YUP February Green Team Tip: Recycling Questions Answered


Ever find yourself at the office standing in front of a single stream bin, unsure if what you’re about to throw in there is recyclable? Like that takeout coffee lid? What about “Greenware” compostable plates? And those plastic ties on boxes of 8.5 x 11 paper?

In November, we asked our staff to pose questions to the YUP Green Team: from the basics you’re embarrassed to ask to those complicated exceptions that keep you up at night. But not to worry, we have found the answers!

Without further delay, here are the answers to the questions from our Stump the Green Team challenge.

Are the following items recyclable?

1.    Those plastic strips on cases of copier paper

Unfortunately, no.

2.    Shredded paper


3.    Plastic cutlery

YES! Please rinse these before putting them in the single stream recycling bins. Or you could save them and make useful stuff!

4.    Removable labels that have a sticky back

If what you mean is Post-It brand notes and the like, then YES!

5.    Plastic bags

Unfortunately, plastic shopping bags are not recyclable through Yale’s single-stream recycling system, but many retailers including Stop&Shop and Target will take these back.

 6.    Ziploc bags

Unfortunately, no.

7.    Any plastic container that does not have a triangle and a number on it

Unfortunately, no.  Someone asked specifically about the tops of mayonnaise jars – sometimes these are recyclable, and sometimes they’re not.  You may need to pry out the waxy paper circle on the inside of the lid to see whether there’s a little triangle with a number inside it inscribed underneath.

8.    The wax paper that cold cuts are put in

Unfortunately, no.

 9.    Empty “yellow/orange” plastic RX containers (tops and bottoms)

YES! As long as there’s a little triangle with a plastic number in the middle inscribed on it somewhere. Please rinse these before putting them in the single-stream recycling bins.

10.Aseptic cartons

YES! Milk (and other liquid) cartons with plastic, screw-top pour spouts and rectangular, plastic flip-top soup and juice cartons can be rinsed and put in the single-stream recycling bins.

 11.Other cartons, such as for frozen meals

  • Cardboard or paperboard boxes: YES!
  • Plastic food trays: YES! As long as there’s a little triangle with a plastic number in the middle inscribed on it somewhere. Please rinse these before putting them in the single-stream recycling bins.
  • Cellophane wrappers: Unfortunately, no.
  • Paper trays with food/grease marks: Unfortunately, no.

12.To-go cup coffee sleeves

  • Cardboard or paperboard sleeves: YES!
  • Non-paper sleeves bearing the symbol of a triangle with a little number inside: YES!
  • Non-paper sleeves with no recycling number: Unfortunately, no.
  • (Note: Insulated, reusable coffee mugs don’t need a sleeve to prevent you from overheating your palms.)

13.Video and audio cassettes

These are notoriously difficult to dispose of responsibly.  There are some organizations, though, like this one, that will recycle them for you.  Most commonly, however, you have to package and ship the tapes, and most services charge a small fee to recycle the material.

14.CDs and DVDs

Funny you should ask!  We’ve been contemplating arranging a Yale UP CD and DVD drive, wherein we would collect unneeded CDs and DVDs and send them to an organization that will dispose of them responsibly.  Let us know, if you would, whether you would find this useful – that is, whether you actually have CDs and DVDs lying around that you need to get rid of.

 15.Brown paper towels


Bonus round!  We received some questions that aren’t directly related to our building’s single-stream recycling bins. Because we are committed to bringing you green news and information across all categories, we have answers for these, too.

 Does unplugging electronics that have already been turned off save a significant amount of energy?

Particularly if you’re going to be away from your electronic device for a period of time longer than overnight, yes, unplugging is helpful.  Appliances can draw electricity even when they’re not being used.  We are told that this “vampire power” can account for up to 10% of a household’s annual electricity bill.

What do I do with expired prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and vitamins?

You can search for a “take-back collection” near you.  If there’s no good option for a take-back collection, you can: leave medication in its original packaging (remove label).  For pills, add a small amount of water to partially dissolve.  For liquid medications, add salt, kitty litter, or powdered spice to make it unpalatable.  Seal container with duct tape. Place container in an opaque plastic bag (like a non-recyclable shopping bag) and seal bag.  Place in trash.

What do I do with expired creams and beauty products?  

The safest way to dispose of expired beauty products is to remove them from their original packaging, put them in a container with a tight seal (like a mason jar), duct tape the container, and place in trash.  If the original packaging is recyclable, please wash it out and recycle it.  Whether or not the original packaging has a recycle symbol on it, Origins Skincare will take it (any brand) and recycle it.

Let’s toss with confidence!

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