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Oklahoma State University

Recycling: Plastic

If you don't know whether or not you can recycle something, then take a moment to get educated on the materials that can be recycled in your community, whether that is on campus or in the City of Stillwater. When recycling, keep in mind that if too many unaccepted or soiled materials enter the stream, this contaminates batches of recyclable material, which then must be landfilled.  So don't waste the efforts of others by tossing without thinking, please. Contaminated batches are discovered after collection, transport, and sorting - what a waste of energy, labor and resources.  Plastic is so light, transporting it is like paying to ship air.  Recycle right.

It is also important that you please empty and rinse your containers, if necessary. Remember recyclables are sorted by hand in Stillwater. 

The jewelry companies tell you that a diamond is forever. I’m telling you that plastic is forever. Go bury a plastic bottle in your back yard and see how long it takes to break down… See? You just wasted 15 years on that. Plastics do not break down easily in nature, so I’m gonna break down plastic recycling real easy for you (see what I did there?).

First off, grab that piece of plastic you are about to recycle and look it over to find the Plastic Identification Code (PIC), the number inside the recycle symbol.

Note: If a plastic is labeled as compostable, it cannot be recycled in our region. If it is plastic pipe (such as, but not necessarily PVC), it cannot be recycled in our region.

#1 and #2 Identification

  • #1 PET or PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate): These are usually clear or green, glossy, rigid containers that sink in water and include soda and water bottles, cooking oil bottles, peanut butter jars, salad dressing bottles and other food and drink containers.
  • #2 HDPE (High Density Polyethylene): These are usually milky or solid colors and rigid containers and include milk jugs, detergent bottles, and shampoo bottles among other containers.

#1 and #2 Recycling Locations

  • Since you will be disposing of more of these types of plastic than any other (because you haven’t given up soda or bottled water), you better learn how to recycle them (it’s simple). Don’t worry about removing the cap, labels, or cleaning them to perfection. Place the empty plastic container in a recycle bin marked “plastic bottles & aluminum cans” or “plastic bottles” or “#1 & #2.” THAT’S IT! Now that wasn't too hard, now was it? There are plenty of bins on campus, and the City of Stillwater’s Convenience Collection Center takes these containers as well. #1 and #2 plastics are the easiest (cheapest, most versatile) to recycle, so make sure to recycle them.

#1 and #2 Why or why not

  • Plastics are shredded and heated during recycling, so liquids like soda and vegetable oil are evaporated or burned or whatever. I’m not saying you should recycle whole jars of peanut butter (mostly because it is delicious and you’re lucky for not being allergic), but don’t fret over getting the last streak out of that jar of creamy. The main reason to rinse plastics before recycling is to keep unwanted critters like ants, flies, raccoons, and Godzilla away from the bins.  This is important so maybe start using a spatula to keep organisms away. 

#3-#7 plastics

The OSU Recycles program does not accept recycle plastics other than #1-2 bottles, but the City of Stillwater takes #1-7 in their single-stream curbside recycling program and at the Convenience Collection Center on Perkins Rd.  The ResLife Recycles program accepts #1-5 plastics plus clean Styrofoam packing.

  • #3 – PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
    • Properties: Semi-rigid, glossy, sinks in water
    • Makes: Some shower curtains, dashboards, as well as some things like salad dressing bottles.
    • PVC pipe is not typically recyclable. Plastic pipe is usually just trash unless you can find a way to repurpose it.
  • #4 – LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene)
    • Properties: Flexible, not crinkly
    • Makes: Squeezable bottles such as honey or mustard (or honey mustard YUM!) containers
  • #5 – PP (Polypropylene)
    • Properties: Semi-rigid, low gloss, usually solid white or colored
    • Makes: Yogurt containers, ketchup bottles, and other containers
  • #6 – PS (Polystyrene)
    • Properties: Often brittle and glossy
    • Makes:CD cases & medicine bottles
  • #6 – EPS (Expanded Polystyrene AKA Styrofoam)
    • Polystyrene Foam, trademarked Styrofoam, packing peanuts and blocks can be recycled at the UPS store and via the City of Stillwater. Please send your foam clamshells, plates and cups to the landfill.
  • #7 – Other
    • The hot dog of plastics! These plastics are often specially made and contain many types of individual plastics.
    • Makes: Tupperware and reusable drinking bottles, 3- and 5-gallon water bottles and juice bottles
    • DVDs, CD's, VHS tapes, etc. are #7. They serve as pretty good arts and craft materials, and you can recycle them at Best Buy on Perkins Road.
    • Plastics made out of corn starch and other biodegradable materials:  Because these plastics are not made from petroleum, they cannot be recycled. Biodegradable plastics are designed to be shredded and composted in a commercial-scale composting facility or biodigester.

Plastic bags

  • You still use plastic bags at the grocery store? No one has told you how terrible they are? Well they are terrible indeed. Get yourself a reusable shopping bag or three and take them to the store with you.
  • If you forget your reusable bag (it happens to the best of us) you can save your plastic bags and generally take them back to the store to recycle them.  All bags must be clean, dry, and free of residue (remove receipts!).
    • On campus, bags are accepted in green octagon-shaped bins in Drummond Hall, Kerr Hall, and Stout Hall.  These bins were made possible by a Green Student Initiative award and are maintained by student volunteers.
    • Wal-Marts in Stillwater and Food Pyramid have bag receptacles just inside their doors. These plastic bags can all be recycled together: grocery bags, produce bags, bread bags, retail bags (hard plastic handles removed), newspaper bags, dry cleaning bags, all clear bags labeled #2 and #4. 

City of Stillwater Convenience Collection Center
807 South Perkins Road Stillwater, OK 74074
Hours:  Tuesday-Friday  10am-6pm
             Saturday 8am-4pm
             CLOSED Sunday-Monday & All Recognized City Holidays

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