Five Things You Can't Recycle Curbside and What Michigan Tech Students Are Doing About It

Five students stand in the snowy woods as snow falls from the sky holding power tools and wearing safety glasses
Five students stand in the snowy woods as snow falls from the sky holding power tools and wearing safety glasses
Students living in the Sustainability Demonstration House brandish one of the latest contributions—from Milwaukee Tools. Huskies actively seek partnerships to upgrade the former Michigan Tech presidential residence that now serves as a community-wide education resource.

Save the date — and your (clean and dry) granola wrappers.

Huskies at Michigan Technological University Sustainability Demonstration House (SDH) planned to host the Keweenaw’s first waste reduction drive to kick off Earth Week 2020. The global pandemic put plans on hold, but canceling was never an option — Huskies don't give up. The drive is back on for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 27. Bring what you've stockpiled or start sorting now for the collection at Parking Lot 24 off Sharon Avenue and west of Gates Tennis Center on the MTU campus.

"I've been working closely with Joel Isaacson, MTU Flex Task Force project manager, and Brian Cadwell, director of Michigan Tech Public Safety, to ensure our event is as safe as possible and adheres to all of the social distancing protocols that are currently in place," said event co-organizer Rose Turner. The collection will be conducted as a drive-through, with orange cones guiding traffic. Volunteers will wear face coverings and gloves; hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes will be available on site.

 Six Energizer AA batteries on a white background

(All photos courtesy Michigan Tech Sustainability Demonstration House)

1. Batteries

Michigan Tech is helping to lead the way nationally with lithium-ion battery recycling research and we’re also part of the local grassroots effort to properly recycle alkaline batteries. Alkaline batteries collected will be taken to Remy Battery of Houghton, which in turn delivers them to the company’s headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Remy always accepts alkaline batteries and some other kinds. You can also drop off batteries at Michigan Tech's Campus Bookstore (when campus resumes normal operations) and at Swift's Hardware in downtown Houghton, too.  

But don't mail batteries anywhere; it’s not safe.  

Fun Fact: Van Pelt and Opie Library Technology Specialist John Schneiderhan has been collecting alkaline batteries at MTU’s library for quite some time. “I strongly believe in reducing, reusing and recycling,” he said.


13 bottle caps and three plastic milk jug rings

2. Plastic bottle caps and rings

MTU students turn milk jugs into recycled 3D printing filament and use fused particle fabrication to print their own skateboards (and other sports equipment). But bottle caps and rings aren’t currently accepted for recycling in Keweenaw. Caps and rings collected will be transformed into kitchenware by Preserve.

Most caps and rings need to be removed from bottles or jugs.

"Recycling is a science that needs to be mastered in order to be an effective waste reduction measure. Each city has a set of recycling guidelines that should be followed to a T. Once you're aware of what belongs in the bin, each item needs to be properly prepared individually."Rose Turner, '18, SDH Coordinator, environmental engineering master's student

Walmart shopping bag with person's legs in jeans wearing Puma socks on a tile kitchen floor with kitchen cabinets in the background

3. Any plastic bag with a recycling number

The bad news is, bags jam most recycling machines. The good news is, any bag with a recycling number on it — not just shopping bags — can be dropped off at the plastic bag collection site at the Houghton Walmart, which is where bags collected during the drive will go. Walmart ships bags to a plastic-bag specific recycling plant. 

"Almost everyone can look in their kitchen right now and find multiple plastic bags with recycling numbers,” Turner said. “We first want to ensure that people are saving these plastic bags from the landfill and bringing them to the drive. Second, we want to make sure everyone becomes aware of the amazing plastic bag recycling that Walmart offers for our community.”

Common examples of plastic bags that can be recycled: bread bags, carrot and other produce bags, grocery bags, plastic packaging bags, newspaper sleeves, and frozen vegetable bags. 

Three Clif, a Belvita and one Nature Valley granola cups wrappers held closeup in a hand with a brown background

4. Any foil-lined granola or energy bar wrapper

Nearly 60% of Michigan Tech’s entering class each year ranks in the top 20% of their high school class, with average SAT scores of 1263. But Michigan Tech takes academic rigor to new levels. With full course loads and more than 220 organizations claiming extracurricular time, it’s no wonder many Huskies rely on an energy bar boost to get through a busy day. Maybe they’re a staple around your house, too? Clean, dry, foil-lined wrappers will be collected to be melted into hard plastic by TerraCycle.

Clean and dry is a recycling rule. Dirty items can contaminate an entire collection.

blue foam egg carton close up

5. Styrofoam and cardboard egg cartons

Farm-to-table is a Keweenaw tradition (and since 2013, MTU’s Wadsworth Residence Hall Sustainable Garden has been growing herbs and veggies for students across campus to enjoy). Collected egg cartons will go to local farmers for reuse.

Cardboard egg cartons can usually be recycled. But foam? Never. Consider purchasing eggs that come in cardboard egg cartons.

Sustainability is Contagious

Learn more about sustainability education at Michigan Tech and find out how, where and what to recycle on campus. Get the scoop on community recycling dos and don'ts.

Questions about the June 27 waste-reduction drive or other smart energy solutions? Email or visit the House’s Facebook Page.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.