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Recycling during spring cleaning

  • April 04, 2022
Reducing waste is more sustainable than recycling, and there are simple substitutes available to make it happen.
Written by: Tehreem Khan
Media contact: Brianna Hoge

Spring Cleaning StreamReducing waste is more sustainable than recycling, and there are simple substitutes available to make it happen.As people transition from the dark winter into the spring-filled sunshine, it is common for many to engage in a little “spring cleaning.”

While cleaning out the attic, garage and closets, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Sustainability office recommends finding ways to recycle or donate items to be more green while you clean.

What are some commonly trashed items that could be recycled?

Generally, the most recycled items are cardboard, paper, aluminum and plastics; but it is a best practice to verify what can be recycled before beginning the process.

Emily Colpack from UAB’s Sustainability office notes that it is important to remember that not all plastics are recyclable.

“To confirm the type of plastic in an item, look on the bottom for a number in a triangle,” she said. “If there is no number, it is not recyclable, and you can throw it out.”

This extra step is important because recycling incorrect items could contaminate other recyclables.

“Contamination in a recycling stream often means all the recycling with the contamination has to be thrown away.” 

Additional steps to help keep the recycling stream clean includes rinsing any bottles and making sure recycled items are clean and free of any food remains or grease.

Getting started

A simple way to start good recycling habits is to place a recycling container next to the current trash bin with a list of what is and is not recyclable for reminders.

Another first step is to start examining items before tossing them into the recycle bin.

“If there is any plastic on cardboard, like on some pasta boxes for example, you can easily rip the plastic out to ensure the cardboard will get appropriately recycled,” Colpack said.

Zero waste

Reducing waste is more sustainable than recycling and, in some instances, could be easier and cheaper.

“The best sustainable practice is to not have to recycle at all,” Colpack said. Here are some simple ways to reduce waste:

  • Buy laundry strips that will replace your liquid detergent
  • Buy reusable sponges that can be washed in the washing machine for reuse
  • Clean with rags from old T-shirts, or buy reusable paper towels
  • To reduce food waste, composting can help
  • Donate any clothing that you do not actively use

While cleaning out, take note of all you have, whether it is cleaning items, canned food, etc.

“Spring cleaning is an excellent time to take inventory of what you already have — this way, you are less likely to buy duplicates of something you already own,” Colpack said.

Learn more about UAB Sustainability practices here.

Recycling at UAB

On UAB’s campus, cardboard, paper and No. 1 plastic bottles can be recycled.

A lot of cardboard and paper are used throughout the semester to help with studying, and it can be hard to find time to recycle during the semester. Colpack recommends keeping all notes until the end of the semester and then recycling all at once after finals are over.

UAB students can also recycle their laundry detergent packaging in the receptacles provided in the residence halls. Learn more about UAB Sustainability practices here. If you have further questions about recycling, visit the UAB Recycling Center.