If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my four years working in BC Parks, it’s that people don’t know how to recycle. I’ve pulled countless soiled diapers, dirty food containers, and even whole fish from clearly marked recycling bins, and I’ve pulled just as many flattened cardboard boxes and beer cans from garbage bins. Innumerable pieces of perfectly recyclable paper and plastic end up in landfills every day, and just as much oily, saucy, dirty garbage ends up soiling entire bags of clean recycling.
Now, it would be easy at this point to mindlessly assign blame to the public, to say recycling programs are ultimately a waste of time because people will never change. But in reality, many of the problems faced by recycling facilities and garbage dumps can be traced back to a lack of education. Simply put, it’s not that people don’t want to recycle, it’s that people don’t know how to recycle. Recently, however, UBC Sustainability has been working to change that.
If you’ve wandered through campus in the last few weeks, you have probably noticed the brand new, boldly labelled UBC Sustainability garbage and recycling bins. These new bins meticulously spell out what can be recycled or composted, and what must be put in the garbage. While the built-in graphics do a fairly good job of clearing up any recycling-related confusion, I thought it would be even more beneficial to produce an easily accessible visual guide that breaks down what can and can’t go into each bin.
Bin 1: Food Scraps
Think of this as a compost bin. Fruit peels, biodegradable paper, and unwanted food are all fair game.
Bin 2: Recyclable Containers
All types of refundable containers can go in here, including pop cans, water bottles, juice boxes, and glass bottles. Plastic numbers one through seven are okay too. Both cups and their lids can go in here as well, but don’t forget to take off the paper sleeve (that goes in the next bin).
Bin 3: Paper
This bin is pretty straight forward; it’s for paper.
Bin 4: Garbage
Finally, whatever is left goes in the garbage. Garbage includes things like styrofoam, soiled plastic bags, non-biodegradable synthetic fibres, and plastic cutlery (unless you know for a fact that the cutlery is compostable).
Recycling programs are not a waste of time, so take a second and sort it out!