How does recycling work on campus?

Q: What does "comingle" mean?
A: Paper, plastic and metal items are collected together (comingled) in all recycling bins on campus.

Q: What about glass?
A: Glass is collected separately in its own containers on campus.

Q: Can I recycle paper with staples in it? Notebooks with spirals? Binders with rings? Envelopes with plastic windows?
A: Yep! Just place these in the regular comingle bin.

Q: Can I compost food waste on campus?
A: Yep! There are several locations to drop off your compostable material. If you would like to a add a compost roll cart to your building's trash & recycling corral, contact PSU Recycles! at 503-725-4300 to discuss the options. There is also a post-consumer compost station in Smith Food Court.

Q: What about setting up composting in my office?
A: Facilities and Planning has new stainless steel 6.5 & 13 gallon compost containers available. Please complete a work order to request a bin and/or bin liners.

Q: Are disposable coffee cups recyclable?
A: NO. Coffee cups are trash. Additionally, these other materials are not recyclable:

  • Plastic and paper drink cups
  • Pizza boxes
  • Napkins
  • Candy wrappers

Q: I have a recycling bin in my office, but when it gets full I'm not sure what to do. Who can I call to have it emptied?
A: Place a work order. You can also request more bins if necessary.

Q: What do I do with my shredded paper?
A: You may put small quantities of loose shredding into the mixed paper recycling bins. For larger amounts, please bag it in a paper bag and place with the comingle recycling in your building.

Q: How do I recycle my printer/toner cartridges?
A: Submit a work order. (Please wait until you have 3-5 to recycled before requesting pickup.)

Q: Do I have to remove the paper labels from cans and bottles?
A: No.

Q: Are frozen food packages Recyclable?
A: Frozen food boxes are not recyclable because they are sprayed with a plastic coating that protects the contents against freezer burn (called "wet strength"). Once the material has this coating, it does not break apart as pulp in the cardboard recycling process.

Any wet strength box is not recyclable; however waxed cardboard & pizza boxes are acceptable in the compost/food waste.

In general, regular paperboard boxes are recyclable, so long as:

  • they haven't gotten wet
  • they haven't been exposed to oil or grease (this is why pizza box bottoms aren't recyclable, but can be composted)
  • and the plastic liner (common with food boxes such as cereal or crackers) has been removed.


Q: Is bubble wrap recyclable?
A: Bubble wrap can be recycled on campus. Place a work order or call PSU Recycles! at 503-725-4300 for pick-up.

Many recycling facilities cannot recycle bubble wrap, so check with your district or county before recycling your bubble wrap from home. Why can't it always be recycled? Though bubble wrap is made from No. 7 plastics, the adhesive used to seal the sheets of plastic together are not.

The best thing to do with your old bubble wrap is to reuse it!

  • Store bubble wrap in your closet, and use it for packing your dorm essentials when moving on and off campus in the summer time.
  • Line your tool boxes with bubble wrap to ensure that quality tools remain in mint condition.
  • Use it as winter insulation for patio plants.
  • Many local postal/shipping businesses will take bubble wrap for reuse.
  • For more ideas on what to do with your bubble wrap, check with the Metro Recycling Information Center.


Q: Can plastic bags be recycled on campus?
A: Yes, plastic bags can be recycled on and off campus (in Multnomah county). If you live or work on campus, bundle your plastic bags together and put them in the comingle bin. If you live off campus, the best way to recycle plastic bags is to bring them to stores and supermarkets that have plastic bag collection containers. Safeway, Albertsons, Target, Whole Foods, and many other retailers have collection bins specifically for this purpose. You can find a store location near you by simply using this link: plasticbagrecycling.org. Of course, it is always better to reduce the amount of plastic you consume, so next time when you are out shopping, try bringing your own reusable bag.

Why can't all plastic bags be recycled everywhere? Because different counties use different recycling facilities, and each facility uses different methods for sorting out recyclables. Certain kinds of processes make it difficult for plastic bags to get sorted and as a result, they can get trapped in conveyor belts and cause the machines to jam. When this happens, it is often very difficult and dangerous for workers to pull out those bags.


More info: Metro Recycling Information Center: 503-234-3000

Myths De-bunked

Myth: "Not recycling is cheaper than recycling."
Recycling should always be compared against disposal, since the material still must be transported off campus. "Not recycling" means paying for disposal, and disposal costs are typically much higher than the national average.

Myth: "Since we have plenty of land for landfills, recycling isn't important."
Recycling has many more benefits than simply reducing landfill use, including:

  • Conserving non-renewable natural resources (e.g., trees, oil, minerals, etc.),
  • Reducing energy consumption, and
  • Reducing the pollution and environmental impacts associated with extracting resources from the earth (e.g., clear-cutting, oil drilling, mining, burning coal to melt steel, etc.).

No community wants to be the "host" of other people's trash. The impact of a landfill is greater than simply the space it takes up. As organic matter (anything that was once living) breaks down in a landfill, it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. By reducing the amount of organic material sent to the landfill, through composting and paper recycling, you are helping to reduce greenhouse gasses.

Myth: "Someone else will go through the trash and pull out the recyclables before it goes to the landfill."
Not true! Anything thrown into a trash can usually ends end up in the landfill. The labor required to sort through trash after it has already been mixed is prohibitive and not safe. There are no garbage "fairies" who sort through trash and make it disappear. The only sensible way of separating paper, bottles and cans from trash is at the "source", meaning each person separates items at the time they throw it away. At PSU, we are increasing the number of recycling bins in all buildings to make recycling easy!

Myth: "It's OK to throw something away as long as it's biodegradable."
Biodegradable waste breaks down into methane in the landfill, if at all. It is usually released into the atmosphere, where it is a potent greenhouse gas. A better solution is to recycle the material, or even better, reuse it or reduce its use altogether. Non-biodegradable waste does not produce methane, but it also will not break down in the landfill, and equates to burying still-potentially useful materials, as well as taking up more space. Composting biodegradables is an effective option, but reuse is still preferable whenever possible.