Be the boss in new recycling campaign

Faculty and staff have had opportunities to recycle at work for more than two decades. (Anybody recall recycling newsprint or campus phonebooks in the 1990s?)

Boss Your Toss logo

A new Iowa State campaign this fall, "Boss Your Toss," is about being a smart, efficient recycler. The arrival in fall 2015 of single-stream recycling -- collecting multiple types of materials in one bin -- made recycling easier on campus. Boss Your Toss encourages everyone to review their recycling habits and make them even better.

"You are in charge of how you throw away your waste," said recycling coordinator Steve Kohtz, who's been in the role in facilities planning and management since June. "You're the boss. You can fill the landfill or you can make sure it gets reused."

Sometimes it's about recognizing the nuances that separate the two destinations.

Kohtz said something seemingly small -- a swallow of coffee left in a cup dropped into a single-stream recycling bin -- will cancel the recyclability of everything in that bin, relegating it to trash instead. It takes extra effort, but ideally, the coffee drinker pours out the coffee dregs and swishes the cup with water before it goes in a blue recycling bin.

Know your colors

To Boss Your Toss, use the correct bin in campus buildings:

BlueSingle-stream recycling
Black: Trash
BrownCorrugated cardboard
YellowLab glass
GrayConfidential documents (to be destroyed)
Green: Food compost

Likewise, a clean pizza box can be recycled, Kohtz said, but one with a greasy stain can't. In the ensuing recycle process, the oil will compromise the quality of the new paper product.

Kohtz offered these tips for other common items eligible for single-stream recycling on campus:

  • Glass bottles. Rinse first.
  • Tin, aluminum or steel cans. Rinse (paper label doesn't have to be removed).
  • Plastic bottles and tubs. Rinse. If the lid twists off, it also can be recycled (with two exceptions: butter and yogurt tub/cup lids can't be recycled; the container can).
  • Paper, newspaper, magazines and paperboard (such as a cereal box). If it's dry, recycle. If it's wet, compost it.

These common items can't be recycled:

  • Plastic "clamshell" food containers. This variety of plastic is too thin to be processed by shredding machinery. Kohtz credits ISU Dining with actively pursuing carryout food packaging that's compostable, despite the added cost.
  • Paper cups with a plastic or wax coating -- no matter how clean they are.
  • Plastic store bags and plastic wrap. Many retailers have bins for the public to return bags.
  • Styrofoam and packing peanuts.

On average, an adult generates 1,260 pounds of garbage annually, Kohtz said. The key is to figure out how much of that can be recycled, rather than (in Ames) burned for energy or landfilled.

Learn more

Tuesday, Nov. 15, is America Recycles Day, and Kohtz will host a celebration on the Parks Library lawn (10 a.m.-2 p.m.). Stop by to learn more about Boss Your Toss, test your recycling skills and (if you like) be part of a "recycling shuffle" version of the Cha Cha Slide line dance at 11:30 a.m.