Sorting It Out: FAQs

These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) address many common questions regarding what can be recycled or composted on campus.


Watch a short video on How to Sort Your Waste at UBC Okanagan*Developed by 2018/19 GEOG491D students.
A. Blue bin recycling receptacles accept empty coffee cups, stamped plastics, incl. coffee cup lids, and mixed paper. Refer to the Sorting Guide for a comprehensive list and watch a short clip here.
A. Materials that are not accepted in the blue bins include liquid, soiled food packages, napkins & paper towels, potato chip bags and unmarked plastic containers. Materials such as batteries and electronics, composting and refundables can be recycled elsewhere on campus, visit the Station Location guide for a location near you and the Sorting Guide for a comprehensive list of what goes where.
A. Organic and compostable material is accepted in the yellow compost bins found in all academic building foyers and eateries on campus. Accepted material includes fruit and vegetable waste, coffee grounds and filters, loose leaf tea and tea bags, meat, bread, egg shells, wooden utensils, chopsticks, napkins, and containers stamped compostable. Refer to the Sorting Guide for a comprehensive list and watch a short clip here.
Did you know: The final product created by the composters is used by Facilities Management in the landscaping features at UBC’s Okanagan campus.
A. Styrofoam, plastic and biodegradable* containers, plastic utensils and bags are not accepted in the yellow compost bins. *Biodegradable containers will breakdown when placed in a responsibly managed landfill, such as the Glenmore location; however, are not acceptable in compost.
A. No, as the current facilities have the capacity to accommodate the compost needs of the onsite eateries and campus constituents they are not available to process offsite material sources.
A. Beverage containers, including bottles (plastic and glass), cans, tetra boxes and tetra packs. If the beverage container’s purchase price included a deposit fee, it can go into the green bin. Fees collected from the return of these containers are donated to Pathways Ability Society and support their community initiatives. Refer to the Sorting Guide for a comprehensive list and watch a short clip here.
A. Items become refundable products when a deposit fee is charged at the time of purchase. These products include beverage bottles (plastic and glass), cans and tetra packs that are accepted at all bottle return depots and most locations that charge the refundable deposit fee, i.e. grocery stores. Returnable items are accepted at many facilitates that accept refundables, such as Return-It Depots, yet they do not have a deposit fee refund as one is not charged at the time of purchase. Returnable items include milk alternative tetra packs (ex. Boost) and glass food jars. Many Return-It Depots also accept plastic bags, many types of light bulbs, some electronics and Styrofoam.
A. Outside facilities include 15+ Big Belly locations that offer blue recycling bin and black waste receptacle options. These stations are located throughout the core of the campus. Triple bin stations that offer recycling, returnable and waste options are located at various locations on the way to and from the main campus core, i.e. parking lots.
Internal locations offer four waste stream options – blue recycling, yellow composting, green returnable and black/grey waste receptacles – within each building’s foyer. Additional sites located within all building hallways offer three material sorting streams: blue recycling, green returnable and black/grey waste receptacles.
Visit the Station Location page for location listings.
A. Sorting is easy! Simply drop each item in the proper bin using the text signs available at each recycling station as a guide or refer to the online Sorting Guide for more information. You can avoid contamination of the compost, recyclable and returnable bins by sorting correctly. Here is an example, you have a half-eaten sandwich in a plastic container:
Wrong way: Put the whole thing into the blue recyclable bin. The sandwich cannot be removed or separated later on, so the entire bag of recyclables will likely end up as garbage in the landfill due to contamination from the sandwich.
Right way: The half-eaten sandwich is emptied into the compost bin and the empty plastic container can be placed in the blue recycle bin.
A. If materials such as remnants of food, liquids or true-garbage are introduced into the recycling or compost streams, the materials will end up in the garbage which is destined for the landfill. Garbage breaking down in landfills increases the risk of soil, water and air pollution, and creates the greenhouse gas methane (CH4). Methane’s impact on climate change is twenty-one times greater than carbon dioxide (C02)1.
By recycling you are making it possible for a number of reusable materials to be recycled in various products over again. This prevents the need to use virgin materials to create new products and reduces consumption of natural resources for production such as water, wood and petroleum. Paper is turn into pulp again with a destiny to become another paper product, enhancing its post-consumer waste (PCW) content. Glass can be crushed, melted and formed into new containers or crushed and used as aggregate in concrete. Did you know that recycled aluminium uses 5% of the energy that would be needed to create a comparable amount from raw materials 2.
Composting is used to create nutrient rich fertilizer and can be mixed with wood chips to create mulch for landscaping. This aides in the conservation of water and provides fertilizer to local plant life.
Did you know that UBC Okanagan uses the compost collected from food locations and the yellow bins around campus to create the mulch used in onsite landscaping.
A. Individual mini departmental bins, if properly maintained and emptied regularly, will not produce an odor or develop a fruit fly issue. Departmental bins should be emptied into the main compost bins, located in all academic and administration building foyers frequently. The main bins, located in academic building foyers, are emptied three times a week by Facilities Management personnel.
A. Yes, you can Recycle Your Empty Coffee Cup, with the lid and paper sleeve. Simply depositing the empty cup, paper sleeve and stamped plastic lid into the blue recycling bins located in all buildings and externally around campus. When possible, please rinse the cup and lid to further prevent contamination of the bin.
Did you know that UBC Okanagan’s food services locations offer a $0.50 eco-discount when you use your own travel mug for beverages?
A. Clean, stamped plastic cutlery can be recycled through the blue recycling bin system on campus. Wooden cutlery can be deposited into the compost bin. However, contaminated plastic and biodegradable cutlery is only accepted in the black/grey waste bins.
A. On campus, plastic bags are only accepted in the black/grey waste bins. However, these items are accepted as recyclable material at Return-It Depots off campus.
What can you do: Start a plastic bag collection in your office and have a designated person drop off the collected material at a local Return-It Depot.
A. Yes! Simply place empty juice boxes, tetra boxes and milk cartons in the green returnable bins located in all academic and administration buildings on campus.
A. Napkins and paper towels are accepted in the compost program at UBC Okanagan.
A. Styrofoam packing blocks and clean take-out containers are accepted in the campus blue bin recycling program. Simply place the Styrofoam in clear bags and place bags beside blue bins located within academic and administration buildings for pick-up by Pathways Ability Society.
Please note: packing peanuts, chips and noodles are not accepted. Please keep for reuse otherwise place this item in the black/gray waste bin.

Is your question still unanswered? Contact our office for more information and assistance.

Digging Deeper

Municipal Solid Waste and Greenhouse Gases. Government of Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada. July 2014.
Aluminum: The Element of Sustainability A North American Aluminum Industry Sustainability Report (PDF)(Report). The Aluminum Association. September 2011.