Generally, I don’t think of myself as a competitive person.  Well, maybe except for my hockey game the other day where an opposing winger beat me coming down the boards and well…Never. Happened. Again.  And there was that incident with the free range anchovies.  And then there’s recycling…

You see, generally us UHNers do a pretty good job of recycling…almost 2,350 metric tonnes of waste was diverted from landfill in 2015, equivalent to 545 average Loxodonta africana (not that there’s anything average about an African elephant), or 27.6 million chipmunks, for those who like their mammal equivalencies of a smaller scale.  All in all, 35% of our non-hazardous waste was recycled last year (that’s 191 elephants and/or 9.7 million chipmunks for those who are counting).

elephant recycling

But then I read about Gundersen Health (who are really good at recycling).  I mean, who cares that they recycled 4.6 out of every 10 elephants that they threw out (not that I’m suggesting that Gundersen throws out elephants).  And who cares that they’ve set a goal to make sure that 80% of chipmunks thrown out are recycled within 5 years (again, not to suggest that Gundersen throws out chipmunks).  You see, I’m not the competitive type.

But then I read our latest waste audit which showed that around half of UHN waste that went to landfill coulda, shoulda been recycled or composted…and I figured, maybe, just maybe, with a little effort UHN can recycle as many elemunks as Gundersen (not that we’re competing) and maybe it’s time for a good ol; (non-competitive) game of…


How to play: read the list of items regularly thrown out at UHN and, without peeking, try to guess if they’re recyclable or not-recyclable.  After guessing, read on to see if your guess was correct…and remember, because UHN uses a private company for recycling, some of the “rules” are different than what you’re used to at home.  Here we go…

  • Coffee cups (and lids): recyclable! The City of Toronto does not recycle coffee cups, but at UHN disposable coffee cups can be recycled anywhere “metal, glass plastic and containers” (aka “cans and bottles”) or “mixed recycling” is collected at UHN…just pop of the lid and recycle both in the same bin.  Better yet, schlep a reusable travel mug.
  • Gloves: not-recyclable! Gloves are great for protecting fingers and preventing the spread of hospital acquired infections, but once removed, into the garbage (or biomedical waste bin if contaminated with blood or cytotoxic materials) they go.
  • Styrofoam: not-recyclable! The City of Toronto accepts Styrofoam in its blue bins but, alas, UHN does not.
  • Plastic bags, plastic wrap and other plastic “films” (including the ever addictive bubble wrap): recyclable! Anywhere metal, glass, plastic and containers or mixed recycling is collected.
  • Disinfectant wipes: not-recyclable! And definitely should not be flushed down the toilet where they clog both the Hospital’s and the City’s sewage pipes and pumps.
  • Leftover food: compostable!  Compost anywhere organics are collected at UHN.  Don’t forget to compost your used paper towels and tissues.
  • Plastic cutlery: not-recyclable!  Me, I keep a reusable fork and spoon at my desk…not that you should think of this as a challenge.
  • Batteries: recyclable (beyond the bluebox)! If your department doesn’t already have a battery collection bin, get in touch to find out how to set one up.
  • Old computers, monitors and other electronic gadgets: recyclable (beyond the blue box)! There’s gold in them old electronics.  Well maybe not gold, but valuable metals, so contact your Housekeeping Supervisor to arrange to have old e-waste picked up.
  • Coffee pods: not-recyclable! Sure they’re convenient, but even though coffee is compostable and a great garden supplement, coffee pods need to go into the garbage.  Oh, and they’re probably the most expensive type of coffee you can buy.
  • Toner and ink jet cartridges: recyclable (beyond the blue box)! Still printing? Well, after you double side print and really (really) have some deep thoughts before hitting that print button, used toner and ink jet cartridges can be recycled by taking them down to Central Stores.  And these days, some sellers or cartridges send prepaid envelops for shipping empties back for recycling.