UConn Office of Environmental Policy

Promoting sustainability at UConn

The Mystery of Single Stream Recycling

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One of the most frequent questions we get at the OEP is “can I recycle X,” followed closely by “what recycling goes in each bin?”

At UConn, we have had single stream recycling since 2009.  This means that any recyclable material can go in any recycling bin.  Sometimes this is also called mixed recycling.  We have a number of different types of recycling bins on campus – we have the new green bins outside that are coupled with trash cans, we have the older rectangular cans with paper and bottle/can restricted lids, we have the small blue recycling bins for individual rooms or offices, we have white and red and yellow bins in the dorms.  Despite the difference in bins, any recyclable can go in any bin!

However, even with single stream, there are still a lot of questions about what is recyclable and what is not.

Some common items:

Plastic grocery bags – these cannot go into single stream recycling.  However, they can be recycled at most grocery stores.  This goes for any sort of recyclable plastic bag (such as newspaper bags, or plastic bubble packing material)

Paper coffee cups – these are generally not recyclable because the paper is actually lined with wax to prevent your hot beverage from leaking out of the cup.  Often the plastic lid and the paper sleeve are recyclable though!

Books – Check with your recycler, but Willimantic Waste Paper Company, the recycler for campus accepts paperback books for recycling, just put them into any recycling bin.

Shredded paper – Although shredded paper is recyclable, it can’t go into the single stream because the small pieces can’t be sorted out.  Offices on campus can contact central stores to pick up confidential documents for shredding. If your recycler can’t take shredded paper, contact them to find out where you can take shredded paper for recycling.

Ziplock Bags – Unfortunately these can’t go in the recycling.  Consider washing and reusing them, or purchasing reusable zipper bags for your snacks.

Envelopes with clear windows – These can go in the recycling bin!

Anything with food waste or grease – Even if the material would be otherwise recyclable, if it has food waste, please wash it before putting it into the recycling so you don’t contaminate the load.  If it’s contaminated with grease (such as cardboard from a pizza box), it can’t be recycled.

Check out this awesome video from WilliWaste explaining how their single stream recycling system works!

Author: UConn OEP

The Office of Environmental Policy at the University of Connecticut brings together students, faculty, staff, and the community for a more environmentally sustainable campus.

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