Recycling Process

Where do USU's recyclables and trash go?

Trash goes to the Logan Landfill, which is nearing capacity. Recyclables go to the nearest, highest bidder. At the Recycling Center at USU we separate and compact the paper, cardboard, plastics, aluminum, glass, tin-coated steel cans, rigid styrofoam etc. and prepare them for shipment. Mixed paper goes to a company in Hyrum, Utah that uses it for insulation, glass goes to a company here in Logan, Utah that puts it into floor tile, and white paper etc may be shipped as far away as Japan for recycling.

How important is it that I prepare recyclables correctly? Doesn't this take a really long time?

It is extremely important to prepare items correctly before placing them in recycling bins. This means:

  • Flatten boxes. If you don't, they will probably be thrown away.
  • Clean out obvious food residue from plastics and cans (such as a soup can). You do not have to rinse out drink bottles; sugary soda residue is acceptable!
  • Remove bottle caps (so that residue can evaporate and not add weight and mess and jam compactors).

Custodians cannot take the time to separate dirty containers, remove pizza boxes, or flatten other boxes. Please take a few extra seconds and move any items inappropriately placed in the recycling bin to the trash - this will earn you major points from the recycling fairy!

What is the process of recycling like in general?

There are three basic steps in the life of your recyclables: manufacturing, consumption and recovery. All three must occur before recycling is complete. Buy efficiently and buy recycled! Recovery occurs when recyclables are separated from discards; putting paper into a recycling bin is the first step in this process.

At materials recovery facilities, or MRFs, recyclables are sorted in preparation for processing. Magnets and air are used to divide up metals and light items. Employees separate out other items (so be kind and rinse your food containers). Mechanical sorters that use optics to identify different kinds of paper and puffs of air to sort it are also now being developed. This entire separation step may seem inefficient, but transportation and collection can be more efficient when separation is postponed; it's also easier to get people to recycle when they can throw everything together.

At processing plants, sorted items are converted into usable material. Plastics get shredded. Different types have different specific gravities, so they will float/sink to different degrees and can then be separated. Paper is soaked in water. In the recycling process, plastic envelope bits float up and magnets remove staples. A large chain is rotated in the vat of paper goo, and tape remnants adhere to the chain for removal.

What is the recycling process like at USU?

First, recyclables are taken to the Recycling Center and are separated by students/employees into each of their respective types: Magazine Paper, White Paper, Colored and Newsprint Paper, White Shredded Paper, Colored Shredded Paper, Cardstock, Corrugated Cardboard, Aluminum, Clear Glass, Green Glass, Brown Glass, #1 Plastic, #2 Clear Plastic, #2 Colored Plastic, Tin-Coated Steel Cans, Batteries, Rigid Styrofoam, and Wooden Pallets. Each of these separated materials occupies its own respected space in the recycling center or nearby storage areas.

Next, when enough of one type of material has been collected to fill the baler, the materials are put into the baler which compacts and forms the material into a bale about 2’ x 2’ x 4’. One such bale of paper typically weighs over 1000 lbs. In the case of glass,

At the end of each year USU Recycling employees put glass bottles on a conveyor belt that feeds into a huge crusher. The glass is then sent to a company here in Logan that melts it, colors it, and uses it in floor tile.

Once again, the bales of different materials sit in their respective place, and generally once a year (when there is enough to fill a semi-trailer) the materials are sold to the highest bidder.

From there, different companies do different things with different materials, but some of the processes are explained in previous questions.

Does stuff put in recycling bins get thrown away?

Unfortunately, sometimes it does if it is contaminated. Even a tiny piece of food can send an entire bin of recycling to the dump. In addition, the international commodities markets do fluctuate, sometimes making simple dumping less costly than recycling. This is rare, however, and if you buy recycled, the demand for the recyclables will increase. You're not really recycling unless you buy recycled products!

What are the top three simple steps I can take to reduce land filled waste and improve recycling at USU?

  1. Reuse and recycle your paper. Currently, as much or more paper is thrown away at USU than is recovered for recycling.
  2. Don't buy things you don't really need and buy in bulk to reduce packaging.
  3. Recycle all year round, not just during Recycle Mania or at the end of the semester.

Recycling a ton of the following materials saves the stated quantities of energy:

  • Aluminum cans: 185 million btu/ton
  • LDPE: 24.1 million btu/ton
  • Plastic #1 (PETE): 22.2 million btu/ton
  • Mixed plastics: 20.5 million btu/ton
  • Steel cans: 20 million btu/ton
  • Plastic #2 (HDPE): 19 million btu/ton
  • Newspapers: 16.5 million btu/ton
  • Corrugated cardboard: 13 million btu/ton
  • Office paper: 10.1 million btu/ton
  • Mixed paper: 6.7 million btu/ton
  • Glass bottles: 2.1 million btu/ton

*Note: There are 5.8 million British thermal units (Btu) in a barrel of oil and 0.125 million Btu in a gallon of gasoline.


Can I recycle batteries? Why should I?

You should recycle batteries because they contain toxic chemicals; if placed in a landfill, they could contaminate groundwater and soil. You can absolutely recycle them here. There should be a battery receptacle in each major building on campus and yellow buckets in both major drop-off areas at USU. You can check our campus recycling map to make sure. Or, if you're still not sure where to find a receptacle, call (435) 797-2011.

Should I buy rechargeable batteries?

Rechargeable batteries contain even more toxic materials (heavy metals) than standard batteries, so if you use them, make 100% sure you dispose of them properly- not in the trash. Rechargeable batteries you use from day to day like those in your cell phone or laptop, as well as rechargeable appliances like phones and Dustbusters should not be thrown in the trash. Recycle them! In each of the major buildings on campus you can recycle batteries or there is a yellow bucket in both of the drop-off areas for USU in which you can place your batteries.

What should I do with my old cell phone?

There are a variety of charities that not only safely dispose of old phones, but actually put them to very good use. You can also check with your cell provider for guidance.

Can I recycle my computer / printer at USU?

Yes, E-waste is recyclable, but we do not have the means to take it for you. See if the manufacturer or store from which you purchased your equipment participates in take-back or trade-in programs, Logan City Landfill will also take it and make sure that the dangerous components are not put in the landfill.

If it is a USU Computer/Printer, you can call Surplus at 797-2083 to arrange for pick-up of computers and other components you wish have sold or recycled.


What do I do with bottle caps?

Before tossing your bottle into the recycling bin, be sure to remove the cap and throw it away, as it is a different type of material than the rest of the container (either glass or plastic). Please also empty all liquids from the container before placing it in the bin. Extra liquid causes a number of problems: it adds weight, which adds to the energy (and fossil fuel emissions) necessary to transport the recyclables; it creates a mess and causes injuries in the recycling plant.

What can I do with packing peanuts?

Call the Peanut Hotline (Yes, there is a peanut hotline) at 1-800-828-2214 for a list of area businesses such as Mailboxes Etc. which accept plastic loose fill or packaging peanuts for reuse. The DHIA here on campus is also interested in such materials for shipping. You may want to contact them.

Can I recycle pizza boxes?

Yes, Just make sure that all food items have been completely removed.

Can I recycle envelopes with the plastic windows? What about staples? And spiral notebooks? Glossy advertisements? Magazines? Post-its?

You'll like the answer to this one; all of these items are fine to toss into the "Paper" recycling bin. In the recycling process, all paper, even the glossy, is converted to pulp, and all non-natural fibers such as metal will be strained out. So don't waste your time removing staples, or plastic windows, but removing spiral bindings helps!

Do I really have to separate paper into "Mixed" and "White"?

No. However, the more you separate at the source, the easier it is to separate later, even if they go into the same bin when they are picked up. At the Recycling Center we separate everything anyway, so separating it perfectly on your part isn’t necessary.

Can I recycle paper with tape on it?

It's OK to leave tape on paper; however, it does gum up machines and reduces the efficiency of recycling. Try to remove obvious tape from papers and posters before recycling...but again, don't waste your time scraping tape off of paper!

Do I have to separate glass, plastic, and aluminum?

On campus, No. You can put anything that you call a bottle or can into the same "Beverage Container" recycling bin. If you bring recyclables to the drop-off areas, each type of material has its own spot, so kindly sort. If you don’t though, we’ll sort through it at the Recycling Center.

Do I have to worry about labels?

No. You can leave labels on bottles and cans!

Can I recycle any plastic that has a recycling sign and number on it?

Right now, the infrastructure doesn't exist to recycle plastics #3-7 at USU. Logan City's Curbside Program currently only accepts plastics #1 and #2 and only clear and transluscent versions of these plastics. At USU, use the rule that anything that is a bottle or can goes into the bin. Hopefully, we'll soon be able to recycle anything with a number. Be sure to check with your local recycling program when you leave USU!

What should I do with my laundry detergent bottle?

Recycle it! Just take the cap off! USU takes plastics #1 and #2 colored and clear, and Logan ’s Curbside Program takes plastics #1 and #2, but only clear and transluscent versions of those plastics.

What do I do with plastic bags?

There is no universal system for plastic bag recycling; that's why you should really make an effort to prevent the production and use of bags by carrying a reusable bag or backpack. However, with those bags you do have, try to reuse them. They make great small trash can liners! If your bags are grocery bags from a store with a bag recycling program, like Maceys, Lees, or Walmart, you can take them back to the store from which they came. It differs from store to store, but most grocery stores sell their used bags to be made into plastic lumber (the company is called Trex), which is made from plastic and sawdust. Plastic bags cannot be recycled with cans and bottles as they are difficult to handle in transport and jam conveyor belts.


How does recycling help me as a student at USU?

There are a number of benefits you receive:

  • The University saves money. This can translate into more money for student needs, such as space, housing improvements, etc.
  • School pride: we also enter a national competition with other schools for per-capita recycling rates. Our basketball team did well last year...continue the tradition in the realm of recycling!
  • Most importantly, you're forming habits that will benefit you in the future. Municipalities are increasingly using financial incentives for recycling. If you teach yourself to recycle now, you'll save yourself money in the future. On a larger scale, your world will be cleaner and healthier the fewer resources you use now. Think in the aggregate.

What if I don't have a recycling bin?

Most importantly, you don't need a "recycling" bin to recycle. Any container will work -- a small trashcan, a box, a paper bag for paper -- be creative! However, keep in mind that here at USU we may be able to get you a bin; let your RA know or call 797-2011. By the end of 2005 each apartment on campus should also be outfitted with brand new recycling bins!

How can I get rid of junk mail once and for all?

Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT to stop credit card offers or go to www.optoutprescreen.com and fill out the simple form there.

For unwanted contribution pleas and catalogs, make a few simple phone calls or emails and ask to be taken off of mailing lists. To limit your exposure, write "Please do not rent or sell my name" or "No mailing lists" next to your name whenever you order products by mail, enter a contest, subscribe to a magazine, send in a warranty card, or otherwise give your name and address to a company or organization. (Also consider not sending in the warranty card for a new product - it's usually not required.)

One effective way to remove your name from national mailing lists is to write the Direct Marketing Association and register with their Mail Preference Service - an indication that you do not want to be contacted by solicitors. In a letter or 3 1/2 x 5" postcard, include the date, your name, address and signature, and write "Please register my name with the Mail Preference Service." (The term "Mail Preference Service" may sound confusing, but rest assured, registration with MPS is what you do to get off of the mailing lists.) This actually works. Marketers do not want to waste their efforts on people who have explicitly stated they are not interested. Mail to:

Mail Preference Service, Attn: Dept: 6386627
Direct Marketing Association
P.O. Box 282
Carmel, NY 10512

How do I buy recycled?

The key to buying recycled products is reading labels. You must look for the trademark arrows of the recycling symbol, but that doesn't always mean the product is made from recycled material; it may simply mean the product is technically recyclable (sometimes, only if the product is returned in perfect condition to the manufacturer!). What you really must check is the ingredient list: you want to see the percent of post-consumer content. Many paper products promote themselves as recycled, but come from industrial surplus (called pre-consumer) that would be recycled anyway. Post-consumer means that another person has already used the material and it is being recycled to you—so that you can use and then recycle it, of course!