Recycle @ UM
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Frequently Asked Questions

Metals | Paper | Plastics | Miscellaneous

Do I have to remove staples from paper before recycling?

No. Metal staples do not need to be removed from paper. Staples (made of steel) are removed at the paper mill using magnets, screens and filters during the pulping process.

What can I do with an old broken stapler?

This is considered a "small scrap metal" object and can be recycled in any Containers Recycling cart on campus. (Blue or grey Carts are located at most building loading docks).

We use aluminum foil to cover flasks in our lab prior to autoclaving. Can this foil be recycled?

While technically the foil is recyclable, if you use masking tape on it, it cannot be recycled. The very small pieces also tend to blow around the recycling site, causing litter. If you are willing to seal the foil in a clear bag, it can be recycled with "containers" or cans and bottles.

Why do metal lids have to be removed from glass bottles and jars?

Both materials are recyclable and should be placed in the same recycling cart, unattached. At the recycling facility, a magnetic "belt" is used to separate the ferrous metals, like jar lids, bottle caps and steel cans, from the other materials. If the metal lids are left of the jar, they are not separated. In the glass handling process at the recycling facility, the lid becomes a contaminant and is not recycled but is discarded as waste.

Metals | Paper | Plastics | Miscellaneous

Can glossy fax paper be recycled?

No, glossy fax paper (or thermal fax paper) has a chemical coating on it (which gives it that funny smell) which cannot be recycled. A good alternative is a plain paper fax machine, which utilizes the same plain paper as your copier or laser printer.

Can the ream wrapper from copier paper?

Yes, in the past the thin layer of plastic film between the outer layers of paper made ream wrappers unrecyclable. Due to advancements in recycling technology, the plastic and paper can now be separated and the paper can be recycled.

How many times can paper be recycled?

The paper industry generally says paper can be recycled eight (8) times, but this does not mean that YOU have to keep track of it. When wastepaper is recycled at a mill, it is first pulped with water in a machine very much like a large blender. Each time paper is pulped its fibers get shorter and shorter. The pulp is then run through very fine mesh screens. Shorter fibers pass through the screen and do not get incorporated into new paper. The longer, stronger fibers DO get incorporated into new paper. The average fiber makes it through the system eight times.

Metals | Paper | Plastics | Miscellaneous

Can disposable dishware like plastic utensils and cups made of paper, plastic or foam be recycled?

No. Plastic utensils, cups and foam (a.k.a. polystyrene foam) are materials not recycled at the University. Paper plates, cups and napkins cannot be recycled because of contact with food waste and also because the paper fibers are too soft to be recycled again. Disposable dishware is just that, disposable.

Can plastic tennis ball cans be recycled?

Yes!  The cans that tennis balls come in are made of a PET #1 plastic that is accepted in the Containers recycling category.

Why do the plastic caps have to be thrown away?

Plastic caps are made from a different type of plastic than the jugs or bottles and cannot be recycled together because they melt at a different temperature and can ruin a batch of plastics being processed for recycling.

Why can't other plastics be recycled?

In our area, there are only markets for #1PETE and #2HDPE plastic jugs and bottles. Other plastics are not acceptable. Even tubs that have a #2 symbol cannot be recycled. Jugs and bottles are "blow molded." During manufacturing, air is literally blown into the container to inflate them like a balloon. They cool very rapidly. Tubs are "injection molded." The plastic is stamped into its shape and it cools less rapidly. The two materials are not compatible for recycling, despite their having the same #2 marking. Another telltale sign to distinguish the two is "blow molded" containers have a seam along the bottom. Check the bottom of all plastic containers for easy identification. Look for the recycling triangle.

Metals | Paper | Plastics | Miscellaneous

Is there anything that I can do with "good junk", instead of throwing it away?

Yes! You can take these items to The Scrap Box. The Scrap Box was organized in 1983 to provide a central resource center for the collection of odds and ends ("good junk") which can then be made available at minimal cost to teachers, parents and children, day care providers, scout troops, religious programs, individuals and other community organizations. Along with donating items to The Scrap Box, you can also purchase items from them as well. If you are interested in doing so, you can learn about ways to re-use all of this junk through special workshops for adults and children, samples on display throughout the store, step-by-step instruction sheets, the library resource center, and through their newsletter.

The Scrap Box is a nonprofit, tax-exempt community organization. It is open during the following hours:

Tuesday: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Wednesday: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Thursday: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Friday: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
(or by special arrangement for groups)

 The Scrap Box Map

The Scrap Box is located at 581 State Circle in Ann Arbor, which is right off of I-94. If you have questions or would like more information, please call (734) 994-4420.

Recycle Ann Arbor
Recycle Ann Arbor
also accepts "good junk" items.

Can I recycle spiral or metal bound notebooks?

Yes, if the metal is removed from the notebook. The metal can be recycled in the CONTAINER bin.

Our department has a lot of out dated hard cover textbooks. Are these recyclable?

Yes, they are recyclable, but they can't be placed in the paper-recycling bin because of the binding and hard covers. Please call Waste Management Services at 763-5539 to schedule a pick-up.

Can padded mailing envelopes be put in the recycling bin?

There are two kinds. The "bubble" padded kind (with the plastic inside) cannot be recycled. The fiber-filled "jiffy" type (with shredded newspapers inside) can be recycled in any Paper Recycling bin.

Does the University recycle textiles?

No, but the city of Ann Arbor's Drop-Off station does. The Drop-Off station takes textiles to the Material Recovery Facility where bags of textiles are pulled to the side and baled separately. They are then shipped to a textile recycler in Pennsylvania, who sorts the material into usable clothing, and fabrics of various categories (wool, polyester, cotton, etc.). Most usable garments are shipped to overseas markets. Unusable garments are remanufactured into rag rugs, upholstered items, and even insulation for car seats and dashboards.

How can I recycle print cartridges from ink jet printers?

Click here to find out how.

What can I do with reusable campus mail envelopes?

M-Stores will take back used Campus Mail envelopes. Bundle them neatly together, mark "Return to Stores" and place by the Stores pick up location of your building. If your office is doing a large campus mailing, first check with others in your building for extra envelopes. You can also purchase "used" Campus Mail envelopes from M-Stores. These cost less than brand new ones. Remember, RE-USE is better than recycling. After all 40 address slots are used up you can recycle the envelope with PAPER recycling on campus.

Where do all the recyclables go?

The paper is collected in the large blue paper dumpster by Waste Management Services blue recycling truck. This truck collects only paper for recycling. The containers are collected, mixed together (commingled) in recycling carts, and collected by a different Waste Management Services recycling truck. Paper and containers are delivered to the City of Ann Arbor's Material Recovery Facility or MRF (a.k.a. "murf"). At the MRF there are two sorting lines, one for paper and one for mixed containers. Conveyor belts, blowers, and screens help separate the glass, steel, aluminum, and plastics. A work crew of about 12 people further sort recyclables from contaminants. The paper line is completely manually sorted (mainly to pull out contaminants).

Why do materials have to be flattened?

Quite simply, it conserves space. The more material that can fit into the recycling cart or dumpster, the more that can fit on our truck. This saves time, energy and gasoline!

Metals | Paper | Plastics | Miscellaneous

Content modified: March 13, 2010