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Office of Sustainability

University of Mississippi

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have read the Ole Miss Recycling Guide and visited the City of Oxford website but still have unanswered questions, check out the list below. If your question is not on the list, email  or fill out the form at the bottom of the page to request an answer. New questions and their corresponding answers will be added to the Ole Miss Recycling Guide FAQ page as they are received and deemed helpful.  

By Item Type and Topic:

Paper and Cardboard

Plastics and Metal Cans

Other Items and Topics

Paper and Cardboard

Can egg cartons be recycled?

Clean paper egg cartons can be recycled in mixed paper recycling, but Styrofoam egg cartons cannot.

Can paper plates and cups be recycled?

Do not recycle these items if there is too much food or drink left behind on the paper products. Too much grease, liquid, or food saturates the plates and cups which interferes with the process of washing these items during the recycling process.

Can paper towels be recycled?

Always throw these items into the trash. Even unused paper towels, napkins, and tissues should not be recycled. However, they should be used for something before they are thrown away. Tissue boxes and paper towel cores are recyclable with paper.

My department has too much cardboard/paper to fit in a bin.  How can I still recycle it?

First, break down all of the boxes and place in a container or group it all together. Then, email to arrange a pick-up time.

Is a piece of paper ever too small to recycle?

It does not matter the size of the paper items since it will all be baled together when sorted to begin the recycling process.

Can I recycle Post-It notes or other paper products with sticky adhesion on them?

Yes, these paper items are still recyclable.

Can I crumple paper into balls?

Yes, crumpled, shredded, or wet paper can be recycled since it is going to be washed once it gets to the mill.  Shredded paper decreases the recyclable-life (how many times an item can be recycled), but the shredded paper is still made into new paper and/or toilet paper or paper towels.

Can you recycle laminated paper?

You cannot recycle laminated paper because the laminated film is not recyclable. When washing the paper, the film does not always separate from the paper.

Can you recycle envelopes with a plastic window?

Yes. The plastic window is so small it will separate in the washing portion of the paper recycling process.

Are books recyclable if you remove the cover?

Yes, if you remove the hardcover from the bound pages, then you can put the hardcover with cardboard and the pages with paper.

Can you recycle wet cardboard?

Yes, it is going to be washed once it gets to the mill anyway.

Can you put newspaper in with mixed paper?

Yes, newsprint can be placed in the same receptacle bin as the paper bin. However, the Oxford Recycling Center prefers newspaper to be separated from mixed paper, because the ink used on the newspaper and the paper grade has to be washed separately from mixed paper at the mill. Separation of these two types of paper ahead of time will make the sorting process easier.

When recycling curbside, can you put newspaper and cardboard in the mixed paper bin? Or should they be kept separate?

Newspaper, paper, and cardboard can be put in the same bin, but separating these items makes sorting easier for the individuals sorting the recyclables at the Oxford Recycling Center.

How are the paper items separated when they reach the recycling center? Or is all mixed paper bailed together?

All mixed paper is baled together and all cardboard is baled together. Newspaper is baled separately from mixed paper because of the paper grade and ink used.

Are pizza boxes recyclable?

You can take off the top of the pizza box and recycle it if the top is 75 percent clean. If a potentially-recyclable item is about 75 percent clean and not contaminated with food, grease, or oil, then it can be recycled.

Are milk cartons and juice cartons recyclable?

Because these cardboard items are plastic coated, they are not recyclable in Oxford. There are only a few places in the U.S. that accept cardboard cartons.


Plastics and Metal Cans

What do the numbers on plastic items mean?

Every plastic container or bottle has a recycling symbol, typically on the bottom. The symbol is a number, ranging from 1 to 7, within a triangle. These symbols offer a great deal of information regarding the toxic chemicals used in the plastic, how likely the plastic is to leach, how biodegradable the plastic is, and ultimately the safety of the plastic. However, just because plastic items have a number within a triangle, does not render all plastics recyclable or even reusable. There are numerous plastic-based products that cannot break down and cannot be recycled. Only plastics #1 and #2 are recyclable in Oxford.

What can plastics #1 and #2 be recycled into?

Plastic #2 can be recycled into pens, recycling containers, picnic tables, lumber, benches, fencing, and detergent bottles. On the other hand, plastic #1 can be recycled into tote bags, furniture, carpet, paneling, fiber, and polar fleece among other items. 

Can I recycle peanut butter containers?

If the peanut butter container is made from a plastic #1 or #2, it is recyclable. Soak it first and remove remaining peanut butter.

Can shampoo, conditioner and other soap-related containers like detergent bottles be recycled?

Yes, if they are in a container that is marked as plastic #1 or #2. These items are usually plastic #2 and can be recycled when emptied and rinsed with water.

Does it matter if the bottles/cans are crushed?

It doesn’t matter. Crushed plastic bottles and metal cans conserves the space in the recycling receptacle to fit more items.

What about plastic straws or plastic cutlery?

Plastic straws are made out of type 5 plastic, also known as polypropylene. Although polypropylene can be recycled, most recycling facilities do not accept plastic straws. Because straws are small and flexible, they can fall between the cracks of machinery or get stuck in machinery. Therefore, they usually do not get recycled. Plastic cutlery are often made from #1, #5, and #6 plastics, but individual utensils are not labeled what number of plastic resin from which they are made. Because of this ambiguity, it’s best to leave them out of the plastic recycling bin.

If I cannot find a number on a plastic item, should I recycle it anyway or just trash it?

When in doubt, leave it out. One non-recyclable item in the bin is considered contamination and can a significant quantity of these can cause all items (including those that are recyclable) to be landfilled.

What kind of plastic can be collected in the plastic bag collection bins at Walmart and other stores?

Generally, most drop-off bag collections accept #2 plastic and #4 plastics. Normally, this includes items like plastic shopping bags (from any store — remove receipts, etc.); food packaging (Ziploc® -type bags); bread bags; plastic liners from cereal boxes (do not include if they tear like paper); produce bags; dry cleaning bags (remove staples, receipts, hangers); plastic newspaper wrapping; product wrapping (such as covers a case of water bottles, etc.); bubble wrap and air pillows (popped); and plastic shipping envelopes (remove labeling).

What kind of plastic bags have to go in the trash?

Some of the other plastics that need to go into the trash include frozen food bags, cereal box liners that tear like paper, pre-washed salad bags, and candy bar wrappers.

What about plastic Ziploc® Bags?

You can take your used Ziploc® Bags (clean and dry) to a store that offers plastic bag recycling. Often near the front of the store there is a receptacle to place your used Ziploc® Bags in which is the same bin for recycling your plastic shopping bags.

Can I recycle my plastic bottle with liquid still in it?

You should always empty and rinse your plastic items that have held liquid or food.

Can I recycle plastic red Solo cups?

Solo cups are recyclable only on football gamedays through the Office of Sustainability’s Green Grove Gameday Recycling Program. This is because the Office of Sustainability ships them to Terracycle for recycling.

During the rest of the year, Solo cups and other hard plastic takeaway cups from local restaurants are not recyclable. As with all plastic items, make sure to check the number on the bottom, though, as certain restaurants use hard plastic cups made of #2 plastic. 

Can I recycle plastic clothing hangers?

Often plastic hangers do not display the number of the plastic they are made of, so it is difficult to tell. Goodwill does not accept plastic hangers; however, many dry-cleaners accept donations of plastic hangers. With these items it is best to reduce and reuse since recycling plastic hangers is troublesome.

Can aerosols be recycled?

Yes, empty aerosol cans are recyclable.


Other Items and Topics

Do I have to separate my recyclables?

Yes. The City of Oxford Recycling Center, through which city and campus recycling is processed, utilizes the dual-stream recycling method. This means that one bin is used to collect plastic and aluminum/steel in one bin is used for mixed paper/cardboard. This makes the sorting process, which is done by hand, much easier and more efficient.

Where does the recycling in Oxford go?

When the recyclables reach the Oxford Recycling Center, they are sorted even further based on the material from which they are made. This sorting process is done by hand. The recyclables are then distributed to various locations, generally to companies in Alabama and Mississippi.

Are cell phones collected to be recycled on campus?

Cell phones can be collected at the UM Office of Procurement Services at their receiving dock. One may call ahead of time for specifics of where the receiving dock is located. It doesn’t matter if the phone is damaged, shattered, cracked, or broken for collection and recycling. Recycle your cell phones at these locations in Oxford. 

What happens to the materials recycled on campus?

Recycled materials on campus are taken to the Oxford Recycling Center and follow the same process of sorting and distributing as other recyclables of the City of Oxford follow.

How many times can items be recycled?

Every time paper is recycled the fibers shorten. It is estimated paper can be recycled 4-6 times. Glass, steel and aluminum lose no quality during recycling and can be recycled endlessly.

How does contamination affect the recyclables?

The paper, cardboard, plastic and metal commodities in your recycling have value aside from benefiting the planet. If a contaminant is present, the quality of the recyclable is reduced or eliminated. This gives recycling less market value, and the local recycling program may suffer as a result. Ultimately, this could result in an increased cost of service. Too many contaminants (especially food and liquids) can also cause recyclable items to be landfilled.

Why must recyclables be collected in bins and not plastic bags?

Buyers will not accept bales containing plastic bags. Plastic bags also increase the risk of damaging the Oxford Recycling Center’s conveyor belt because they tend to get stuck and clog the machine. Bagging your recyclables will also hold up the sorting process as individuals sorting recyclables will have to open each bag, which is an extra step.

What do I do if I am not sure whether or not an item is recyclable?

Check our in-depth guide here. Or, feel free to contact us via our social media outlets. If you are still doubtful that the item is recyclable, leave it out.

What about disposable razors?

Typically, razors and razor blades are not recyclable. If you are interested in a recyclable razor, do some online research as some companies offer recycling programs for razors.

Can I recycle CDs, CD cases, and tapes?

CD cases are polystyrene (#6 plastic), while the discs themselves are polycarbonate (#7 plastic). The casing of tapes is polypropylene (#5 plastic), and the tape itself is polyethylene terephthalate (#1 plastic). Because of the limited recycling market for plastic in these forms, there aren’t many options for recycling. But instead of throwing them away, consider the following reuse ideas: donate your old CD, DVDs and tapes to a secondhand store or music re-seller for reuse, or mail your media to a company like the CD Recycling Center of America.

Why isn’t Styrofoam recyclable?

Styrofoam is made of polystyrene (plastic #6) and it is recyclable in some parts of the country, yet most Materials Recovery Facilities still do not accept it as part of their recycling program. Since it does not biodegrade, it can break into small pieces, but the smaller it gets, the harder it is to clean up.

Why doesn’t my apartment complex offer recycling?

Because of high contamination rates, apartment complexes in Oxford do not have curbside or recycling services. Occupants of apartment buildings should bring their recyclables to one of the two drop off locations.

Are coffee cups and lids recyclable?

If the cups and lids are #1 and #2 plastics, then yes they are recyclable. The cardboard sleeve around hot or cold drinks can go be recycled as well. A better option is to bring your own coffee mug. Many locations in Oxford offer discounts if you bring your own mug.

Can I recycle frozen food cardboard containers (e.g. Halo Top, Lean Cuisine)?

Frozen food boxes have a thin layer of plastic coating on them to protect them from condensation. This coating makes the box non-recyclable because it is difficult to separate the layers of paperboard and coating. Not all frozen food packages are coated with plastic or waxy coating, so be aware of the food boxes you purchase. Opt-in to buying items packaged in recyclable materials.

If your question is not on the list, email or fill out the form below to request an answer. New questions and their corresponding answers will be added to the Ole Miss Recycling Guide FAQ page as they are received and deemed helpful.





To return to the Ole Miss Recycling Guide homepage, click here.