Recycling Factoids

Recycling factoids are good reasons for recycling as well as information about the recycling process. These facts are gathered from a variety of sources and where possible, hyperlinks are given to other sites to view the source document or to investigate the commodity further. Any comments or contributions to these pages are welcomed.


  • If you live in the United States or Canada, the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation's web site can tell you the nearest drop off location which will take unwanted, old Ni-Cd batteries. Or you may call 1-800-8-BATTERY to find the nearest retail collection site.
  • Over 2.5 billion small sealed consumer batteries are sold in the United States each year, of which over 350 million are rechargeable Ni-Cd batteries.
  • Rechargeable batteries, "button" batteries, and special use batteries used in cameras, calculators, and other electronic equipment contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, lithium, silver, and cadmium. As products, they pose no threat to health because the heavy metals are contained within the battery housing. Adverse environmental effects arise when these batteries are placed in landfills where the housings will eventually deteriorate and release heavy metals to leach into ground water. These metals are also released when batteries are incinerated in municipal waste incinerators. The metals are not destroyed by the incinerator process, but are either collected in the ash or released as fine particulate through the incinerator stack. In either case, humans and the environment are exposed to these hazardous metals.
  • Cadmium batteries are safe to use. They are also cheap, saving American parents about $1.50 on the average toy, compared with pricier batteries. But cadmium batteries can be hazardous to make. Exposure to cadmium, a toxic metal like mercury and lead, can cause kidney failure, lung cancer and bone disease. As the U.S. and other Western nations tightened their regulation of cadmium, production of nickel-cadmium batteries moved to less-developed countries, most of it eventually winding up in China. China has dozens of so-called "hot spots" where the cadmium contamination is similar to levels at U.S. superfund sites. More that 10% of China's arable land is contaminated with heavy metals such as cadmium, according to the State Environmental Protection Agency, and the metals are entering China's food supply. -from “Toxic Factories Take Toll On China's Labor Force,” by Jane Spencer and Juliet Ye in The Wall Street Journal, 15 Jan 2008
  • Cadmium is classified as a probable human carcinogen. In animals, it is associated with sarcoma, lung cancer, and prostrate cancer. High rates of lung, prostrate, and testicular cancers have also been reported in workers who inhale cadmium on the job - but the question of incineration, cadmium ingestion, and cancer risk remains unexplored. Somewhere between 50 to 75 percent of the cadmium in the waste stream - about thirteen hundred tons - comes from discarded batteries. (from Sandra Steingraber's Living Downstream, 1997)
  • "The Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act of 1996" was signed into law to encourage collection and recycling of rechargeables. It establishes uniform national labeling requirements with a recycling phrase appropriate to its electrode chemistries. Manufacturers were required to be in compliance in May 1998.
  • Recycling batteries is an expensive operation for St. Thomas. Many batteries pose a threat to our health and the environment. The best option is to avoid using battery operated items when possible. The next best option is to use rechargeable batteries, mercury-free carbon zinc, or low-level mercury batteries.
  • Motor vehicle batteries contain about 18 pounds of lead and about one gallon of corrosive lead-contaminated sulfuric acid. Each year, an estimated 70 million spent lead-acid batteries are generated in the U.S. That's 1.25 billion pounds of lead and 70 million gallons of sulfuric acid! An estimated 250,000 lead-acid batteries are improperly disposed of in Minnesota each year, potentially releasing over 4 million pounds of lead and 250,000 gallons of sulfuric acid into the environment.
  • Under state law, all places that sell lead-acid batteries are required to accept up to five used batteries per consumer, free of charge, whether you are a customer or not. For more information about lead-acid batteries, contact the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PDF).
  • Nickel-metal hydride, NiMH, rechargeable batteries are considered safer than nickel cadmium, NiCd, batteries, because of the absence of the heavy metal cadmium. Nickel is easily recyclable but as yet there is little interest from processors in accepting these batteries for recycling. We anticipate that situation may change as the use of NiMH batteries grows.


  • Books are a very recyclable commodity. Buying used course books reduces paper consumption and reduces the strain on tight student budgets. Used course books may be sold and purchased from the UST Bookstore (962-6850)
  • Public libraries are outstanding examples of community recycling. One book can be read by hundreds if not thousands of people. The use of library books reduces the consumption of our environmental resources. Check out the nearby Saint Paul Public Libraries the next time you are looking for a good read!
  • St. Paul has a wealth of book stores who buy and sell used books. Some stores in the UST vicinity worth investigating for your reading needs or for the cash value of unwanted books include:
    Midway Book Store 1579 University Ave.
    Half Price Books 2041 Ford Parkway
    Cheapo Books 80 Snelling Ave. N.
  • Books for Africa, the designated charity for UST textbooks, gives our donated books to schools and libraries in 18 African countries including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Eritrea, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Nigeria, Liberia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Namibia, Zambia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Malawi, and South Africa. It is estimated that 25 Africans will read each book sent.

Cans, aluminum and other metal recycling

  • Every year Minnesotans buy more than 2 billion aluminum beverage cans. An astounding 60 percent of those cans are tossed in the garbage; that’s 3.6 million cans thrown away every day. -MPCA NextStep e-newsletter, 27 Aug 2013
  • According to the EPA, recycling just 1 ton of aluminum cans rather than throwing them away conserves more than 207 million BTUs, the equivalent of 36 barrels of oil or 1,655 gallons of gasoline.
  • Recycling steel and tin cans saves between 60 and 74 percent of the energy used to produce them from raw materials. Recycling one aluminum beverage can saves enough energy to run a 100 watt bulb for 20 hours, a computer for 3 hours, or a TV for 2 hours. from EPA WasteWise
  • To produce a ton of aluminum from scratch requires five tons of bauxite and 16,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity. With recycling, you need a ton of old cans and just 750 kilowatt-hours of electricity.
  • In 1974, 22.7 cans equaled a pound of aluminum. By 1995, it increased to 32 cans per pound. In 1997, according to figures released by the Aluminum Association, the Can Manufacturers Institute, and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, 32.57 cans are now made from one pound of aluminum. Lighter cans!
  • Americans trash about half of the over 100 billion container cans they purchase each year. In 2002, 51.6 billion used aluminum beverage cans (UBCs) were landfilled or littered (140 million every day), and the recycling rate for cans sunk to its lowest point since 1980. In April, the Aluminum Association, a Washington-based industry trade group, announced that the year 2002 UBC recycling rate was 53.4%. However, when the data are adjusted for the 5.3 billion imported scrap cans that were not originally sold in the United States, the actual domestic UBC recycling rate was 48.4%--lower than the 2001 rate of 49.2%. -from reports published by the Container Recycling Institute
  • The Aluminum Association, the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) has released statistics indicating that Americans and can recycling industries recycled 51.5 billion aluminum cans in 2004, for a beverage can recycling rate of 51.2 percent. This reflects a 1.2 percent increase from the 2003 rate and the first increase since 1997
  • Brazil recycled 89 percent of all aluminum cans sold in the country in 2003, maintaining the world record in aluminum can recycling for the third consecutive year among those countries where can recycling is voluntary. The 89-percent recycling rate corresponds to a volume of 112,000 metric tons of aluminum, or 8.2 billion cans, according to data compiled by Brazilian aluminum association Associação Brasiliera do Alumínio (Abal) and Brazilian canmakers' association Associação Brasileira dos Fabricantes de Latas de Alta Reciclabilidade. -from the Aluminum Association May '05
  • Aluminum cans are relatively new to Brazil. They were introduced only in 1990, when the Skol brewery began using them to provide a smaller, more convenient alternative to the traditional 600-milliliters (22-ounce), glass bottles. Since then, the market for aluminum cans has grown more than 3,000 percent, and recycling them has become a $110 million a year industry that employs an estimated 150,000 people, the aluminum association says. –from "Brazil poised to join top ranks of can recyclers,, 3 Jan 2001
  • The U.S. is going from a world leader in used beverage can (UBC) recycling to an also-ran. The U.S. 2001 55.4 percent UBC recycling rate places it well behind neighboring Canada (70 percent) and distantly trailing Brazil with its 85 percent rate. Report from Recycling Today, 25 Sep 02
  • The recycling of aluminum beverage containers declined in 2001 with a recycling rate of 55.4 percent. According to the Aluminum Association about 55.6 billion used beverage containers (UBCs) were recycled in the U.S. last year, a decline of more than 11 per cent from the recycling level in 2000. It was the first time in a decade that the rate has dipped below 60%.
  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 1999, 3.1 million tons of aluminum (all types) was generated in the United States. In the same year, 0.9 million tons of aluminum was recovered through recycling giving a recovery rate of 27.8%
  • The average aluminum can contains more than 50 percent post-consumer recycled content.
  • The aluminum beverage can returns to the grocer's shelf as a new, filled can in as little as 90 days after collection, remelting, rolling, manufacturing, and distributing. A consumer could purchase the same basic recycled can every 13 weeks or 4 times a year.
  • Tin cans are actually 99% steel with a thin layer of tin added to prevent rusting.
  • Every day Americans use enough steel and tin cans to make a steel pipe running from Los Angeles to New York... and back!
  • Steel cans package 97% of canned food on the market.
  • There are more than 70 end markets for steel cans, recycling more than 104 pounds of steel cans per second according to the Steel Recycling Institute's 1997 figures.
  • According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, 43% of the copper, 32% of the aluminum, 55% of the lead, and 19% of the zinc needed as raw materials in the U.S. are supplied by "scrap" recycling.
  • The U.S. is the world's largest exporter of scrap metal. There are about 12,000 auto dismantlers and 250 shredders in the country. Virtually every automobile and three of four appliances are recycled. Much of our steel scrap has been shipped overseas for steel smelters in countries such as Japan and Turkey. According to Recycling Today, the trend is changing. The dearth of gondola rail cars has made off shore scrap shipping more economically attractive, but the railroads understand their loss of business and are moving to remedy the situation. There is also increasing demand from scrap processors in the Midwest/Great Lakes and Northeast regions to high tonnage mini-mills in the south.
  • The St. Thomas Recycling Center uses a magnetic conveyer belt to separate aluminum cans from steel ones. The aluminum cans are crushed in a crusher so more cans can be stored between deliveries to the processor.


  • Three quarters of all U.S. paper recycled comes from corrugated and paperboard packaging according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency's most recent report on Municipal Solid Waste in the U.S. stated that paper and paperboard recovery as a percent of generation 2006 was 51.6% or 44 million tons. Paper waste which includes cardboard accounts for the largest component of U.S. solid waste at 33.9% of the total. We can recycle more!
  • "Yellow corrugated" is corrugated cardboard that is yellowish in color and weaker than other corrugated boxes. It is made from heavily recycled fibers that have lost much of their fiber length and as a result, much of their strength. The Pacific rim countries are a source of much of this cardboard and it is considered a contaminant by many paper processors.
  • Corrugated cardboard is recycled into more corrugated cardboard or into paperboard or boxboard.
  • Paperboard is defined as paper more than 0.3 millimeters thick. Paperboard or boxboard is not corrugated cardboard. It used to be collected separately as part of residential mixed paper programs. Since Eureka Recycling took over residential recycling for both St. Paul and Minneapolis, recycling has gone into a two stream format and boxboard and cardboard is collected in the fiber stream.
  • Recycled paperboard is made from a combination of recycled fibers from various grades of paper stock, with 100 percent of its furnish being recycled fibers. Recycled paperboard represents the largest end use of recovered paper products such as old corrugated containers, old newspapers and mixed office papers. Recycled paperboard is used to manufacture products such as boxboard, folding cartons, set-up boxes, cores, tubes, and cans, book and binder covers, file folders, partitions, game boards, toys, and blister packaging. Many of the products found on grocery store shelves, including cereals, crackers and other dry foods, soaps, detergents, and personal care items, are packaged in recycled paperboard.
  • The 100% Recycled Paperboard Alliance (RPA-100%) is a consortium of two-thirds of the U.S. and Canadian recycled paperboard producers formed in 1994 to promote the benefits and increase the use of 100% recycled paperboard. Because of the growing ambiguity and misuse of the recycling chasing arrows symbol, RPA-100% uses its own trademarked symbol for products and packaging made from 100% recycled paperboard. Part of the alliance's goal is to educate consumers on the importance of buying recycled and to provide them with easy ways to locate products with recycled material. Look for this symbol if you would like to encourage 100% recycled boxboard.
  • St. Thomas uses five cardboard balers in its recycling operations. They are located at the Physical Plant, Binz, Murray/Herrick, and two at the Minneapolis campus (Murphy Hall and the Minneapolis Law School).
  • From The Recycling Association of Minnesota: You might not know it, but when you go to the grocery store you’re probably buying plenty of products in recycled content packaging. One of the key recycled paper items at the grocery store is paperboard. It also goes by the name “boxboard” or “chipboard.” You’ll see paperboard boxes for cereal, baking products, pasta, crackers, cookies, snacks, and other products. Manufacturers of recycled paperboard use a lot of paper that you recycle. The Rock-Tenn paperboard mill in St. Paul uses 350,000 tons of recycled paper every year!


  • On May 8, 2007, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty signed a new law for the collection and recycling of video display devices sold to households/consumers: televisions, computer monitors, and laptop computers. Manufacturers of video display devices (VDD) will register and pay a fee to the state, and collect and recycle VDD from households/consumers in Minnesota. The program began July 1, 2007. Minnesota Electronic Recycling Act
  • The computer, monitor and keyboard sitting on your desk are classified as post-consumer hazardous waste. They contain materials such as the lead in the glass of the monitor's cathode ray tube, silver, the lead solder in older CPU boards, and PCBs in some electronic components, all of which must be kept out of our landfills.
  • "In the United States, electronic waste has been less of a legislative priority. One of only three countries to sign but not ratify the Basel Convention (the other two are Haiti and Afghanistan), it does not require green design or take-back programs of manufacturers, though a few states have stepped in with their own laws... The result of the federal hands-off policy is that the greater part of e-waste sent to domestic recyclers is shunted overseas. 'We in the developed world get the benefit from these devices,' says Jim Puckett, head of Basel Action Network, or BAN, a group that opposes hazardous waste shipments to developing nations. 'But when our equipment becomes unusable, we externalize the real environmental costs and liabilities to the developing world.'" -Chris Carroll, "High-Tech Trash," National Geographic, Jan 08
  • Studies estimate that 315 to 600 million desktop and laptop computers in the U.S. will soon be obsolete. Discarded computers and other consumer electronics (so called e-waste) are the fastest growing portion of our waste stream -- growing almost 3 times faster than our overall municipal waste stream. One report estimates that a pile of these obsolete computers would reach a mile high and cover six acres. That's the same as a 22-story pile of e-waste covering the entire 472 square miles of the City of Los Angeles. -Computer Take Back Campaign 2006
  • In the United States, it is estimated that more than 70 percent of discarded computers and monitors, and well over 80 percent of TVs, eventually end up in landfills, despite a growing number of state laws that prohibit dumping of e-waste, which may leak lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, beryllium, and other toxics into the ground. Meanwhile, a staggering volume of unused electronic gear sits in storage—about 180 million TVs, desktop PCs, and other components as of 2005, according to the EPA. -Chris Carroll, "High-Tech Trash," National Geographic, Jan 08
  • The 315 million or more computers that have or will become obsolete contain a total of more than 1.2 billion pounds of lead. About 40% of the heavy metals, including lead, mercury and cadmium, in landfills come from electronic equipment discards. The health effects of lead are well known; just 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury can contaminate 20 acres of a lake, making the fish unfit to eat. -Computer Take Back Campaign 2006
  • Only about 10 percent of all discarded computers are recycled in the U.S., meaning millions of computers could be leaking harmful chemicals into groundwater. Some states, like Massachusetts, ban TV sets and computer monitors from landfills outright. -Tom Krazit, "Trash that computer in an eco-friendly way," CNET News, 26 April 06
  • The Basel Action Network, a U.S. group campaigning for a crack-down on hazardous waste, said last year 500 containers of computers were being shipped into Lagos every month. As many as 75 per cent of these ended up being dumped and burned, releasing hazardous fumes that can contain lead, cadmium, barium, beryllium, mercury and brominated flame retardants used in computer manufacture. The United Nations estimates that 20 to 50 million tonnes of electronic waste is produced every year, and checks by an European watchdog last year showed that 48 per cent of EU waste exports were illegal. -Oliver Bullough, “African deaths highlight illegal toxic-waste trade,” The Toronto Star, 27 Sep 06
  • A groundbreaking investigation by an international coalition of environmental organizations has revealed that huge quantities of hazardous electronic wastes (E-wastes) are being exported to China, Pakistan and India where they are processed in operations that are extremely harmful to human health and the environment… The investigation uncovered an entire area known as Guiyu in Quangdong Province, surrounding the Lianjiang River just 4 hours drive northeast of Hong Kong where about 100,000 poor migrant workers are employed breaking apart and processing obsolete computers imported primarily from North America. The workers were found to be using 19th century technologies to clean up the wastes from the 21st century. The operations involve men, women and children toiling under primitive conditions, often unaware of the health and environmental hazards involved in operations which include open burning of plastics and wires, riverbank acid works to extract gold, melting and burning of toxic soldered circuit boards and the cracking and dumping of toxic lead laden cathode ray tubes. The investigative team witnessed many tons of the E-waste simply being dumped along rivers, in open fields and irrigation canals in the rice growing area. Already the pollution in Guiyu has become so devastating that well water is no longer drinkable and thus water has to be trucked in from 30 kilometers away for the entire population. -Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, "High-Tech Toxic Trash From USA Found to be Flooding Asia," News Release, 25 Feb 02
  • It is estimated over 130 million cellular phones are being disposed of annually. According to Inform Inc, many consumers also store old cell phones because they are unsure of how to discard them and it is estimated that may add 500 million cell phones to the situation. With toxic elements like lead and mercury found in each mobile unit, it is important to keep cell phones out of landfills and incinerators.
  • According to industry figures, cellphone use in the United States has surged, to more than 128 million subscribers last year from 340,000 in 1985. Typically, each phone is used for 18 months before being dropped for a newer model. That is starting to add up to a huge amount of waste, says Inform, an environmental organization that issued a report this year on old phones. The Environmental Protection Agency helped finance the study. By 2005, the report estimates, 130 million cellphones will be thrown out each year. Counting the phones, batteries and chargers, that comes to 65,000 tons a year, the report said. Although some phones may just stay unused in desk drawers, the report said, most will end up in landfills or being incinerated. "This is becoming a very serious problem, because the amount of cellphone waste is growing tremendously," said Eric Most, director of the solid waste prevention program at Inform. "These chemicals accumulate and persist in the environment. They get in the plants, soil, water, and then move up the stream to humans." -Anahad O’Connor, “Environmentalists Identify New Menace: Discarded Cellphones,” New York Times 8 Oct 02
  • "In general, computer equipment is a complicated assembly of more than 1,000 materials, many of which are highly toxic, such as chlorinated and brominated substances, toxic gases, toxic metals, biologically active materials, acids, plastics and plastic additives. The health impacts of the mixtures and material combinations in the products often are not known. The production of semiconductors, printed circuit boards, disk drives and monitors uses particularly hazardous chemicals, and workers involved in chip manufacturing are now beginning to come forward and reporting cancer clusters. In addition, new evidence is emerging that computer recyclers have high levels of dangerous chemicals in their blood." (from Just Say No to E-Waste: Background Documents on Hazards and Waste from Computers) from The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition 12/10/99
  • According to Eric Buechel, president of Advanced Recovery, a Belleville, New Jersey electronics recycling company, a single computer monitor with its lead-based glass cathode ray tube has more lead in it than all of the old paint in an average New England Home (cited in Resource Recycling, August '98)
  • Huge quantities of hazardous electronic wastes are being exported to China, Pakistan and India where they are processed in operations that are extremely harmful to human health and the environment according to a report by an international coalition of environmental organizations. The operations involve men, women and children toiling under primitive conditions, often unaware of the health and environmental hazards involved in operations which include open burning of plastics and wires, riverbank acid works to extract gold, melting and burning of toxic soldered circuit boards and the cracking and dumping of toxic lead laden cathode ray tubes. The organizations behind the investigation - the international Basel Action Network (BAN) and the California community group Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC), with support from Toxics Link India, Greenpeace China and SCOPE (Pakistan) - document numerous areas where the remains of America's high-tech revolution poison the land and water on which local people depend. The investigative team saw tons of electronic wastes being dumped along rivers, in open fields and irrigation canals in the rice growing area. -Cat Lazaroff, "High-Tech U.S. Trash Floods Asia," at Environment News Service
  • Computer components may contain small amounts of gold, silver, and platinum in the printed wiring boards and connectors. But the metal is difficult to separate from the rest of the materials, some of which may be hazardous. For this reason, all electronic components which are no longer usable should be sent to an area processor such as Asset Recovery, 2299 Territorial Rd., St. Paul, MN 55114 or Retrofit Recycling, 2960 Yorkton Blvd., Little Canada, MN 55117 or Veolia [formerly Vasko Rubbish], 309 Como Ave., St. Paul, MN 55103. There is a charge for this service.
  • "While many arguments can be made about how computers save energy (fossil fuels used in transportation are saved by telecommuting, microprocessor energy management systems save heating and cooling energy in buildings, tiny computers save gasoline in new automobiles), the rapidly increasing number of computers and printers exerts a huge new demand on energy resources. Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory estimate power consumption from typical office computing to equal the demand of lighting, which historically has been the largest single consumer of electricity. Add to this the increased costs of cooling the building in which the computers are located." from How to Make Compu-Stew from Environmental Education on the Internet, 10/17/98
  • One of the primary recipient of UST reusable electronic components has been the Detwiler Foundation. In 1996 the Detwiler Foundation became the Computers for Schools Foundation. The Computers For Schools Foundation is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing affordable computer resources for education. They take donated equipment, groom them for educational use and make them available to schools as well as non-profits on a cost recovery basis. Their toll-free phone number is 800-939-6000.
  • Instead of dumping unwanted equipment, consider donating your reusable electronic components directly to a nonprofit or local school. There's a huge demand for working computers, but you have to find out who needs them. The public libraries maintain directories of nonprofit organizations in our local area. Read through their listings to locate an organization you would like to support and give them a call. Good places to check are favorite charities, trade schools that teach computer repair, schools, and religious institutions. If you have a favorite charity, such as the United Way or Goodwill Industries, call its local administrative offices and ask if donations are welcome. Many local offices of United Way and Goodwill accept donations but may require systems meet certain configuration and functional requirements. After having too many junk electronics dumped on them, charitable organizations are much more cautious in accepting electronic donations.
  • Whenever possible, the University of St. Thomas donates its unwanted but useable electronics to non-profits who are registered under Minnesota state tax laws. Other electronics are given to licensed re-processsors who charge UST for their services.


  • Fluorescent and HID lamps are our best environmental choice. Compared to an incandescent, the power plant energy used over the lifetime of a 28-watt fluorescent produces 1,020 pounds less carbon dioxide and three pounds less nitrogen.
  • Minnesota restricts the sale, use and disposal of products containing mercury. On Aug 1, 2007, a law sponsored by Rep. Melissa Hortman ( DFL-Brooklyn Park ) and Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville), requires that fluorescent light bulbs be recycled in the state.
  • Fluorescent and HID lamps use 50% less electrical energy. In Minnesota, 69 percent of our electricity is generated by coal-burning power plants. Since coal contains trace amounts of mercury, coal-burning power plants release mercury into the atmosphere. Approximately half the mercury discharges in Minnesota are from coal-burning power plants. The less electricity we use, the less mercury is released to the atmosphere.
  • Fluorescent lights last longer and cost less to run than incandescent lights. While they may be more expensive up front, the purchase price is only a small part of the cost of the light. For example, replacing one 100 watt bulb with a compact fluorescent of equivalent light intensity can save as much as $50 over the lifetime of the compact fluorescent bulb.
  • 100% of the material in collected fluorescent lamps is recyclable. The mercury, glass and metal are reused in other products.
  • State officials estimate that Minnesotans throw away 10 million fluorescent light bulbs every year. Discarded fluorescents are responsible for putting about 173 pounds of mercury annually into our state environment.
  • When mercury-containing products, such as fluorescent lamps, are placed in the household trash, the mercury may be released to the environment from waste incinerators or from landfills. Mercury is a heavy metal that evaporates easily and travels long distances in the atmosphere before falling to soil and water when it rains. Mercury builds up in fish tissue and increases in concentration as it is transferred along the aquatic food chain. Mercury that has accumulated in fish tissue can be passed on to wildlife and to humans who eat the fish or the wildlife. Mercury affects the central nervous system in humans. The good news: according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency mercury pollution is decreasing in Minnesota.
  • Any institution that replaces or removes from service the equivalent of more than 1000 four-foot fluorescent lamps per year must have a hazardous waste generator license from Ramsey County and a waste storage license from the state. UST has these licenses.

Food Waste

  • In 2006, UST kept 87 tons or an average of 7.25 tons of food waste every month out of the landfills by recycling.
  • Food waste accounts for 13% of Minnesota garbage.
  • quotes an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report about research indicating food waste from U.S. households has tripled in two decades. A study by the University of Arizona Garbage Project found that Americans throw away 1.3 pounds of food every day, or 474.5 pounds annually, compared with 1980s estimates that each household threw away 3 pounds of garbage per week or 156 pounds annually.
  • "Each year, about 27 percent of America's food gets thrown out, with more than 300 pounds of food per person ending up in landfills. The costs for municipalities alone to dispose of such food exceeds $1 billion in local tax funds annually. The tipping fees and disposal costs that businesses pay to dispose of excess food also adds to the overall amount of money that American society spends to dispose of such food. The annual value of this excess food is estimated at around $31 billion." -Economic Research Service, USDA, Estimating and Addressing America’s Food Losses, 1997
  • "In the United States, we not only produce an abundance of food, we waste an enormous amount of it. More than one quarter of America’s food, or about 96 billion pounds of food a year, goes to waste--in fields, commercial kitchens, manufacturing plants, markets, schools, and restaurants. While not all of this excess food is edible, much of it is and could be going to those who need it. Food waste is not only unfortunate in terms of the lost opportunity to feed hungry Americans but also in terms of the negative effects on our environment. The nation spends an estimated $1 billion a year to dispose of excess food. That is a waste of both food and money, however not all food is appropriate for human consumption. Livestock farmers use some excess as animal feed. Renderers and other businesses recycle many forms of excess food into other products. Food scraps can be composted to create a valuable fertilizer. A food waste reduction hierarchy--feeding people first, then animals, then recycling, then composting--serves to show how productive use can be made of much of the excess food that is currently contributing to leachate and methane formation in landfills." -Carol Browner, Administrator of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, & Dan Glickman, Secretary of U.S. Department of Agriculture, Waste Not, Want Not: Feeding the Hungry and Reducing Solid Waste Through Food Recovery
  • The following national organizations oversee food recovery projects or provide technical assistance:
    Second Harvest
    Society of St. Andrew
    Gleanings for the Hungry
    Congressional Hunger Center
    The Chef and the Child Foundation
  • Thirteen state-licensed food waste recyclers consume an estimated 4000 tons monthly of leftovers from commercial sources to feed livestock in Minnesota.
  • By state law, food recyclers must boil the food waste for 30 minutes before it can be fed to livestock to prevent the spread of disease.
  • It is possible to compost commercial food waste using it just as you would fertilizer. The Minnesota Technical Assistance Program, MnTAP, offers an informative fact sheet on the subject.


  • Container glass is 100% recyclable; it never wears out and can be recycled again and again.
  • According to the EPA WasteWise, the energy saved from recycling one glass bottle will operate a 100-watt light bulb for four hours.
  • It takes approximately 1 million years for a glass bottle to break down at the landfill.
  • Producing glass from virgin materials requires 30 percent more energy than producing it from crushed, used glass. -EPA WasteWise
  • According to the Glass Packaging Institute, in 2003, glass made up 5.3% of the municipal solid waste stream by weight, and of that, a full 22% of glass containers were recycled.
  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2003, 12.5 million tons of glass was generated in the United States and 2.4 million tons of glass was recovered through recycling giving a recovery rate of 18.8%.
  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau (PDF), in 2004, the U.S. produced 241.3 million glass containers. In 2003, the total production of glass containers amounted to 244.2 million.
  • In 1995 in the U.S., post-consumer glass made up more than 25% of the content of new bottles.
  • "Refilling glass bottles that weigh 10.5 ounces 25 times uses 93% less glass than packaging beverages in one-way glass bottles that wiegh 5.9 ounces and hold the same volume of liquid. Likewise a refillable bottle that makes 25 trips consumes 93% less energy than extracting raw materials and manufacturing new glass bottles." from Choose to Reuse by Nikki & David Goldbeck, 1995
  • The glass industry produces 36 billion containers annually. In 1996, there were more than 500,000 tons of glass refillable containers in use.
  • Nearly 650,000 tons of recovered glass in 1996 was used in non-container applications such as glassphalt, road filler and fiberglass.
  • Over a ton of resources is saved for every ton of glass recycled -- 1,330 pounds of sand, 433 pounds of soda ash, 433 pounds of limestone, and 151 pounds of feldspar. Also a ton of glass produced from raw materials creates 384 pounds of mining waste. Using 50% recycled glass cuts the waste by 75%.
  • "The price of recyclable glass is determined mainly by the batch cost of competitive virgin raw materials, principally silica, soda ash and limestone. With the cost of these feedstocks declining over the past several years, cullet suppliers have seen lower prices for recovered glass." -Jerry Powell, "Is the glimmer in glass recycling gone forever?" Resource Recycling, Sept 2001
  • Recycling glass saves landfill space, reduces pollution caused by the mining of raw materials, reduces air pollution from higher furnace temperatures needed to make virgin glass, and extends furnace life.
  • Glass is most valuable when separated by color in order to increase its value to recycling markets. The U.S. consumer has been resistant to a "mixed-color" container bottle so bottlers want clear glass. Clear glass is the least resistant to contamination from brown and green glass. As a result, a technology has developed of glass optical sorters that can sort glass with optical scanners and precision air jets.
  • If you travel down the nations highways and biways, odds are increasing that where the rubber meets the road it will be doing so over glassphalt. Increasingly, recycled glass is being used in place of sand to make asphalt. Also recycled glass is being used in some areas instead of crushed stone several layers below the road surface.
  • Processed glass or glass sand is being used very successfully in filtration systems. Glass sand performs better than regular sand because of its angularity. Water goes through glass sand faster than regular sand. It filters just as effectively as sand but with much less clogging.
  • Recycled glass is now being used instead of sand in sandblasting. It is environmentally safer because there is no harmful silica dust released by glass as there is by the use of regular sand. Silica dust is a health hazard for sandblasters since it greatly increases the risk of silicosis, a chronic lung condition.

Magazines & Mixed Paper

  • Every year, nearly 17 billion catalogs are mailed to American consumers or 59 catalogs for every woman, man, and child in the U.S. Catalog sales were $118 billion in 2001 but very few of the catalog companies used any recycled paper. According to a 14 Nov 02 news article in the Sacramento Bee, the Environmental Defense is urging people to contact their catalog companies about increasing the use of recycled paper.
  • The magazine publishing and distribution industries display twice as many copies of magazines at newstands and retail outlets as are purchased. As a result, almost 50% of all magazines are returned, shredded, recycled, or disposed of without a single consumer use.
  • Glossy paper is virgin or recycled paper covered on one or both sides with a clay coating. This produces either a glossy or matte finish, and somewhat sharper images.
  • When recycled, the clay in glossy paper binds with ink and reduces brightness in the recycled products from mixed paper. Consequently, shiny paper has less value as a recycled commodity. The UST Recycling Team separates mixed paper from office or ledger paper in order to get the best market price for our paper recycling. Glossy paper is still recycled, but at present, we receive no money for glossy paper.
  • Mixed paper (glossy paper, catalogs, window envelopes, junk mail, etc.) is used to make products such as packaging boxes for cereal, crackers, cake mixes, and detergent; department store gift boxes; brown paper towels; paper towel rolls; tablet backs.
  • Holiday and birthday gift wrapping or tissue paper cannot be recycled. Most wrapping papers have some kind of decoration, coating, foil, glitter or other additives that make them difficult to recycle. The fibers in tissue paper are too short to be recycled into new paper. Avoid using nonrecyclable wrappings and instead use reusable containers, boxes or bags to present your gifts.
  • Do you have unwanted magazines available for recycling? Bridge to Asia, a nonprofit that sends donated reading materials to libraries in developing countries, can get your unwanted magazines to countries such as China, Vietnam, Laos, Mongolia, and Cambodia. They are particularly interested in "information-rich" magazines such as National Geographic, American Scholar, Atlantic, Commonweal, Economist, The Nation, New England Journal of Medicine, New Yorker, Science, and the Smithsonian. Send your magazines (in the west U.S.) to Bridge to Asia, c/o Osgood Warehouse Services, Pier 23, San Francisco, CA 94111 or (in the east U.S.) c/o Follett Campus Resources, 2211 West Street, Suite F, River Grove IL 60171-1800
  • By some estimates four million tons of junk mail is mailed to Americans every year; of that total, 44% of all junk mail is thrown in the trash, unopened and unread. As much as 3% of the volume of U.S. landfills is filled with junk mail.
  • Mailing lists are sold by many mail-order companies, credit card companies and magazine subscription departments. Even the postal service sells address lists of people who have recently moved. It is not easy to get off of some of the lists. The National Waste Prevention Coalition Junk Mail Reduction Project has an excellent site for an answer to the question, "What can I do to receive less unwanted mail?"
  • To to get your name removed from the mailing lists of members of the Direct Marketing Association, send a letter or postcard with your name and address and a note requesting to be removed from their member list:

    Mail Preference Service
    Direct Marketing Association
    PO Box 9008
    Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008
  • It is important to check the labels on your mail to include all variations of your name when requesting that it be removed from direct marketing lists. Lists are updated quarterly so it may take a while to notice a reduction in your volume of mail. Your request is good for five years.


  • Newspapers are the largest single category of material collected in residential recycling programs. Almost 69% of all old newspapers in the United States were recovered and recycled in 1999, representing more than 9 million tons of old newspapers out of a total supply of nearly 13 million tons according to the Newspaper Association of America. However, after recycling, Americans still trashed over 4 million tons of old newsprint in the year.
  • Dr. James Burke, CEO of SP Newsprint, Atlanta, told attendees of the June 2002 Paper Conference Recycling & Trade Show in New Orleans, "The print-on-paper publishing business is in a long-term decline in the U.S." Burke presented statistics to support his claim, including a leap in the number of U.S. paper mill closings each year since 1997. While in the early 1990s just two to five paper mills closed each year, since then the closings have come at a staggering pace: 12 in 1997, 16 in 1998, seven in 1999, 16 in 2000 and 21 mills in 2001. “There’s been only once newsprint machine built in the U.S. in the last 10 years,” Burke stated. He also noted that since 1980, the number of newsprint mills in the U.S. has declined from 79 to 55. Reported in Recycling Today 26 Mar 02
  • The Internet boom that increased advertising demand helped bring newsprint consumption back to 13.2 million tons last year, but with that bonanza over and circulation continuing to slip, market conditions are particularly difficult for newsprint makers right now. The overall slowdown in the economy also is dragging newspaper advertising volume lower, while energy costs for running the mills and plants have jumped. Battles to maintain newspaper readership against competition from television and the Internet get more challenging with time. Add to that a consolidation in the North American newsprint industry by Abitibi-Consolidated, which became the planet's biggest producer with acquisitions in 1997 and 2000…"Some so-called experts say it's a mature market and the expectations for the next five years are slightly declining or flat," said Denis Leclerc, Abitibi manager of public affairs. "So we have to face that situation. That's why we're permanently closing mills and machines." Since the Donohue acquisition last year, Abitibi-Consolidated has cut production by 400,000 metric tons. It announced the final step in that reduction last week, saying it would permanently shut down one of three newsprint machines at its Kenora, Ontario, mill and idle the other two for the summer, cutting 147 jobs and putting 333 others temporarily out of work. -Tom Cohen, "Major newsprint supplier scales back operations" 31 May 2001
  • Recycling a single printing of the Sunday edition of the New York Times could leave 75,000 trees standing.
  • Everyday in the U.S. about 60 million newspapers are sold. The Newspaper Association of America publishes "the industry's statistical bible" with the most current information about the newspaper business. The NAA reported over twelve million tons of newsprint were consumed in 1999. Over 1,483 daily newspapers were published in the U.S. in that year.
  • According to Smurfit-Stone, more old newspaper was recovered in the U.S. than our domestic newsprint manufacturers produced in 1995.
  • Newspaper prices have been very volatile in the last two years peaking locally at an average of $116 a ton in early 1995 for old newspaper but currently bringing little or no revenue to the UST recycling program. When prices were high, processors made more effort at collection resulting in more supply than demand. Large stockpiles of newspaper still exist depressing the old newspaper markets.
  • Old newspaper is turned into new newsprint, paperboard, packaging, construction paper, cellulose insulation for construction materials, and bedding for farm animals.


  • Recycling a ton of recycled paper saves 15 to 17 mature trees in paper production. Manufacturing one ton of office and computer paper with recycled paper stock can save between 3,000 and 4,000 kilowatt hours over the same ton of paper made with virgin wood products. from EPA WasteWise
  • Production of recycled paper uses 80% less water, 65% less energy and produces 95% less air pollution than virgin paper production.
  • By weight in 2006, over 34% of our U.S. garbage is paper according to the EPA.
  • The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) reported that in 2004 the U.S. reached an all-time high of recovering 50.3 million tons of paper and paperboard. The overall U.S. paper recovery rate was 49.5% [quoted in Recycling Today, Oct 05]. The EPA reported a recovery of 44 million tons of paper and paperboard out of 85.3 million tons generated. [EPA: Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States ] We've lost ground!
  • A typical office worker goes through roughly 100–200 pounds of paper annually. The United States leads the world in paper use, but not in recycling (although we're improving). According to the EPA, paper in its various forms accounts for 40 percent of all U.S. solid waste. Office paper constitutes one quarter of that; we still throw away more than 80 percent of the paper used in the workplace. In 2000, Americans recovered 48 percent of the paper we use for recycling, totaling roughly 50 million tons, an all-time record. We still trail such countries as Japan and Germany, each of which boasts paper recycling rates in the low-to mid-50-percent range." from Chris Lotspeich, "Choosing Environmentally Preferable Paper"
  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency, paper and paperboard are 35% or the waste stream in the U.S., the largest component of materials thrown away. In 2003, 40 million tons of paper and paperboard was recovered through recycling giving a recovery rate of 48%, one of the highest rates for any commodity recycled.
  • There are gross inequities in access to paper. The United States, with less than 5 percent of the world's population, consumes 30 percent of the world's paper. Each year industrial countries use an average of 164 kilograms per person, while developing countries use just 18 kilograms per person (United States 335 kg/person/year, Japan 249, Germany 192, Brazil 39, China 27, India 4). However, usage is growing rapidly in some developing countries:
    between 1980 and 1997, consumption in Indonesia rose more than seven-fold, in China more than five-fold, and more than four-fold in South Korea and Thailand. Information from The Worldwatch Institute
  • According to the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA), Americans recover for reuse a third of all the paper recovered in the world. This volume, enables U.S. papermakers to recycle enough paper each year to fill a 15-mile-long train of boxcars.
  • Recycling paper is very doable in the U.S. The AF&PA and the American Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council reported in 1997 a survey finding 199 million Americans live in communities with curbside or drop-off programs that accept paper for recycling.
  • In Europe, under the European Union Packaging Directive, recycling rates are mandated for paper. As a result, recovery of paper has risen in five years from 39% to nearly 50%. Unfortunately, it has also resulted in a glut of post-consumer paper. For example, Germany's paper recovery rates have risen to 70.6% in the past five years while the highest their use of recycled material reached in 1996 was 60.3%.
  • "U.S. businesses alone consume an estimated 21 million tons of office paper every year - the equivalent of more than 350 million trees. If offices throughout the country increased the rate of two-sided photocopying from the 1991 figure of 20% to 60%, they could save the equivalent of about 15 million trees." from Choose to Reuse by Nikki & David Goldbeck, 1995
  • American businesses throw away enough scrap paper each year to fill nearly 20 Sears Towers from top to bottom.
  • Global paper use has grown more than six-fold since 1950. One fifth of all wood harvested in the world ends up in paper. It takes 2 to 3.5 tons of trees to make one ton of paper. Pulp and paper is the 5th largest industrial consumer of energy in the world, using as much power to produce a ton of product as the iron and steel industry. In some countries, including the United States, paper accounts for nearly 40 percent of all municipal solid waste. Making paper uses more water per ton than any other product in the world. Information from The Worldwatch Institute
  • "Recycled pre-consumer content" labels on recycled paper refer to the reuse of scraps generated by the production process at the paper mills. These scraps have always been recycled in paper production, so it is questionable if such paper should be considered "recycled" fiber. To be environmentally friendly, the "recycled post-consumer content" label is the important one for closing the loop. Post-consumer means the paper fiber was first used by a consumer, then recycled so it could be made again into usable paper.
  • It is estimated half of the forests that once covered the planet have already been cut down. According to ReThink Paper, the U.S. continues to cut some 4 billion cubic meters of timber annually. Thirty percent of all the trees logged in this country go directly into manufacturing paper products. Meanwhile, worldwide paper consumption is projected to expand 46% by the year 2040. ReThink Paper is dedicated to promoting a transition from virgin-wood fibers to nonwood fibers such as hemp or kenaf, reclaimed fabric, or agricultural residues such as wheat, straw, rice straw, sugarcane, cotton linters, and other "waste" material left over after harvest.
  • Nearly half of all the world’s paper goes to packaging. Shipping companies such as Airborne, UPS, FedEx, and the U.S. Postal Service are now using 50 to 100 percent post-consumer wastepaper for envelopes and boxes and are eliminating bleached paper. (UPS, the largest such company, ships over 3 billion packages per year.)
  • When recycled paper was first being developed, occasional batches would come through that clogged copiers. Copier manufacturers seized on this as an excuse for problems with their machines: "It's not the copier, it's the paper......" Some copier manufacturers are still using that excuse today. The fact is that recycled copy paper is not any more of a problem for today's copiers than virgin paper.
  • Holiday and birthday gift wrapping or tissue paper cannot be recycled. Most wrapping papers have some kind of decoration, coating, foil, glitter or other additives that make them difficult to recycle. The fibers in tissue paper are too short to be recycled into new paper. Avoid using nonrecyclable wrappings and instead use reusable containers, boxes or bags to present your gifts.

Phone Books

  • It is against the law in Minnesota to put phone books into the trash or other solid waste disposal! All materials used in phone books are recyclable and should be recycled by state law.
  • Qwest Dex who publishes the phone books in our geographic area now has a web site listing recycling locations for phone books in the Upper Midwest and Northwest U.S.
  • According to the St. Paul Neighborhood Energy Consortium, one tree and 420 gallons of water are saved for every 30 phone books recycled.
  • New St. Paul phone books are distributed every July.
  • New Minneapolis phone books are distributed every January.
  • Old phone books should be recycled when new phone books are received. Phone books are recycled separately from newspaper, magazines, and other types of paper.
  • The St. Paul, Minneapolis, and other phone books are recycled through our neighbor, the Rock-Tenn Corporation.
  • If your department receives more new phone books than it can use, please call Telecommunications at 962-6260 and inform them. That way next year's order can be reduced. Unused books may be taken to Aquinas Rm. 32 and left in the hallway. If you are unable to transport them yourself, please call the Recycling Center at 962-6388 for a pick up. The phone books can be used in other departments or be returned to the phone company for use at other institutions.


  • Plastic is cheap to manufacture and appears to last forever. But lasting forever is proving to be a major environmental problem. Almost all plastics manufactured are de-gradable BUT not biodegradable. This is because their long polymer molecules are too large and too tightly bonded together to be broken apart and assimilated by natural organisms. So most of the plastic we consume never goes away; it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. -Nova, Australian Academy of Science
  • According to the environmental advocacy group, Ban the Bottle:
    Making bottles to meet America’s demand for bottled water uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year.  The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes. Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. However, the US recycling rate for plastic is only 23 percent, which means 38 billion water bottles, more than $1 billion worth of plastic, are wasted each year"
  • Plastic is believed to constitute 90 per cent of all rubbish floating in the oceans. The UN Environment Programme estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. -Marks & Howden, "The World's Dump," Independent UK, 6 Feb 08
  • According to the 2006 EPA report on municipal Solid Waste, the U.S. recycling rate for plastic HDPE milk and water bottles was 31% and 30.9% for plastic soft drink bottles.
  • The U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually consuming over 12 million barrels of oil and costing retailers an estimated $4 billion. "Plastic Bags Are Killing Us," 10 Aug 07
  • There is a corn-based plastic polymer, polylactic acid [PLA] that has been touted as the plastic of the future. But, even though PLA is corn-based, it has yet to prove itself as a satisfactory answer to oil-based plastic: "Despite PLA’s potential as an environmentally friendly material, it seems clear that a great deal of corn packaging, probably the majority of it, will end up in landfills. And there’s no evidence it will break down there any faster or more thoroughly than PET or any other form of plastic. Glenn Johnston, manager of global regulatory affairs for NatureWorks, says that a PLA container dumped in a landfill will last 'as long as a PET bottle.' No one knows for sure how long that is, but estimates range from 100 to 1,000 years." -Elizabeth Royte, "Corn Plastic to the Rescue," Smithsonian, Aug 06
  • "Plastic bags have only been around for about 50 years, so there's no firsthand evidence of their decomposition rate. To make long-term estimates of this sort, scientists often use respirometry tests. The experimenters place a solid waste sample—like a newspaper, banana peel, or plastic bag—in a vessel containing microbe-rich compost, then aerate the mixture. Over the course of several days, microorganisms assimilate the sample bit by bit and produce carbon dioxide; the resultant CO2 level serves as an indicator of degradation. Respirometry tests work perfectly for newspapers and banana peels. (Newspapers take two to five months to biodegrade in a compost heap; banana peels take several days.) But when scientists test generic plastic bags, nothing happens—there's no CO2 production and no decomposition. Why? The most common type of plastic shopping bag—the kind you get at supermarkets—is made of polyethylene, a man-made polymer that microorganisms don't recognize as food." -Juliet Lapidos, “Will My Plastic Bag Still Be Here in 2507?” Slate, 27 Jun 07
  • “…there is the moral consideration of diverting crops to something other than food. Notes Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute: ‘Already we’re converting 12 percent of the U.S. grain harvest to ethanol. How much corn do we want to convert to nonfood products?’ The USDA estimates that percentage could double by 2014, which raises the question of whether corn in particular can remain economically viable, if demand forces up prices. Add the vagaries of nature—drought, for example—and the economics could be altered significantly.” -Shahana Jahangir & Mary Jo Leber, Biodegradable Food Packaging: An Environmental Imperative, 26 Jun 07
  • Excessive withdrawal of natural mineral or spring water to produce bottled water has threatened local streams and groundwater, and the product consumes significant amounts of energy in production and shipping. Millions of tons of oil-derived plastics, mostly polyethylene terephthalate (PET), are used to make the water bottles, most of which are not recycled. Each year, about 2 million tons of PET bottles end up in landfills in the United States ; in 2005, the national recycling rate for PET was only 23.1 percent, far below the 39.7 percent rate achieved a decade earlier. -Worldwatch Institute 7 May 07
  • Plastic is believed to constitute 90 per cent of all rubbish floating in the oceans. The UN Environment Programme estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic - Kathy Marks, “The world's rubbish dump: a garbage tip that stretches from Hawaii to Japan,” The Independent, 5 Feb 08
  • According to the Container Recycling Institute Plastic bottle recycling has not kept pace with the dramatic increases in virgin resin PET sales, particularly for PET bottles. Most of the increase in virgin resin sales has been for single-serve PET soda bottles (under 24 oz) that now make up 50 percent of soda bottle market share. These bottles are consumed away from home and away from curbside recycling bins and are difficult to recover. Less than one in four PET soda bottles is recycled. As a result of the tremendous growth in sales of single-serve soda bottles, the volume of PET soda bottles landfilled doubled from 1990 to 1999.
  • China in 2008 banned production of ultra-thin bags and forbid supermarkets and shops from handing our free bags beginning 1 Jun 08. According to a posting on China's central government web site: "Our country consumes huge amounts of plastic bags every year. While providing convenience to consumers, they have also caused serious pollution, and waste of energy and resources, because of excessive use and inadequate recycling." Chinese people use up to 3 billion plastic bags a day and China consumes 5 million tons (37 million barrels) of crude oil every year to make plastics used for packaging, according to China Trade News. from Reuters Alertnet, 8 Jan 08
  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2003, 26.7 million tons of plastic was generated in the United States. In the same year, only 1.39 million tons of plastic was recovered through recycling giving a recovery rate of only 5.2%.
  • Lids for most plastic containers with necks tend to be polypropylene, plastic #5, which is why you should remove the caps before recycling the bottle. Polypropylene is not accepted in most community recycling programs.
  • By weight, over 9% of Minnesota garbage is plastic.
  • Plastic recycling faces a huge problem: plastic types must not be mixed. It is impossible to tell one type from another by sight or touch. Even a small amount of the wrong type of plastic can ruin the melt. The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) introduced its resin coding system in 1988 at the urging of recyclers around the country. The overwhelming majority of plastic packaging is made with one of six resins:
    • polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
    • high density polyethylene (HDPE)
    • polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl)
    • low density polyethylene (LDPE)
    • polypropylene (PP)
    • polystyrene (PS)

      The SPI resin identification code assigns each of these resins a number from one to six. The number seven is assigned to other resins or plastic made of a combination of resins. These numbers are featured inside a triangle of chasing arrows, with the resin abbreviation printed underneath.
  • As of January 1995, 39 states including Minnesota had adopted legislation regarding the use of the resin identification codes on bottles of 16 ounces or more and rigid containers of 8 ounces. The SPI code described above is the one being used.
  • When glass, paper and cans are recycled, they become similar products which can be used and recycled over and over again. With plastics recycling, however, there is usually only a single re-use. Most bottles and jugs don't become food and beverage containers again. For example, pop bottles might become carpet or stuffing for sleeping bags. Milk jugs are often made into plastic lumber, recycling bins, and toys. -information from the Boulder Community Network Environment Center
  • In 1990, the U.S. plastic industry set a five year goal of 25% recovery rate for plastic containers. The goal has yet to be reached. According to the American Plastics Council, capacity to process material, and the market demand for the recovered plastic resin, both currently exceed the amount of post-consumer bottles that are now recovered from the waste stream. In 1999, over 750,000 tons of plastic bottles were recycled. Each year the amount of plastic bottles recycled increases by millions of pounds while the recycling rate has stabilized around 23%. Volume increases while the rate remains static due to a result of the continuing rapid increases in the number of plastic bottles used to package an ever-increasing variety of products.
  • According to the Container Recycling Institute, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study estimates that soft drink and beer containers are recycled at an average rate of 78 percent in states where they have a deposit value, and only 26 percent in the other 40 states.
  • Coca-Cola promised in 1990 to make new plastic soft drink bottles sold in the U.S. with 25% recycled material. But in 1994, the company discontinued its involvement with plastic recycling and now uses no bottles that are made with recycled plastic. Coca-Cola sells more than 20 million sodas in plastic bottles every day in the U.S. A coalition of more than 20 U.S. recycling groups initiated a campaign asking consumers to mail back empty plastic bottles to Coca-Cola company chairman, M. Douglas Ivester, with the message: "Coca-Cola live up to your promise: take it back and use it again." In response to environmental groups and interested public, Coca-Cola has begun using 10% recycled content PET in new bottles. Coke bottles recycled at the Salt Lake City Olympics will be made into new bottles!
  • In the past, #6 polystyrene plastic and other plastics have been recycled at UST, but due to a depressed plastic market, area processors will only accept #1 or #2 plastic unless we have a very large volume of #6 plastic recycling. We cannot meet the threshold volumes at UST because of storage limitations. We have investigated possible cooperation with other MIAC schools, but no satisfactory arrangement has been developed. When new local markets are found for other types of plastic, this recycling page will be updated.
  • Polystyrene (#6) food service packaging is one of the most visible areas of public concern about the lack of recycling possibilities. Annual sales of Polystyrene food service packaging exceed 1.5 billion pounds according to the national recycling journal Resource Recycling. According to their numbers, the recovery rate for PS food service packaging is just 2%. The Polystyrene Packaging Council offers different recycling figures but also insight into the economic issues associated with food service polystyrene recycling.
  • PETE recycled plastic is used to make more pop, liquor, mouthwash, and cooking oil bottles. In 1995, a record 622 million pounds of PETE bottles were recycled in the U.S. representing a recycling rate of 32%.
  • HDPE recycled plastic is used in products such as drain pipe, toys, plastic lumber, and base cups for soda bottles.
  • The use of recycled PETE in apparel is a fairly new and growing market. Wellman, Inc. produces Fortrel EcoSpun fiber made from recycled bottles. EcoSpun apparel reduces the burden on the world's landfills and natural resources, and provides a viable end-use for recycled postconsumer PETE containers. Wellman has seen sales jump tenfold, from three million pounds in 1993 to 30 million pounds in 1997. Upscale outer wear garments, such as fleece garments sold by Patagonia, has provided a large part of the demand for EcoSpun.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported in an article by Susan Warren on 1/11/00 that Cargill and Dow Chemical are teaming up to make a biodegradable plastic from renewable resources such as corn or wheat instead of from petroleum. The companies say their joint venture, branded NatureWorks, is ready to go into full-scale commercial production, putting the companies at the front of a race among agriculture and chemical firms to find cost-effective ways to make a durable plastic from common plants. The new plastic, dubbed polylactide, is said to be versatile and strong enough to compete with other plastics used for clothing, carpets, food containers, and plastic window envelopes. Cargill and Dow plan to construct a manufacturing plant in Nebraska that will produce 300 million pounds a year of the new plastic, and they say they have lined up enough customers to sell out its first year of production.

Wood Pallets

  • The sorting, collection and utilization of recovered wood is one of the newer and more rapidly expanding segments of recycling activity. The recycling of urban wood waste, woody debris from suburban land clearing and rural forestry residuals was virtually nonexistent before 1990. Most wood waste and debris was landfilled, burned or left to rot. Today, well over 500 processors operate in the U.S. and Canada. (from Resource Recycling, March '98)
  • "Pallet manufacture in the United States consumes an astonishing 40% of the country's annual hardwood harvest. According to Big City Forest, a pallet-rescue program in New York City, by reclaiming just half of the pallets discarded annually in the nation's 50 biggest metropolitan areas, 152,000 acres of timberland could be preserved." (from Choose to Reuse by Nikki & David Goldbeck, 1995)
  • In the last school year '06-'07, UST recycled over 18 tons of pallets.
  • Pallets to be recycled are sorted by the recycling team into two grades. The best grade is "4 by 4s" or "four-ways" which measure 48" by 40". This is the standard shipping pallet size, and these pallets bring a financial rebate to the recycling program. Most other sized pallets are broken down and used in making new pallets. We do recycle pressed board or chipboard pallets.
  • Approximately, 4.7 billion board feet of solid hardwood and 2.2 billion board feet of softwood was consumed in 1992 for the production of pallets. The wood pallet and container industry is the largest user of hardwood lumber in the United States.
  • Recycled pallets are also used for poultry litter, livestock bedding, fuel, pulp furnish and charcoal furnish. For more information about wood pallets and their recycling, visit the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association.
  • Pallets are available free of charge to interested members of the UST community. For more information, please call the recycling center at 962-6388.