With more than 125 tandem recycling stations positioned around campus and one in every classroom and office, recycling is built into the very fabric of life at CSUSM. The cornerstone of the University’s seven-year reign as grand champions of RecycleMania, last year’s recycling efforts diverted more than 830 tons – or 1.6 million pounds – of solid waste from ever entering the landfill.

“Recycling is part of our culture here at CSUSM, and our continued success is dependent on each of us doing our share to limit our environmental impact and preserve our natural resources,” said Carl Hanson, coordinator of recycling and sustainability at CSUSM.

To celebrate the collective university-wide commitment to sustainability, each fall Cal State San Marcos hosts its annual Thank You for Recycling event, held this year on October 4. The annual celebration also brings awareness to new and ongoing sustainability initiatives happening on campus including composting, sustainable building practices, energy conservation and utility management.

While recycling is one of the University’s most visible practices, it’s not necessarily the most instinctive when it comes to determining if an item is recyclable. Subject to the policies and practices of local waste haulers, standards for recycling can vary. To take the guesswork out of recycling at CSUSM, here is a guide on Recycle This, Not That.

Recycle This: Plastic Cups
Recycle This: Among the most recognizable recyclables are plastic cups, lids, straws, aluminum cans and glass bottles. In 2010, the campus recycled more than 20 tons of these items combined. The EPA reports that recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a television for three hours. In contrast, a can thrown into the landfill will remain unchanged for more than 500 years.

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Not That: Paper Cups
Not That: When it comes to cases of mistaken identity, the biggest offender placed in recycling bins that is in fact not recyclable is the paper cup. Paper cups, like the Starbucks coffee cup, are coated with a thin wax to keep liquids from seeping through the paper fibers, making it unrecyclable. Consider limiting your environmental impact, and save a few cents too, by bringing a reusable mug when purchasing hot beverages from Starbucks, the Coffee Cart or Big Cat Market.

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Recycle This: Cardboard
Recycle This: Corrugated cardboard makes up more than one third of the total weight of recyclables at CSUSM each year. One of the most overlooked pieces of cardboard placed in the trash is the heat band used on coffee cups. Before discarding your hot beverage, be sure to recycle the sleeve.

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Not That: Styrofoam
Not That: Not sold at the University but a common item brought onto campus from local eateries, Styrofoam (also known as polystyrene) cannot be recycled by CSUSM’s waste hauler, EDCO Disposal Services. While the technology for recycling polystyrene is available in a handful of regions nationwide, most Styrofoam ends up in the landfill. In fact, every year Americans throw away nearly 25 billion Styrofoam cups.

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Recycle This: Plastic Containers
Recycle This: A common breakfast item, plastic yogurt containers are recyclable and do not need to be rinsed out before discarding into receptacles. Similarly, plastic plates and cutlery used at special events are also recyclable.

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Not That: Dirty Pizza Boxes, But Recycle the Clean Ones
Not That: Unlike plastics that can be easily cleaned as part of the recycling process, paper that is saturated with food or oils, such as pizza boxes and used napkins or Kleenex, is unable to be recycled because the contaminants destroy the fibers. Paper fibers need to be relatively dry in order to be recreated into post-consumer products. All is not lost on the pizza box though; sections saturated by cheese or grease can be cut and the remaining dry and undamaged pieces recycled.

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Mixed Paper
Recycle This: Mixed paper and paperboard, such as cereal boxes and lightweight packaging, accounts for more than half of the total weight of CSUSM’s annual recycling. As a renewable source, paper can be recycled five times before the fiber is too destroyed to be used again. In addition to notebook and copy paper, window envelopes and even paper with staples and little metal clasps can be recycled.

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Not That: Adhesive Products 
Not That: Commonly misinterpreted as mixed paper, products that use adhesives, such as stickers, post-it notes, tape and labels, are not able to be recycled because of the glue particles. By removing the adhesive sections, only then can the paper be properly recycled.

To learn more about ongoing initiatives on campus, visit Sustainability at CSUSM.

“Recycling is part of our culture here at CSUSM, and our continued success is dependent on each of us doing our share to limit our environmental impact and preserve our natural resources,” said Carl Hanson, coordinator of recycling and sustainability at CSUSM.