Gainesville Zero Waste News

The Secret Behind the Numbers on Plastics

plastic bottles, jug, jars and tubs accepted for recyclingIt surprises many people to learn that just because a plastic item has a number with the chasing arrows symbol that it doesn’t guarantee the item is recyclable in your community’s recycling program. The Resin Identification Codes were designed by the plastics manufacturing industry in the 1980s and are only an indicator of the general type of plastic used to make that product and are not “recycling codes.”

While there are seven major Resin Identification Code categories (i.e., plastics numbers 1 through 7), there can be hundreds of variations within each category. Plastics vary significantly by their resin types (chemicals & dyes) and physical properties (rigidity & melting temperatures). Only plastic packaging that has proven to have consistent properties over time have reliable market demand. Often there are no processes available or market demand for lower grade (non-rigid) plastic items or mixed plastic materials.

A quick and easy way for Gainesville & Alachua County residents to determine if a plastic item is accepted for recycling is that if a plastic container is a bottle, jug, jar, or tub - it is accepted for recycling.

Gainesville Stepping Up Education to Foster Better Recyclers

image of recycling "Oops" tagThe City of Gainesville is mobilizing recycling inspection teams to reduce local recycling contamination rates and encourage our residents to be better recyclers. Orange and blue recycle bins across the city will be spot-checked for items not accepted in the curbside recycling program. When incorrect items make their way into the recycling stream, they can damage sorting equipment, cost workers more time to pull out the unacceptable items, and lower the marketability of recyclable materials. Ultimately it is in everyone's best interest to keep processing costs down by reducing recycling contamination.

Bins set out with items not accepted for recycling will be marked on an “Oops!” tag left behind, along with a sample bag of the unaccepted items pulled from that bin. Residents should review the improper items noted on the tag, as well as the list of accepted items for recycling printed on the back of the tag. No fines will be issued for improper recycling during these recycling spot-checks. Residents without any unacceptable items in their recycle bins will be left a note thanking them for their superb recycling efforts.

Here are a few things you may not have already known about recycling:

  • > Small lids, caps, and corks should be removed from containers before placing them in your recycle bin. Larger sized metal lids from glass jars can be placed back on once containers have been fully emptied.
  • > For Plastics - Only plastic bottles, jugs, jars, and tubs are accepted. No clamshell containers or other non-rigid plastics, such as plastic bags, plastic wrap, or Styrofoam®.
  • > Pizza boxes are usually too food contaminated to recycle. If just the bottom of the pizza box is stained with grease, then the box's top can be removed and recycled.
  • > Shredded paper must be placed inside a closed paper bag and labeled "Shredded Paper." Do not put shredded paper in plastic bags or loose inside your recycle bin.

For a complete list of items accepted for recycling, visit For questions, please contact the Solid Waste Division at 352-334-2330.

Recycling Myth Busters: Debunking Claims That Recycled Paper Causes Jams in Printers and Copiers

drawing of recycled paper ream and boxThe long-held belief that recycled content paper triggers jams in printers and copiers at a higher rate than non-recycled paper is simply false. Advancements in the manufacturing of paper to meet today’s high-speed copiers' needs have eliminated the “curl” papers once had. Recycled papers are in every way equal to the quality of their non-recycled counterparts, and buying recycled content papers benefit our environment by protecting natural resources, saving energy, and reducing pollution.

Copier jams are often the result of machines needing a service call for a good cleaning, not because of using recycled paper. The use of reams of old paper that have been unwrapped and exposed to moisture from the air is also a common reason for repeated jams. Finally, you get what you pay for, as you should expect more problems with cheaper paper brands that may have lower production and packing processes.

Recycled content papers are widely available at competitive prices, but be sure to look for paper brands marked as “Recycled” and don’t get tricked by products using vague labeling such as “recyclable” or “environmentally friendly.” Strive to buy recycled paper with the highest level Post-Consumer Waste (PCW) you can find at a price within your budget. 100% PCW recycled paper is perferable, but 50% or 30% recycled paper is still better than purchasing paper with no recycled content.

Help protect our environment and make the switch to recycled copier paper today, and don’t forget to print on both sides to cut your paper usage in half.

Start A Backyard Compost Pile - You Can Do This!

lady dumping material into a compost bin outdoorsYou can start a compost pile any time of the year, and you don’t need to have a green thumb to compost, as nature will do most of the work. Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of creating your own nutrient-rich soil that will help your plants and garden vegetables flourish.

Here are some Quick Tips to Getting Started:

  • > Choose a compost bin container that best accommodates your available space and budget. Often an inexpensive container made out of chicken-wire will meet your needs.
  • > Place your compost bin in a spot that will get both sun and shade. The sun can help heat the pile on colder days, and the shade will help keep your pile from drying out.
  • > Create a layer of small twigs at the bottom of your pile to help with aeration and drainage.
  • > Be sure to mix in equal parts of “greens” and “browns” in your pile. Too many greens (food scraps) and your pile may start to smell.

For more tips and techniques on how to get your backyard compost pile going, visit Planet Natural.

Ready, Set, Recycle! Go to the Gainesville Recycling Resource Guide

Enjoy our easy to use Gainesville Recycling Resource Guide that helps you learn if something can be recycled, composted, donated, repaired, or resold. Just type in the name of the item, and the Recycling Resource Guide will provide you with the most up-to-date options for reuse and recycle options.

woman in red shirt showing what is on the screen of her laptop computerFrom Aerosol Cans to Zip Disks (and everything in between), the Recycling Resource Guide will tell you if an item is hazardous to handle, accepted curbside for recycling, or where it can be dropped off locally. By following the information provided in the Recycling Resource Guide, you’ll be helping to prevent good materials from going to the landfill and providing a second life for your items.

The Recycling Resource Guide is an informational directory to assist residents and businesses with finding local options for the sustainable management of unwanted materials. Please be sure to confirm with drop-off locations before arriving to verify site location, materials accepted, and hours of operation.

Visit to jumpstart your journey on the roadway to zero waste!