposed to $70 a ton for trash.
So, the more recyclables that can be kept out of the trash bins, the less it costs ASU to dispose of its waste.
Ratcliffe said that by now, every employee should have a blue deskside bin for recycling, and each department should have a least one 22- or 23-gallon bin.
Custodians alternate between emptying the blue bins and the wastebaskets on different days but often dump into the same large grey bin. “This can sometimes create the illusion that they are dumping the recycling and trash together simply because they use the same large bin for collecting items from the smaller bins,” Ratcliffe said.
Some of the larger containers are solar-powered, and some are not. Eventually, Waste Management takes all of the recyclables to a facility for sorting and processing.
One misconception about ASU’s recycling program, Ratcliffe said, is that it accepts soft plastic in the co-mingled bins – bags, shrink wrap and so on. “Plastic bags are a huge contaminant in our commingled recycling bins.” (Many grocery stores take soft plastic and there are a few places on campus where they can be taken.)
It can be confusing, but what can and cannot be recycled through ASU’s co-mingled program is spelled out at the recycling Web site http://uabf.asu.edu/recycling_at_asu.
(Food definitely is a no-no – “but, believe it or not, we see lots of food in the recycling bins,” Ratcliffe said.)
Besides the co-mingled recycling, ASU collects all sorts of other items for resale and re-use, such as shoes, light bulbs, film, media and cases, shoes, scrap metal and wood pallets.
“All of these items are given or sold to local recyclers, Ratcliff said. Worn athletic shoes, for example (dropped off at the Student Recreation Complex), go to the Nike-Reuse-A-Shoe program, where they are processed and recycled into materials used in sports surfaces like basketball courts, tennis courts, athletic fields, running tracks and playgrounds for young people around the world.
“Boots, dress shoes, sandals, cleats, and athletic shoes in good condition (also taken to the SRC) are sold for a very small profit to a buyer that will then sell the shoes to communities in Mexico for reuse. The small profit that’s made directly benefits the ASU Recycling Program.”
Obviously, the goal for the co-mingled recycling program is to have bins that aren’t contaminated with trash – or liquids.
One of the most important things that ASU students and employees can do is “drink it or sink it,” Ratcliffe said. Soft-drink or coffee containers put into the recycling bins with liquid left in them both contaminate the bins and add weight – which ultimately adds to the cost of their disposal.
Ratcliffe urged ASU employees and students to think carefully about all of their actions during the day in an effort to reduce trash and increase recycling. “Don’t print e-mails, for example, and make double-sided copies. Use scrap sheets of paper.”
Most of all, Ratcliffe hopes the ASU community will approach recycling with passion. It does, after all, take commitment to make sure that soda can and coffee cup make it to the right bins.