5 ways you can make single-stream recycling work even better
By Heather Woolwine, Recycling and Environmental Compliance Manager
If you’re a homegrown, organic eatin’, treehuggin’ hippie like me, you’ll find a way to recycle no matter where you are. Our enthusiasm for recycling sometimes makes for cheeky comments from family and friends because, like most people, they prefer a realistic and reasonable level of convenience.
That’s where College Station’s new single-stream recycling program comes in.
Until we launched the program in January, residents sorted recyclables into 11-gallon clear plastic bags. Single-stream appeals to those who have never recycled because it’s easy and uses a large container, similar to your trash disposal.
The new program has already paid incredible dividends as recycling participation has increased from 69 percent in 2015 to 84 percent this year. We’ve also seen participation by businesses and apartments climb from 19 percent to 24 percent.
Better participation means much less garbage has been going to the landfill. How much less? Let’s take a look at the numbers:
As the City of College Station’s recycling and environmental compliance manager, I get lots of questions from residents about how the program works and how they can make it even better.
Here are five simple ways to do your part:
1. Avoid Contamination.
Make sure you are only placing clean, acceptable items in your blue recycling container. While something may be recyclable, that form of recycling may not be available in this area. Any food container that has been visibly soiled with food or grease is not recyclable and should be put in the garbage. This list of acceptable items is also printed on top of your recycling container:
- Aluminum/tin/steel cans.
- Glass (all colors).
- Plastics (not bags) with No. 1 or No. 2 marked on them. If one of the symbols on the right isn’t on it, don’t recycle it.
- Mixed/white paper (Post-It notes, index cards, file folders, colored paper).
- Junk mail (staples and windowed envelopes are fine).
- Newspaper and inserts.
- Brown paper bags.
- Phone books.
- Flattened cardboard.
- Shredded paper (must be placed in clear plastic bags).
- Paperboard (such as cereal boxes and dairy/juice containers).
If it’s not listed, it’s not accepted as a recyclable and is considered garbage.
2. Items should be clean and free of debris.
Paper and cardboard recyclables must be dry and free of food debris, and caps from plastics should be removed and discarded. You should also rinse and clean discarded containers to keep your recycling container from getting sticky or smelly.
3. Don’t bag your recyclables, unless …
The only recyclable that should be bagged in clear plastic is shredded paper. Bagging other items isn’t necessary and could cause significant and costly damage to the sorting equipment. Consider recycling plastic bags or using reusable bags when you go to the store.
4. Pay attention to your collection schedule.
Unlike garbage collection, recycling is collected every other week. It’s also a good idea to have your container out early because yours may be picked up as early as 8 a.m. If you can’t remember your designated collection day, visit cstx.gov/recycle or download the free MyWaste app. If you have a missed collection, report it as soon as possible by emailing your street address to RecycleRequests@cstx.gov or by calling 979.764.6228.
5. Make sure your container is unobstructed.
Place your recycling and garbage container about four feet from any obstruction. Examples of obstructions include mailboxes, vehicles, and other containers. City ordinance requires your garbage and recycling containers be removed from the curb within 12 hours of collection.
Recycling options are also available for businesses and apartments. To learn more, go to cstx.gov/recycle or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 979-764-6228.
- Podcast: Our first look at single-stream recycling numbers
- Video: CS Single-Stream Recycling Guide
- Video: CS Single-Stream Recycling – Paperboard
- Video: CS Single-Stream Recycling – Colored Glass
- New single-stream recycling program starts in January
Heather Woolwine has been with the City of College Station for 11 years and has been recycling and environmental compliance manager since 2014. She served as the city’s recycling coordinator from 2007-14. She attended the Environmental Training Institute at the University of Texas-Arlington and is licensed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
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