Attention UCSB students: Ever seen one of those shiny red plastic cups before? You know, the ones that allow you to practice geometric configurations on an almost nightly basis. The ones that unite us hand in hand as equals, showing no preference to greeks, dorks, jocks, attractiveness (if so, they only help the cause) or even age. The ones that would surely be heralded as the embracing symbol on our flag if Isla Vista was granted sovereignty. The ones that share the love of herpes (Type 1, naturally … you sick bastards). The ones that bleed American red.
Well, your A.S. Recycling Program here at UCSB proudly presents – drum roll please – that we no longer have to feel guilty about throwing dozens and dozens of those popular beverage containers in the garbage the morning after partying, as we are now accepting plastics #1-7 in all of our outdoor recycling clusters (a.k.a “berthas”) around campus. That’s right my fellow Gauchos and company, UCSB now possesses the ability to recycle all plastics labeled #1-7, instead of merely the lowly plastics #1-2, which, of course, includes those red keg cups. In other words, this environmental revolution will go down in history as one small step for red plastics and one giant step for polyethylene-kind – that’s a fancy word for plastic-kind.
So, at this point you may be asking yourself, “What plastic products exactly can I recycle now?” To answer this shortly, you can, and should, recycle plastics labeled with the identification number 1-7 (hint: the number can be found inside three chasing arrows). These seven types of plastics are found in the following recyclable products: #1 plastics include soft drinks, juice and cough syrup containers as well as microwave trays; #2 plastics include milk jugs, detergent and shampoo bottles; #3 plastics include mixed plastic containers or plastic products; #4 plastics include rigid plastic containers; #5 plastics include newspaper, grocery bags and butter cup lids; #6 plastics include yogurt containers and deli trays; and #7 plastics include plastic cups, plates, Nalgene bottles and to-go containers. However, heed this: You may not under any circumstance recycle styrofoam or any kind of soft plastic film.
Surprisingly enough, this recent expansion of our recycling capability can be attributed to an increasing demand for lower grade plastics from markets to cope with the global rise in the price of oil. Instead of drilling for oil to produce new plastics, oversea markets, such as China, are relying more and more on imported used plastics to fulfill their ever-increasing needs of a growing economy. Consequently, the demand from these new markets has finally made it both environmentally and economically appealing to implement these sustainable measures to not only us tree-hugging, granola-crunching, hemp-wearing – but not smoking, mind you – bleeding-heart liberals, but also to those who see only in shades of green. So, the next time you are grumbling over the rising cost of gas, turn that frown upside down and feel comforted by the fact that you are indirectly acting as an eco-friendly consumer.
Exactly how big of an impact will recycling these five lower-grade plastics have on the environment? Well, the answer is huge. In fact, 100-150 more tons of plastics a month will be diverted from their former path of no-return toward the landfill and will now be sustained and exported to foreign markets, mainly China, which will process these plastics into goods that will inevitably make there way back to the U.S. again. If you’re still not convinced, recycling plastics #3-7 will also reduce the volume of plastic waste disposed in landfills by an average of 5.4 percent and also conserves energy and natural resources needed to produce new plastic containers and reduces landfill disposal fees.
We have a motto here at A.S. Recycling that states: Recyclers do it more than once. So, are you a one shot wonder, or do you have the stamina it takes to do it again and again in seven different positions?
Aaron von Boer is a fifth-year global studies and psychology double major.