Red solo cups are a form of polystyrene, made from the same material as Styrofoam, and thus cannot be recycled. In efforts to nail down what we can and cannot recycle on campus and in the city of Santa Cruz, the Sustainability Office’s Zero Waste Team joined in on the campus’ recycling sort line, located at Grounds Services next to TAPS and Physical Plant. With our ear plugs in, our safety glasses, and our pierce-resistant gloves snug, we sorted out plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans that lay among a conglomeration of disposed items making up the contents of roll-off recycling bins located throughout campus. Plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans are sorted out to be taken to a recycling vendor by the university, as they hold the most value in being recycled while paper, plastic bags, and thicker plastic containers like yogurt cups or shampoo bottles are taken to the city’s resource and recovery center located off of the CA-1 on Dimeo Lane.
Working the sort line opened our eyes to how much confusion there is about what items belong in which waste stream; from dirty diapers to denim short, a whole bunch of non-recyclable items ended up in the roll-off bins designated for recycling. But with so many “throw-away” items, it can be confusing! In striving to reach the UC-wide goal of zero waste by 2020, the Zero Waste Team, the Sustainability Office, and other sustainability-focused organizations on campus aim to reach out to the university body and better communicate how to properly dispose of waste. If you are passionate about waste and feeling trashy, volunteer with Grounds Services and jump on the sort line to see the messy process for yourself. For those less adventurous – and don’t worry, we don’t blame you – find out what goes where on campus and in the city of Santa Cruz on the Sustainability Office’s Zero Waste Team website: http://sustainability.ucsc.edu/topics/waste-reduction/faq.html