Every day, the average American throws out approximately four pounds of waste, totaling more than a ton each year. When multiplied by our country’s population of more than 300 million people, trash rapidly accumulates into unthinkable numbers, making recycling an imperative routine to save energy, reduce air and waste pollution, conserve natural resources and eliminate excessive deposits in landfills.
Most of the general population is aware recycling is beneficial for the environment. However, it can be hard to decipher whether an object is recyclable, causing many hazardous materials to end up in landfills rather than their delegated recycling centers. To encourage recycling, the City of San Diego operates an automated curbside recycling program with a biweekly collection service. However, some waste cannot be tossed into those recognizable blue bins.
The potential danger of items such as batteries, laptops and blow-dryers is something to consider before disposal. In San Diego, the following items cannot be recycled in blue bins: aerosol cans that are not empty, batteries, ceramics, electronics, fluorescent lightbulbs, glassware, medications, medical sharps, milk cartons, motor oil, plastic bags, plastic utensils, propane tanks, used clothing, Styrofoam and toxic product containers.
Items accepted by San Diego’s curbside recycling program include: empty aerosol cans, clean aluminum foil, clean plastic food packaging, newspapers, phone books, paper or frozen food boxes, glass jars and bottles, plastic jars and bottles, mail, paper bags, bagged shredded paper, plastic buckets, tubs, toys, magazines, cardboard and metal cans.
To dispose of accepted recyclable goods, visit the SDSU Recycling Center located near Cuicacalli Suites Residence Hall, or place items in the blue bins provided to each San Diego household. Those interested in making a few extra dollars may be pleased to know the SDSU Recycling Center reimburses students with valid Red IDs for recycling aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles. When unsure where to recycle tricky items such as electronics, websites such as recyclesandiego.org and earth911.com help users locate the proper local recycling center for just about any given item.
Another familiar uncertainty is the meaning of the numbers printed within the recycling logo on common plastic goods. The numbers, ranging from one to seven, are resin identification codes representing seven different types of plastic. The Society of the Plastics Industry implemented the system in 1988 allowing recyclers the ability to differentiate between plastics while sorting their recyclable materials.
Plastic number 1: polyethylene terephthalate.
The majority of disposable soda and water bottles are made of this plastic. This type is generally considered safe, however, it is also known to have a porous surface that allows bacteria to accumulate, making it potentially unsafe to reuse. This plastic is picked up by San Diego’s curbside recycling program.
Plastic number 2: high-density polyethylene.
Most milk jugs, detergent bottles, juice bottles and plastic food containers consist of this plastic. Polyethylene is considered safe and has a low risk of leaching. This plastic is also picked up by San Diego’s curbside recycling program.
Plastic number 3: polyvinyl chloride.
It is used to make plastic piping, toys, furnishings and food wrap. PVC is tough and should never be used when cooking. Plastic buckets, tubs, pots and toys are accepted by San Diego’s curbside recycling program.
Plastic number 4: low-density polyethylene. It is used to make grocery bags, some food wraps, squeezable bottles and sandwich bags. This plastic is considered safe, but is not accepted by the city’s curbside recycling program. Grocery bags should be returned to the retailer for proper recycling.
Plastic number 5: polypropylene.
It is found in yogurt cups, water bottles with a cloudy finish, medicine bottles, ketchup and syrup bottles and straws. This plastic is considered safe, and is accepted by San Diego’s curbside recycling programs.
Plastic number 6: polystyrene, or Styrofoam.
Evidence suggests this type of plastic seeps potentially toxic chemicals, especially when heated. This plastic should be used as minimally as possible. It is difficult to recycle and is not accepted by San Diego’s recycling program.
Plastic number 7: any plastic composed after 1987.
Polycarbonate falls into this category, including bisphenol A. Be wary using products with this label as its makeup is likely unknown. It is difficult to recycle this plastic and it is not accepted by San Diego’s recycling program.
For many, recycling has become a part of everyday life. It is an integral component in maintaining a clean environment for today’s population and future generations. In a predominately wasteful society, it is more important than ever for individuals to do what they can to decrease their ecological footprints. Utilizing San Diego’s curbside recycling system and learning to properly dispose of common items are simple steps toward benefiting the Earth and preserving its precious resources.