January 2021
Volume 4, Issue 4

Recycling

Above: Recycling logo, image courtesy of Linkedin

Above: Recycling logo, image courtesy of Linkedin

We have all heard of the 3 Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle. While recycling may just seem like throwing something in a bin, there is plenty to learn about the types of recycling and recyclable materials.

Types of Recycling

            Recycling is not the same everywhere in the country, or even within the state. Counties can often vary in their processes for how recycling is picked up and what can be recycled. This is often up to the discretion of the company that is in charge of recycling for any given area. However, there are two main methods of recycling used by companies called single stream and multi-stream.

            Single Stream

            Single stream recycling involves participants placing all recyclable materials into the same bin. Once collected it is then separated at a central point, usually a materials recovery facility (MRF). Although single stream is fairly popular because it encourages people to recycle through simplicity, it also faces criticism for possible contamination if users are not properly educated on what can be placed within the bins. However, there are some reasons that single stream recycling is more efficient as many types of materials can be recycled without having to use separate bins. This method can often be seen in communities, such as the curbside recycling offered by Brazos Valley Recycling, where each household is provided with one large bin to be put out for collection.

            Multi-stream

            Multi-stream, sometimes called dual stream, involves placing recyclable materials into separate bins based on material type and was once the focus of early recycling efforts. At the time items such as newspaper, glass, aluminum, and tin cans, were separated by residents and collected accordingly. This method reduces the amount of possible contamination by having clear indications of what can go in certain bins compared to single stream. However, no form of recycling is without its drawbacks. One of these is the limited ability to recycle more materials because of spatial limitations of hosting multiple bins in the same location. Multi-stream recycling also calls for a more labor-intensive collection because more streams, means more work in order to collect and weigh the material.[1]

Above: Multi-stream recycling separation, image courtesy of The Minot Voice

Above: Multi-stream recycling separation, image courtesy of The Minot Voice

Recyclable Materials

There are many materials that are recyclable, although the types of materials accepted by state and regional facilities varies. While some materials may not be accepted for recycling everywhere, here are some commonly accepted recyclable materials.

[1] https://www.thebalancesmb.com/single-and-dual-stream-recycling-2877722 , https://archive.epa.gov/wastes/conserve/materials/paper/web/html/grade.html

Paper

            Paper is another very common recyclable item, and similar to plastics there are different types of paper. Here are the 5 basic paper grade categories: old corrugated containers, mixed paper, old newspaper, high grade deinked paper, and pulp substitutes. Here is what you should know about what to recycle for each category.

  • Old corrugated containers: corrugated cardboard, which will be discussed in the next section
  • Mixed paper: includes items such as discarded mail, phone books, magazines, and shredded paper
  • Newspapers: any newspaper
  • High grade deinked paper: includes letterheads, copy paper, envelopes, and printer scraps which ink is removed from after it is recycled
  • Pulp substitutes: paper made from shavings and clippings[1]

Recycling centers will commonly have the following categories for paper recycling: office paper, mixed paper, and newspaper. These are also the categories that can be recycled on campus.

Aluminum

Aluminum is the most recyclable of all materials, making it the most valuable item in your recycling bin. Aluminum is used for cans to hold beverages and foods, and can also be used to make wiring and window frames, among other things. When recycling, be sure that it has been rinsed out and dried.[1]

E-waste

            Electronic waste (e-waste) consists of old, unused, and discarded electrical or electronic devices. When recycled they can be used for things like refurbishment or recovery. In 2020, the Department of Residence Life launched an e-waste collection program here on campus and has collected over 80 lbs. of e-waste for recycling. Although items that could contain personal information like cell phones or laptops are not accepted, items such as batteries, cords, chargers, computer mice, and similar items are.[2]

[1] https://www.aluminum.org/industries/production/recycling

[2] https://reslife.tamu.edu/living/sustainability/e-waste-bins/

[1] https://archive.epa.gov/wastes/conserve/materials/paper/web/html/grade.html

Plastics

Plastics are one of the most commonly thought of materials when it comes to recycling. However, many are unaware that there are 7 distinct types of plastic and not all of them are easily recyclable. Therefore, not all types of plastics are accepted for recycling. Here are some of the common items that are composed of each of the plastic types.

  • Type 1: beverage bottles, food containers, and oil bottles
  • Type 2: milk jugs, cleaning agent bottles, detergent bottles, and soap bottles
  • Type 3: food trays, food wraps, and plastic packaging
  • Type 4: grocery/shopping bags, shrink wraps, and squeeze bottles
  • Type 5: furniture, toys, and car parts
  • Type 6: insulation, takeout containers, and egg cartons
  • Type 7: fiberglass and other plastics

In order to recycle plastics, they must be both clean and dry. Here at Texas A&M only plastics numbers 1 and 2 are accepted at on campus recycling locations. However, malleable plastic films like number 4 are accepted through the Trex Plastic challenge hosted by Residence Life.     

Glass

            Although glass recycling may vary amongst different localities and recycling centers, glass is recyclable. Because it is breakable, there are some safety measures put in place so that staff are not injured in the process.  Do your best to prevent glass from breaking as broken glass has a lower recycling value compared to intact glass.[1] Be sure to check with your local recycling center for glass recycling procedures prior.[2] At Texas A&M, glass can be taken to the Adriance Lab Rd. recycling center on west campus across from the School of Public Health. Glass recycling is not offered in residence halls or offices due safety risks that they present to our custodial staff.

Cardboard

While cardboard is considered to be a form of paper, it is very common on campus and can also be somewhat confusing to recycle. Recyclable cardboard is known as corrugated cardboard and includes items such as brown paper bags, boxes, and pasteboard.  When recycling cardboard, be sure that it is as clean as possible, including removing any sort of packaging tape or labels as best you can. Flatten your cardboard when placing it in a receptacle to save space. A common misconception in cardboard recycling is that pizza boxes are recyclable. While this is partially true, only pizzas boxes free of food and oil residue can be recycled. Pizza boxes with food and oil stains can be composted instead.[1]

[1] https://earth911.com/recycling-guide/how-to-recycle-cardboard/, https://utilities.tamu.edu/recycling/

[1] https://earth911.com/recycling-guide/how-to-recycle-glass/

[2] https://www.wm.com/us/en/recycle-right/recycling-101

Resources

Image above: Graphic by the Aggie Green Fund indicating microgrants are still available.

Image above: Graphic by the Aggie Green Fund indicating microgrants are still available.

If you are interested in learning more about recycling here in Bryan-College Station please visit:

If you’re interested in making campus more sustainable, the Aggie Green Fund (AGF) still has microgrants available for projects. The deadline to apply is March 1st. Residence Life has received several grants from the AGF to expand recycling offerings in the halls, including the e-waste recycling bins. You can find out more about the grant process by going to their website here.

 

Stay in Contact with Residence Life Sustainability

Email: sustainability@reslife.tamu.edu

Instagram: aggiesgoinggreen

Facebook: Aggies Going Green

Twitter: @TAMUResLife

Webpage: reslife.tamu.edu/living/sustainability