BY SUE WUETCHER Republished from UB Now
Release date: January 8, 2020
Finished with that cup of yogurt?
Don’t throw it in the blue UB recycling bin. Some of the rules have changed, and UB Sustainability has some advice on what now can and cannot be recycled.
The biggest change, according to Erin Moscati, sustainability education manager, is the variety of plastics that can no longer be recycled.
The new restrictions in UB’s program are a result of international changes in the recycling market, Moscati explains. For many years, U.S. markets shipped all types of plastic to China for remanufacturing. However, in January 2018, shipping waste to China hit a roadblock when the country implemented its “National Sword” policy that banned the import of most plastics and many other materials, which had a major impact on global recycling markets.
U.S. waste companies were left with no place to send materials, and as a result have changed what they will accept for recycling, Moscati says. Modern Disposal Services, UB’s recycling provider, is having difficulty finding end markets for certain materials. And to further complicate the situation, the buyers of recycled commodities are tolerating less contamination in the recycling stream, which leaves less room for recycling mistakes.
At UB. Moscati says these changes translate to tighter rules regarding what should be placed in campus recycling bins.
“As a rule, UB now accepts only plastic food and beverage containers where the opening is smaller than the base,” like water bottles or soda bottles, she says. And containers, like peanut butter jars, that have threaded, screw-on lids.
That means no dairy containers, like yogurt cups, or plastic beverage cups, she says. Only #1 and #2 plastics may now be recycled at UB.
But what are #1 and #2 plastics?
Plastic containers and products all feature the well-recognized “chasing arrows” symbol. Inside each symbol is a number, ranging from 1-7, that identifies the type of plastic used to make the product.
Just because a product is plastic doesn’t mean it can be recycled, Moscati says.
Numbers 1 and 2 mark such items as soda bottles, water bottles, cooking oil containers, milk jugs and shampoo bottles — all containers where the opening is smaller than the base.
Moscati points out some other key changes in the on-campus recycling rules: Only clear glass maybe be recycled. And no plastic bags, paper cups, napkins or paper towels. So no need to rinse out that Big Gulp or Tim Hortons cup and lid. You now have to throw them in the trash.
“We don’t want people to ‘wish-cycle,’” Moscati notes. “If you’re not sure an item can be recycled, take a moment to refer to campus guidelines.”
The complete list of what is allowed and excluded can be found on UB Sustainability’s website.
“Yes, it’s frustrating; nobody feels good about making waste,” she says. “But you can re-evaluate the waste you create. And the best way to do that is to not choose wasteful items in the first place.
“Here’s how you can take control: Use items that are in recyclable #1 and #2 plastics; it’s best not to use items made with #3-7 plastic.”
Sustainable Development Goals:
12. Responsible consumption & production: Developing sustainable methods of product invention and consumer spending
13. Climate action: Taking steps to combat climate change and its impacts
14. Life below water: Conserving and managing the marine resources and oceans to promote sustainable development of our world