Myth Busters: Recycling

By: Liz Essman, No Waste Coordinator

Look for this updated IU recycling packer.
Look for this updated IU recycling packer.

Many recycling opportunities exist on the IU campus and in the city of Bloomington.  While the decision to recycle comes easy to some Hoosiers, the fact remains that recycling can seem confusing and complicated even to the experienced.  Ask those around you how to properly dispose of a plastic bottle, for example, and you get an array of strange and often contradictory answers.  Travel to another town and you hear different responses altogether.  To add to all these rules of recycling, bins can differ in color, shape, and size.  With these inconsistencies in mind, I give to you a list of Bloomington recycling guidelines to bust some of these wives tales and bring closure to the recycling myths on campus.

  1. You must unscrew bottle caps because they will either fly off from air pressure when crushed or they will be sent to the landfill.

  False.  I hear this line the most from seasoned recyclers.  It may be because in the past, most facilities did run into issues with mixed plastics.  Yet changes in technologies allow modern machines to handle combinations without much trouble.

   2. Hot beverage containers are not recyclable.

True.  The wax that protects the inside of the cup from absorbing liquid likewise prevents the paper from being recycled.  Yet the alternative, plastic or Styrofoam cups, are not necessarily better for you or the environment even though they could be recyclable.  That is why it’s best to keep a (BPA-free) water bottle handy on campus.  To add incentive, campus RPS and dining facilities offer a reasonable discount on drinks for providing your own container.

    3. Food containers must be washed out thoroughly before disposal.

 False.  Food containers do not need to be cleaned or even fully emptied before they enter the recycling stream.  As long as you dump out the bulk of the contents first there is no extra need to scrape off every last bit of your old lunch from the container.  Just be warned, if you don’t plan on taking your home recycling out for a while, it could begin to smell.

   4. Inked, printer paper, and labels cannot be recycled.

FalseOnly paper with plastic or wax coating cannot be recycled.  The rest of the stuff should be fine, including Chinese take-out boxes and envelopes.

     5. Grocery bags, pizza boxes, and aluminum foil must be thrown away.

 False.  Bloomington collects grocery bags with the rest of your recyclables.  Or if you prefer, Wal-Mart and other corporate stores offer grocery bag drop-off bins.

Pizza boxes count as paper recycling, but should be free from food contamination.  Removing the soiled portion allows the majority of the box to be recycled and inhibits your waste from becoming bulky.

Recycle aluminum foil with other recyclable metals after rinsing it free from any leftovers.

    6. You can put anything into a recycling bin?

False.  Food, oils, hygiene products, electronic equipment, broken glassware, household glassware in general, hazardous waste, products with a wax coating, plastic wrap, light bulbs, and Styrofoam not labeled with a #6 all belong either in a compost or at the landfill.

There you have it: six myths busted.  Still have questions or know another myth you want busted?  Please check out the City of Bloomington recycling page or contact the IUOS No Waste Coordinator at


4 thoughts on “Myth Busters: Recycling

  1. This was very useful. I often wondered about a lot of these things! It’s good to know I don’t need to completely wipe down all food containers to recycle them.

  2. This is definitely a useful post! You are so right about a lot of seasoned recyclers not knowing some of these. It is really confusing when it’s not consistent from one place to another what items can or cannot be put into certain recycle bin. Thank you for busting some myths!

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