Frequently Asked Question

Single Stream Recycling kicks off Campus-wide in the summer of 2012. Below are some answer to the frequently asked questions regarding the implementation of this program across campus.


Below are some answers to the frequently asked questions regarding the single-stream recycling program across campus.

Q: Why do all the recyclables get collected together now? I thought we had to keep paper separate from other recyclables.

A: The new program is a "single-stream" program. This means that all recyclables can be collected in one container, and the sorting of those materials is done at the recycling facility.

Q: What can be recycled?

A: See the complete list for all the materials that can now be placed in the recycle bin

  • Newspapers, magazines & catalogs
  • Junk Mail
  • Sticky notes
  • Office paper- All colors
  • Paper Envelopes
  • Telephone books
  • Files & Folders
  • Tissue boxes
  • Cereal or snack food boxes
  • Glass bottles & Jars
  • Steel Cans & Containers
  • Metal lids
  • Aluminum cans
  • Plastic Bottles and Jugs
  • Plastic tubs & bags
  • Cardboard
  • Paper bags

Q: What happens to the materials?

A: Recyclable materials are collected and taken to a material recycling facility. Here the different types of materials are sorted by equipment and people into the different types- Paper, plastic, metal, & glass. The materials are then baled and sold to manufacturers who use the recyclables as raw materials in new products.

Q: Why is my trash can so small?

A: Most materials generated in offices are recyclable so there is no need for a large trash can. the only items that require disposal is food waste, Styrofoam take-out containers, wrappers from chips, candy, and snacks; tissues and paper towels, and paper plates and plastic utensils.

Q: Won't it get gross if I have to put my food in it?

A: Yes it could so you have several options- rather than place food items that may cause mess or odor problems in your desk top trash can, walk this type of waste directly to the central trash can. Your other option is to provide your own liner- bags from your newspaper, bread, or Subway sandwiches fit in the container well.

Q: Why do I have to empty my own trash can and recycle bin?

A: Staff responsibility for their own waste and recycling is standard practice at the Ann Arbor Campus and top campus recycling programs across the country. This practice helps to keep cost down and work-load neutral for custodial staff. Central trash and recycling containers have been sited for convenience in each area for easy access.

Q: I need another recycling bin/mini-trash bin/recycling sticker/recycling sign.  Who do I call?

A: Please e-mail or call 313-593-5270.

Q: Why do some blue Slim-Jims have lids and some don't?

A: Slim-Jims that are used as central recycling bins where faculty/staff can dump their desk-side containers do not typically have lids, so that dumping the bins will be more convenient.  Other Slim-Jims will have lids so that contamination with trash is minimized.  If you have a Slim-Jim that needs a lid, please e-mail or call 313-593-5270.

Q: I've been stockpiling recycling for months, and I have a lot of stuff to recycle.  What should I do?

A: If you have a large quantity of recyclable material (more than a Slim-Jim full), please e-mail or call 313-593-5270. to schedule a special pickup of recyclables.  Custodial Services can bring a larger receptacle to your location to collect the material and take it directly to the dumpsters.

Q: Should we recycle or throw out paper or plastic drinking cups?

If your container is empty and relatively clean, flip it over and look at that familiar recycling triangle on the bottom. The number inside the triangle will tell you if the cup can be recycled. Currently, the recycling plant accepts numbers 1-7. If you can't find a number and the cup is glass, metal, or plastic - put it in the recycling bin. One of the great things about single-stream recycling is the efficient process that has been developed to separate materials quickly and easily. 

Paper cups are another matter. The paper is usually wax coated and the recycling plant can't separate these two materials. For now, they go in the trash.

Q: The pdf guide says not to put food waste in the desktop bin, but on the website food waste is listed under the trash bin. What should be done with food waste?

Generally speaking, if your food waste will make a mess of your desktop bin, we recommend you dispose of it in a nearby trash bin that is lined with plastic. Snack food wrappers and similar items can be put in the desk top bin. Wrap your gum, or apple core in a napkin, and it can go in the bin too. If you'd like, line your desk-top bin with a sandwich bag, chip bag or newspaper wrapper.

Q: Can we keep our current trash bins for the unacceptable materials? 

You will be surprised at how little garbage you make. Materials that can't be recycled can either be put in your desk top mini-bin, the large trash receptacle in your work room, or a nearby public corridor.

Q: Are food containers, such as frozen foods many of us microwave for lunch, waste or recycling?

Like paper cups, microwavable containers are usually wax coated and can't be recycled. Styrofoam also goes in the trash.

Q: If a large recycle bin has trash in it, does the entire bag get tossed in the trash?

As custodians pick up the central recycle bins, and notice a few trash items in the clear recycling bags, they will still put the bag in the recycling dumpster for separation at the recycling facility.  If a bag is coated with food waste or liquids, it will go in the trash dumpster.

Q: Do we need to empty our food containers, pop cans, etc before recycling?
A: Please try to get most of the food or liquid out of your containers before placing in the recycling bin.  They don't need to be spotless, but should be mostly emptied.

Q: Can batteries or electronics be recycled with this program?
A: No.  Please contact EHSEM  to discuss disposal of batteries (Please make sure ends are securely taped), e-waste, or other hazardous materials.

Q: What should we do with confidential papers?
A: Confidential paperwork should be shredded by each department, and the shredded paper can be recycled into the single stream system.  We are currently investigating the feasibility of a campus-wide shredding program.

Q: Is there a compost program on campus?
A: Not officially, but many departments collect compost for their home gardens.  This is something we may look into in the future.

If there are any questions that have not been addressed here please feel free to e-mail questions to: and 
we would be happy to address any concerns.