Here are some things I see in the wrong bins all the time.
Starbucks cups – Contrary to popular belief, Starbucks cups are not recyclable. The lid cannot go into plastics; the cup cannot go into paper (any kind of “waxy” paper is not recyclable). In fact, the only recyclable part is the cardboard sleeve. So separate the cup before you throw away, or even better, bring your own mug—there’s a discount!
Pizza boxes, Chick-fil-a boxes, Subway wrappers– Any material with food on it isn’t recyclable. The tops of pizza boxes are ok if you separate them, but the bottoms are covered in grease. Things like Chick-fil-a boxes and Subway wrappers are not only waxy papers, but also have food ickyness left on them.
Red Solo cups – Having a catchy song written about it doesn’t make Solo cups any more environmentally friendly. They’re not recyclable in North Carolina. Thinking about the sheer numbers of Solo cups sent to the landfill after weekends at Wake Forest gives me a minor heart attack. However, there is good news: the clear Solo cups are recyclable! So check the number on the bottom of the cups you buy, fill up your (clear) Solo cup, and proceed to partyyy.
Plastic grocery bags – Though plastic bags aren’t recyclable on campus, they are at grocery stores. So next time you make a run to Harris Teeter, take all your extra bags back with you. Or reuse them. Or even better, throw a couple reusable bags in your trunk to avoid the problem altogether!
Other plastics – I see all kinds of creative plastic items tossed in the recycling bins. It’s best to check for a #1 or #2 on the bottom, but there are two good rules of thumb to follow for plastics:
1. If it cracks when you bend it (Solo cups, plastic utensils, etc.) then it probably is not recyclable.
2. If it has a neck (water bottles, shampoo bottles, laundry detergent bottles, etc.) then it probably is recyclable. Lots of things that you’d think would be (but don’t have necks!), like icing tubs and yogurt and butter containers, are actually #5 plastics. These items aren’t recyclable on campus, but if you feel inspired to save them and take them by Whole Foods they can recycle them there!