While there are plenty of challenges that come with moving to a new state, figuring out how to sort your trash in California should not be one of them. Though it can come as somewhat of a mystery in the beginning, getting the hang of recycling and composting is actually quite simple. As a general rule of thumb, clean paper, glass, and metal products can be recycled, while most plant and animal products—along with any paper products they have soiled—can be composted.
Talking trash is not typically our forte, but in an effort to help new Californians become more responsible, we’ve made an exception. So, let’s get to it: What can be recycled or composted, and what should actually go in the trash?
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Organics include anything that was once alive, such as food scraps, food-soiled paper, and yard trimmings. While in-tact paper gets placed in the recycling bin, grease-laden paper will contaminate the paper recycling and ought to be placed in the organics bin. If you are using a bag to contain food scraps in the kitchen, make sure it is compostable; plastic or biodegradable bags are not suitable for the organics bin.
Quick Guide for Acceptable Organic Waste Items
Bones and shells
Breads, grains, and pastas
Compostable plastic bags
Flowers and flower cuttings
Food scraps - both raw and cooked
Tree twigs that are less than four feet long
Yard, lawn, and garden trimmings
Unacceptable Items for the Green Bin
Large tree branches
Plastic or biodegradable bags
Plastic, glass, or metal
Poison oak and poison ivy
Rocks, concrete, sod and dirt
Treated or painted wood
In order for items to be recycled, they need to be empty, free of food residue, and dry. Any paper or cardboard that is soiled with food must be placed in the organics bin rather than the recycling so it doesn't contaminate other recyclables. Most plastics, glass, metal, and paper products that are free from other substances may be recycled.
Quick Guide for Acceptable Recyclable Items
Aluminum pie plates
Bottles, including empty salad dressing, prescription, shampoo, and conditioner bottles
Boxes, including cereal and shoe boxes
Catalogs, phone books, magazines, newspapers, and junk mail
Clean food cans
Clean pots and pans
Envelopes, including those with metal pieces and plastic windows
Lids and caps
Non-metallic wrapping paper
Paper egg cartons
Paper towel and toilet paper tubes
Paper, including colored, computer, and construction paper
Plastic cartons, jugs, and containers
Plastic, including plastic bags and hard plastics like baskets and buckets
Tissue paper (gift type)
Unsoiled aluminum foil
Disposing of items in the garbage bin should be a last resort that is only considered when products do not fit into one of the other categories. Recycling and organic waste are much more sustainable options that give products new life or allow other living things to grow out of their decomposition. However, there are certain things that should not be placed in the trash, even when they don’t fit into the other two categories. Items like hazardous materials, batteries, light bulbs, motor oils, electronic devices, paint, and sharp (or otherwise harmful) materials should be disposed of separately.
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