What to put in which recycling bin

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Here at UC Berkeley, we care a lot about the environment (we have nine majors with the word “environment” in them), so it’s obvious that recycling would be a widespread practice on campus. However, recycling ain’t what it used to be, kids. The act of recycling waste can involve breaking apart containers, cleaning out food and choosing between upward of four trash bins. This can be a confusing task for us simpletons, so the Clog spoke to UC Berkeley Recycling representative Amaia Shultz, who helped us to compile an all-encompassing guide to campus recycling:

I. Types of bins

1. The four-bin cabinet

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2. The outdoor bins

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3. The swinging-lid bins

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II. Categories

1. Mixed paper: notebook paper, receipts, newspaper (but actually, who would ever throw away a copy of The Daily Californian?). Fun fact: UC Berkeley earns revenue from its mixed paper waste, so if you have an item you can throw into this bin, do it and financially support your school!

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2. Compost: food, napkins, tea bags, sugar packets, takeaway boxes, coffee cups, waxy coated milk and juice containers, utensils, paper sandwich wrappers … there is no excuse not to compost — more than 30 buildings on campus have compost containers!

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3. Landfill: coffee lids, clear plastic containers, foil wrappers, plastic wrappers, chip bags, condiment packets. Did you know that UC Berkeley invented the heat method for composting?

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4. Cans and bottles: soda cans, plastic bottles, glass bottles. The can or bottle you toss today could end up halfway around the world, in China, in just a few weeks!

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III. Where does it go?

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1. Mixed paper: Mixed paper is managed by the city of Berkeley, which recycles the contents at various locations.

2. Compost: Compostable items are either processed by the waste company Ecology and go to a rural site in the California Central Valley — where they are processed and sold to soil blenders, nurseries, orchards, professional landscapers, farms and vineyards — or they are broken down by UC Berkeley’s own in-house compost center.

3. Landfill: Most landfill items are processed through Golden Bear Transfer, which ships them to the dump at Keller Canyon in Pittsburg, Calif.

4. Cans & bottles: Custodians are not required to pick up bottles and cans, so the recycling company CiviCorps picks up these items. They go to various locations around the world from there, depending on volume and value of the recyclable.

IV. Meal examples 

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Meal 1: GBC wrap + bag of chips + bottle of soda + mustard packet + napkin + receipt. Dump any food debris and your napkin into COMPOST. The wrapper itself, the chip bag and mustard packet in LANDFILL. The soda bottle goes into CANS & BOTTLES; the receipt goes into MIXED PAPER.

Meal 2: GBC salad + mixed fruit container + smoothie + napkin + receipt. Dump any food debris and your napkin into COMPOST (except for the salad dressing, which goes into LANDFILL). The plastic salad and fruit containers also go into LANDFILL along with the styrofoam smoothie cup, while the receipt goes into MIXED PAPER.

Meal 3: GBC burger + fries + carton of milk + ketchup packet + napkin + receipt. Dump any food debris and your napkin into COMPOST along with the milk carton and containers that the burger and fries came in. The ketchup packet goes into LANDFILL, and the receipt goes into MIXED PAPER.

Meal 4: Pat Brown’s standard entree plate + Kombucha + Chobani greek yogurt + napkin + receipt. Dump any food debris and your napkin into COMPOST along with the plate. The Kombucha bottle and the yogurt container go into CANS & BOTTLES; the receipt goes into MIXED PAPER.

Image sources: images 123, image 4, image 5, image 6, image 7, image 8, image 9

Contact Daniela Grinblatt at [email protected].

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  • haiku

    Hey Daniela,

    I’m looking at your beautiful blog on recycling at Cal. It’s such a nice resource! I was wondering though, why do your instructions for plastic containers differ from the City of Berkeley? As of today (2016), Berkeley city accepts ANY rigid plastics (plus glass, steel, aluminum, and foil) in our City recycling bins. Your blog indicates at Cal its restricted. Is this article up to date, or is it just different at Cal?

    Thanks!
    Delilah