Beyond Recycling: The Other “R’s” Webinar Follow-Up

RethinkWaste and Recology San Mateo County held a webinar on June 30, 2020. This page provides the webinar recording, presentation slides, links to more resources, and all of the questions submitted. If you have more questions, fill out the form at the bottom of the page.

To view a recording of the webinar and the live Q&A, click the recording below.

1. What happens to the compost collected and is the volume from households and businesses trending up?

Compost collected in the RethinkWaste service area is sent to either Newby Island in San Jose or Blossom Valley Organics in Vernalis. Compost volume in the RethinkWaste service area is trending up. There was a 1.7% increase in overall compost collection from 2018-2019, and residential, business, and apartments all saw increases in compost collected.

2. Are the items that we place in our blue recycling carts really getting recycled? I know consumers should avoid buying these items in the first place but is there anything else (aside from cleaning better) that we can do? Are the cardboard milk cartons actually recyclable?

Plastics #3-7 are currently not being recycled as there is no market for recycling them. These are items like to-go containers and yogurt cups. Other than being contractually bound to collect 3-7 plastics, a market could come back so we do still collect them. The best steps would be to focus on reducing waste, cleaning the best that you can, and supporting policies that reduce the amount of non-recyclable plastics available to consumers in the first place. Cardboard milk cartons, if from the refrigerated section at the grocery store go in your recycling cart. If they are shelf-stable, they are aseptic containers and are made of mixed material, so they go in the garbage.

3. What is being done to bring back Recycling Buyback?

For those unfamiliar, Recycling Buyback refers to California’s redemption program for bottles and cans. Whenever you buy a bottle or can, you pay an extra 5 or 10 cents depending on size and what qualifies. There is currently one open buyback facility in our service area – J&D Recycling in San Mateo. Note that our Shoreway Public Recycling Center was a buyback location for many years, but last year after RePlanet closed all their locations, we saw a huge backlog of cars on Shoreway Road, making it difficult for Recology trucks and our trucks to get in and out of the facility to collect, drop off, and move off site your recycling, compost, and garbage and causing a nuisance to our neighbors on this narrow road. Therefore, we closed the Shoreway buyback center and have not found a safe way to open it back up. RethinkWaste and Recology are not required by State law to have a buyback center.

4. Are there places to giveaway unwanted but still useable items?

Check with NextDoor, freecycle.org, your family members or friends. If you don’t find success through those options, bring items to local donation centers.

5. Should we put shredded paper in paper or plastic bags?

Put shredded paper in a closed paper bag labelled “Shredded Paper,” to avoid it from flying around and becoming litter.

6. What is the smallest size for a ball of tinfoil that is accepted? Does clean aluminum foil ball go to recycle? What about food soiled aluminum foil?

Combine small pieces of clean (free of food) tinfoil together so they make a larger tinfoil ball. Clean aluminum goes into your recycling cart. If foil is food-soiled, try your best to empty the crumbs or food remnants in the compost, and then ball up the foil, food side on the inside to ensure any leftover food stays inside to not soil the rest of your recycling.

7. Do plastic net bags for onions and potatoes go in the recycling cart?

No, plastic net bags for produce go into the garbage.

8. Can old lightbulbs be put in my orange battery bin?

No, lightbulbs do not belong in the orange battery bucket. If you have an incandescent lightbulb, they can be thrown in the garbage. If you have a fluorescent lightbulb, these lights container mercury and must be brought to a local drop off location such as a hardware store where it can be disposed of properly. You can find drop off locations for fluorescent lights and LED lights at RecycleStuff.org.

9. Are spiral bound notebooks recyclable?

Yes, spiral bound notebooks can go in the recycling cart.

10. Are small plastic sauce containers that are from restaurants and have the #1-7 recyclable?

As long as the plastic containers have a chasing arrows sign with the number 1-7 on it, it can go in the recycling.

11. What do I do with the bubble wrap envelopes? Also, what’s the best way to get rid of styrofoam?

Sometimes bubble wrap envelopes have a “Store Drop-off” label on it, which usually means you can bring it to a participating store that takes it back to get recycled. If it does not have that label, it goes into the garbage.

12. Can you talk about thin plastic?

Thin, flimsy plastic refers to cling wrap, zip-top bags, or other crinkly plastics like plastic bags. These plastics DO NOT go into the recycling cart because they jam the machines at the Shoreway recycling facility. If you cannot reuse them, they go into the garbage.

13. Are rubberbands recyclable?

Rubberbands are not recyclable but they can be reused.

14. How much of the good plastic you take in is actually recycled and used in products again? What percentage of plastic is just going to landfills?

About 83% of the material that comes to our recycling facility goes on to get recycled, including plastic mixed paper, cardboard, glass, and metals, leaving 17% of the remaining material going to landfill. We currently do not have a breakdown of how much of the total plastic that comes through the facility is recycled versus going to landfill.

15. Where do plastic and metal bottle caps go?

We ask that you keep plastic and metal bottle caps attached to their bottle and put the whole item in the recycling. If bottle caps are loose in your cart, they are likely to get littered into the street when your carts are being serviced.

16. What do you advise as best option for disposing of e-waste?

You can bring select electronic waste to GreenCitizen in Burlingame at no charge or hold onto it until the Shoreway Public Recycling Center is open for free disposal.

17. Where does wood go?

If the wood is clean, untreated wood, it can go into the compost cart as long as it is cut down to fit inside the cart so the lid can close. If the wood is treated or has paint on it, it must go in the garbage.

18. Is waxed cardboard recyclable?

Waxed cardboard goes into your compost cart.

19. Are receipts recyclable?

No, receipts are made up more than one material and contain BPA chemicals, so they go in the garbage.

20. Where do tissues used to wipe wet hands go?

Tissues used to wipe wet hands are soiled paper so they can go into the compost.

21. Are there any other items that you commonly see recycled or composted that shouldn’t be?

Personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves and masks, along with plastic bags and film have been found in all three carts, but they belong in only the garbage cart.

22. Does 100% cotton scrap fabric go in the compost?

Textiles of any type are not accepted in any of your three carts. You can find places to donate unwanted textiles at RecycleStuff.org.

23. Can flimsy plastic go in the plastic shopping bag containers at the grocery stores?

Yes, if grocery stores are accepting plastic bags to recycle, you can bring them there to get recycled.

24. Where do I start? What will help me reduce the most amount of waste?

Start small, by switching out one single-use item with a reusable one. For example, start with saying no to straws, and once that becomes a habit, move to utensils. Try doing a waste audit to see what you throw out the most. Check your recycling bin too, as reducing items you throw into the recycling also has a very positive impact. Also try examining items around your house, and start with an item that you feel that you can reduce your use of/repair/replace with a reusable option.

If you have more questions, fill out the form below!

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