Twenty-one p.c of fabric recycled at UT is contaminated and should take an extended, extra expensive path to the landfill.
“We are able to’t course of (contamination) or promote it,” mentioned Alexandra Gyarfas, director of selling at Balcones Sources, the fabric restoration facility that processes recycled waste from UT and the town of Austin. “(Contamination) causes not solely operational pressure but in addition environmental pressure. … It takes an extended, dearer journey to the landfill. … It additionally impacts our worker security.”
Gyarfas mentioned significantly harmful contaminants embody batteries, tanglers and human, pet and medical waste.
Gyarfas mentioned lithium-ion batteries, that are rechargeable parts present in digital units, typically catch fireplace — an issue worsened by the prevalence of paper and cardboard in recycling services. In 2021, the Environmental Safety Company reported that 78% of fabric restoration services that skilled a lithium-ion battery fireplace known as emergency responders a minimum of as soon as, a quantity they consider is underreported as a result of lack of publicity.
Gyarfas mentioned tanglers are “any stringy materials that may tie round a employee or our equipment.” This contains ropes, gentle strings, textiles and anything that may require somebody to place themselves in danger to untangle the fabric.
“I don’t suppose folks understand how a lot persons are touching your stuff,” Gyarfas mentioned. “A basic good rule to keep away from contamination is don’t put something in there that you simply wouldn’t be comfy touching your self like meals or clearly sharp needles, as a result of we don’t need these of us which might be manually sorting by the fabric to get poked, harm, or contaminated.”
Gyarfas mentioned single-stream recycling, the place recycling is collected on the client degree, additionally causes some contamination.
“Single-stream is extra handy as a result of you may put every little thing collectively, and also you don’t should suppose an excessive amount of about it,” Gyarfas mentioned. “However that usually leads to what we name ‘wishcycling,’ which is folks putting gadgets within the recycling bin, as a result of there’s an assumption that the recycler will know what to do with them and whether it is recyclable, we’ll determine it out. When in actuality, that simply causes a whole lot of operational issues for us and contamination.”
At UT, senior Zero Waste coordinator Lindsey Hutchison mentioned she focuses on making recycling “simpler and extra comprehensible for folks.”
“We checked out what are the most typical gadgets and generally complicated gadgets on campus (for our posters),” Hutchison mentioned. “We even have a web-based database that we developed for campus … the place you may search for gadgets … and it’ll give steering about what to do with that merchandise on campus. We’re all the time completely happy to take questions, we now have social media, you may attain us by that as nicely.”
To fight ‘wishcycling,’ Hutchison suggested college students to throw out gadgets they’re not sure might be recycled.
“(College students ought to) use the trash this time till . Hopefully, you’ll use that poster or attain out to us and get that reply for subsequent time,” Hutchison mentioned.
Hutchison additionally highlighted applications for gadgets that may be recycled with out the single-stream course of. She mentioned college students can use battery recycling applications and alternatives like Trash to Treasure or MoveOutATX to donate their belongings throughout move-out. The Zero Waste Program’s web site has extra steering on correctly disposing gadgets on campus or at house.