As Recyclemania goes into full swing, it probably wouldn’t hurt to go over the basics of handling your waste.
Let’s start with the example of the average lunch brought from home. On this fine Wednesday, let’s assume our model student has a sandwich in a tupperware container, a Yoplait yogurt, baby carrots in a plastic bag, an orange and an iced tea purchased at the CoHo. When they’re done, what will they do with their excess food and packaging?
First off, they will certainly be bringing their tupperware home to reuse it (hooray!). The plastic cup for the tea can be recycled (but if this student decided on a fountain drink, those paper cups can be composted.) Their yogurt container has to go to the landfill because only plastics No. 1 and No. 2 can be recycled on campus. To find out what plastic you have, look at the number in the middle of the three-arrow triangle. However, if this student was not on campus but at some other place in the city, they could recycle it because the City of Davis recycling program accepts plastics Nos. 1 through 7.
Ideally, this student brought a reusable metal spoon from home, but if they didn’t, then perhaps they picked one up at the CoHo. All the utensils, napkins, plates, bowls and cups at the CoHo can be composted, just like the peel from an orange or any leftover carrots or food material. Fun fact: CoHo straws can be put in compost containers because they are made of plant materials and have been certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute and meet composting standards! Not-so-fun fact: Products labeled “biodegradable” sound like they should be compostable, but this is often a form of greenwashing and these items do not always break down easily in a composting facility. If you ever buy any of these products on your own, be sure to check that they are actually certified as compostable.
The last decision lies with the plastic bag. It can be reused multiple times or it can be thrown in the landfill bin. Some types of bags can be recycled at special collection sites, which are often located at grocery stores. However, the best decision would be to use a small reusable bag or container, or at least a paper bag, which can easily be recycled or composted — your choice!
So to sum it all up: All types of food, paper and paper products are compostable along with the CoHo utensils and straws. Only No. 1 and 2 plastics are recycled on campus, but the city of Davis recycles No. 1 through 7 plastics. Luckily, aluminum and paper are recycled everywhere!
There are some things that simply have to be thrown out, but otherwise please recycle and compost as much as possible, using the CoHo signs for guidance. However, the best method is to reuse or to not use at all. Buying items with less packaging is much greener than recycling or composting and is certainly better than sending even more to the landfill. You don’t need to be a hippie and only eat organic, local, fair-trade food out of Mason jars, but a little bit of thought about waste can go a long way.