Students can recycle a plastic cup from ABP in single-stream recycling bins placed around campus, April 17, 2017.

So, what can you recycle? According to Blacksburg Recycling, you can recycle a lot — cardboard boxes, newspapers, phonebooks, paper, plastic containers, aluminum cans, steel cans, glass bottles, paper bags, wrapping paper.

However, when you read between the lines, there is a lot that isn’t on that list or is restricted. For instance, it says you can recycle pizza boxes, but only if the box isn’t greasy (and if you’re eating pizza without grease, I do not want to try that pizza). It also doesn’t address cups or containers made of paper, but lined with plastic to prevent leaks. This is what keeps most milk cartons from being recyclable, and also why you can’t recycle Starbucks coffee cups (of course, it plans to combat this by coming up with a completely recyclable cup, rather than attempt to solve the actual problem and cut down on the number of single-use cups it uses, but that’s a whole other thing).

It also makes it clear that while you can recycle plastic, you cannot recycle Styrofoam. Furthermore, there are only two places in all of southwest Virginia that you can recycle Styrofoam. So that takeout container from El Rods will basically exist until the end of time unless you set it aside and drive it to one of these facilities.

So, what happens when you put something in the recycling bin that is not recyclable? I always thought they would just take this item out and put it in the trash.

Fun fact: I was wrong. According to Nashville Public Radio, when they find something in a recycling bin that shouldn’t be there, they throw out everything in the entire bin. None of it gets recycled.

Don’t let the complexity of recycling deter you. Educate yourself — not just on what you can and can’t recycle, but on the importance of recycling.

Recycle responsibly, Hokies.

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