Food, Too Good to Waste Webinar Follow-Up

RethinkWaste held a webinar about food waste on August 27, 2020. This page provides the webinar recording, presentation slides, links to more resources, and all of the questions submitted by attendees. If you have additional questions, fill out the form at the bottom of the page.

Starting with what we can do as individuals in our own homes is one part of the equation in stopping food waste. When individual actions are combined, we can then make collective action within our broader community, including pushing for changes in policy or systems. But it begins with individual day to day actions!  

We hope you find the following resources helpful in your personal journey to stop food waste.

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

1. Are there any new/innovative ways to encourage (maybe even mandate or control) usage of the green bins? I saw that in Korea, they charge people to dispose of food waste to discourage waste. It may be too extreme for the U.S. Has San Mateo County improved the percentage of organics in the landfill from the last statistic?

In California we have state laws that are helping increase the availability of the green compost bin. AB 1826 requires businesses and multi-family dwellings (MFDs) to have organics collection services if they generate 4 or more cubic yards of combined garbage, recycling, and compost weekly, while SB 1383 aims at reducing the tonnage of organic waste in the landfill by setting a goal of 75% organic waste diversion by 2025. As we increase the number of businesses and MFDs with compost services, we will get closer to these goals as long as everyone uses these programs and composts correctly. If you live in a MFD that doesn’t have compost service and would like it, reach out to your Property Manager to contact Recology to set it up.

2. How do you motivate friends/family to compost and be intentional about reducing food waste?

Consider making it into a game where you have to cook a meal with just the items available in your refrigerator! You can emphasize the resources and money that goes into producing that food item. Motivations will vary between people so try to find what factors are most important to your loved ones.

3. Do you know of any non-recipe uses for food scraps? For example, using orange peels in potpourri.

Cinnamon or orange peels can be boiled to produce a nice scent in a house and lemon or orange peels soaked in vinegar can be used as a household cleaner. A natural hairspray for a “soft hold” can be made with lemon or orange (depends on hair color) and vodka. Watermelon peels can be used on your face to eliminate oil and to clean pores. Egg shells are great for soil to grow plants. Coffee grounds can also be used to make an exfoliating facial cleanser. Avocado peels and pits can be boiled to use as natural dyes.

4. Do you happen to have good suggestions on storing tofu? It’s one of the foods that goes bad most regularly in my fridge.

Take the leftover tofu, drain the water out, put in a tightly sealed container, add new water in the container and change the water every 2 days. If you don’t think you’ll be able to use it right away, you can freeze it. Before freezing, you can cut it up to how you’ll use it later so it will be easier to manage when it’s frozen.

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

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Why Recycling is Not the Same Everywhere

If you pay close attention to recycling, you’ve probably noticed that what’s accepted one place is not necessarily accepted in the next town over. For example, in the RethinkWaste service area (Burlingame to East Palo Alto) we do NOT accept plastic bags in the recycling, while in San Francisco they do.

It may be easier for residents if recycling was standardized, but there are reasons why it’s not the same everywhere. Two of the main reasons for the variation in recycling are: markets and community differences.

Markets

Markets dictate what can and cannot be recycled. When you put something into your blue recycling cart, there are multiple steps in the process before an item can actually get recycled. First, recyclables head to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF). While at the MRF, all recyclables are separated by material type (i.e. glass, metal, cardboard, paper, etc..). After being separated, each individual material is marketed and sold to different companies, both domestically and internationally. It’s at these facilities that recycling actually occurs, and items are transformed into something new and useful.

Without a destination (or an end market) where materials can be made into something new, “recyclables” wouldn’t be actually “recycled.” Markets are dependent on many factors including location, time, and material type, just to name a few. Markets change from location to location because manufacturing companies have put factories in different places. For example, if there are several paper mills in Arizona, but none in Michigan, it’s going to be much more difficult for MRFs in Michigan to find a market for their paper.

Markets also change over time and can have larger global shifts, such as China’s National Sword policy, which has had a major impact on the recycling industry. Additionally, some materials simply have more stable markets than others. For example, plastics #1 and #2 (water bottles, laundry detergent containers, etc.) tend to have very consistent markets, while other plastics have more unstable markets meaning they may not get recycled. Plastic #1 & #2 have a variety of markets and can be made into carpet, clothing, rope, construction materials, toys, recycling bins, and of course bottles. These variations in markets make it difficult to accept the same materials for recycling everywhere.

Community Differences

In addition to markets, community differences also contribute to the variation we see in recycling.

Everything that makes our communities distinct can also have an impact on the waste system that develops. One major factor that must be considered is the size of the community. For smaller, more rural communities there can be serious barriers hindering a recycling program. While larger, more urban communities tend to have more robust recycling systems. With a smaller community comes a less dense population making curbside recycling less fiscally sound. Typically smaller, rural communities rely on recycling drop off, which usually results in lower participation rates.

Along with less funding, is a lack of local markets. Typically, rural communities are further away from markets and transportation can be an expensive barrier for the community. Trucking costs vary by weight, the heavier the material the more costly it will be to transport. Where it may be possible to truck plastic 400 miles to be recycled, it might not be the same for glass, which is much heavier.

In addition to funding and markets, communities may also focus on different priorities. In the RethinkWaste area (and greater Bay Area), many believe that environmental protection should be a top priority, but that does not always hold true for the rest of the nation. These differences in population size, funding, and values play a large role in if items can be recycled.

What does this mean for you?

Now you know that recycling is not always equal. Whenever you travel or relocate, be sure to look for your local recycling guides (you can find ours here). Don’t be afraid to seek help or ask questions and reach out to local organizations if you are confused about what goes where.

Remember, recycling may not always be easy, but it is always worth it!

9 Ways to Reduce Your Food Waste

With everything that’s happened in the past few months, planning ahead is even more important. Not only can planning ahead help keep us prepared, it can also help reduce waste. This can apply to many types of waste, but today our focus is on food waste. According to the 2018-19 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury Report, 71% of waste landfilled in the County is made up of organics. If you want to help lower this statistic, here are some tips we’ve found useful in preventing food waste.

  1. Recognize your schedule. It’s important to realize how busy your schedule is and how that might prevent you from doing certain tasks like grocery shopping and cooking. You may even underestimate how often you get take-out and end up overbuying groceries, which usually causes waste food. Remember to plan your schedule accordingly and it may reduce the number of trips you make to the store.
  2. Keep a regular list of groceries you usually buy. Having a list of ingredients you consistently buy can help you keep track when you run out. To make it easier to access, keep it on your smartphone as a checklist, so you can have it at your fingertips. Your list could also include ingredients that last longer, like flour and sugar, and when you run out, it’s as simple as unchecking it on your digital list to remember for your next grocery trip. If using a smartphone isn’t for you, paper lists work just as good. Leave a notepad and pen attached to your refrigerator so that when you run out of something, you can immediately add it to the list. Just make sure to bring the list when you go to the store!
  3. Do an inventory of your refrigerator and pantry before grocery shopping. Now that you have your list, before you leave for the grocery store, do one last check to ensure your list is up to date. This can be helpful in case you used up an ingredient while you were cooking and forgot to update your list in that moment.
  4. Plan your meals for the week. If you plan out what meals you’ll be cooking up during the week, you will know what groceries you’ll need when you go to the store. For new recipes, check the ingredient list and make sure to add any new items you may need.
  5. Don’t shop while hungry. Going grocery shopping while hungry somehow makes you think you need to buy things you don’t need. Remember to have a snack before heading out on your next grocery shopping adventure.
  6. Buy some shelf-stable foods. While fresh produce is great, having some shelf-stable foods handy (jarred or canned items) can help reduce food waste as they last longer. Just note that some shelf-stable foods may be high in salt, so be sure to balance it out or consider diluting it so you’re getting the right amount of nutrients.
  7. Know which groceries will go bad first. When trying a new recipe, you might have to buy an ingredient you don’t use often or doesn’t last long before going bad. By being mindful of how long ingredients will last, you can plan your meals smarter and more ingredient-efficient. When it comes to leftovers, try and eat the oldest dish first to ensure you eat it before it spoils.
  8. Preserve it by pickling. Fresh produce may not last very long, but you can make them last longer them by pickling. Find a pickling solution recipe you like and enjoy your pickled veggies when you’re running low on produce or if you haven’t been to the store recently.
  9. Save it by freezing. Whether you’re cooking a large portioned meal (i.e. a huge lasagna for two) or with expiring ingredients, freeze the leftovers if you don’t think you’ll eat the rest right away. This way, you can give your future selves a break by having something ready immediately. 

Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to stopping food waste in your home! It can be challenging at times and you might still throw away some food, but trust that as long as you keep trying, you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

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. Are there any new/innovative ways to encourage (maybe even mandate or control) usage of the green bins? I saw that in Korea, they charge people to dispose of food waste to discourage waste. It may be too extreme for the U.S. Has San Mateo County improved the percentage of organics in the landfill from the last statistic?

In California we have state laws that are helping increase the availability of the green compost bin. AB 1826 requires businesses and multi-family dwellings (MFDs) to have organics collection services if they generate 4 or more cubic yards of combined garbage, recycling, and compost weekly, while SB 1383 aims at reducing the tonnage of organic waste in the landfill by setting a goal of 75% organic waste diversion by 2025. As we increase the number of businesses and MFDs with compost services, we will get closer to these goals as long as everyone uses these programs and composts correctly. If you live in a MFD that doesn’t have compost service and would like it, reach out to your Property Manager to contact Recology to set it up.

2. How do you motivate friends/family to compost and be intentional about reducing food waste?

Consider making it into a game where you have to cook a meal with just the items available in your refrigerator! You can emphasize the resources and money that goes into producing that food item. Motivations will vary between people so try to find what factors are most important to your loved ones.

3. Do you know of any non-recipe uses for food scraps? For example, using orange peels in potpourri.

Cinnamon or orange peels can be boiled to produce a nice scent in a house and lemon or orange peels soaked in vinegar can be used as a household cleaner. A natural hairspray for a “soft hold” can be made with lemon or orange (depends on hair color) and vodka. Watermelon peels can be used on your face to eliminate oil and to clean pores. Egg shells are great for soil to grow plants. Coffee grounds can also be used to make an exfoliating facial cleanser. Avocado peels and pits can be boiled to use as natural dyes.

4. Do you happen to have good suggestions on storing tofu? It’s one of the foods that goes bad most regularly in my fridge.

Take the leftover tofu, drain the water out, put in a tightly sealed container, add new water in the container and change the water every 2 days. If you don’t think you’ll be able to use it right away, you can freeze it. Before freezing, you can cut it up to how you’ll use it later so it will be easier to manage when it’s frozen.

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!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The Importance of Recycling and Composting

Every day we face the choice of properly sorting our waste into our three carts. With proper sorting, there should be more items in your blue recycling and green compost carts than in your black garbage cart. But why does this matter? Recycling and composting have important environmental benefits and understanding why they matter goes a long way in keeping us motivated to sort correctly!

Recycling saves energy and conserves resources

One great thing about recycling is that it has been pivotal in reducing the amount of waste sent to the landfill. From 1999 to 2018, the annual amount of waste sent to the landfill in San Mateo County dropped by 32% despite an 8% increase in population size and significant economic growth.

Material that is sent to the landfill stays there forever, whereas material that is recycled can be turned into new products. By making new products from recycled materials, we also reduce demand for virgin materials, which is important because we live on a planet with finite resources! By reducing demand for virgin materials, we also save the energy that would have been used to extract and process those resources from our environment.

Even with the energy needed to process our recyclable materials at our Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and energy needed to turn our recyclables into new products, there is still a net energy saving from recycling! Saving energy means less CO2 emissions, which contribute to climate change by acting as a heat trapping blanket in our atmosphere. Here are some of the energy savings from different materials:

  • Recycling one 20 oz plastic bottle = energy to power one CFL lightbulb for 10.3 hours
    • Recycling one ream of printer paper (500 sheets) = energy to power a typical laptop for 49 hours

Recycling glass and aluminum is especially important because they can be recycled over and over again!

  • Recycling one 12 oz glass bottle = energy to power one CFL lightbulb for 5.3 hours
    • Recycling one aluminum can = energy to power a typical laptop for 5.8 hours

Composting prevents climate change and improves our soils

Composting also plays an important role in diverting waste from our landfill, and actually plays an even bigger role than recycling in our service area. In 2018, the Shoreway Environmental Center received 120,000 tons of organic material, which was about 50% more in weight than the amount of recyclable material received.

Furthermore, diverting organic material is arguably even more important than diverting recyclable material because when organic material enters the landfill, it breaks down and releases a gas known as methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change in the same way that CO2 does, but has a warming effect 34 times stronger than CO2! Composting just one ton of organic waste has the same emission reductions as taking a car off the road for two months, which means that in 2018 the RethinkWaste service area composted enough organic waste to reduce emissions equivalent to taking over 22,000 cars off of the road.  In addition to diverting waste from landfills and reducing harmful emissions, finished compost has many environmental benefits as a soil additive, including reducing the need for chemical fertilizers, improving soil water retention, and assisting in erosion control.

While recycling and composting play only a small role in protecting our planet, everyone can contribute to taking better care of it by taking full advantage of these wonderful systems we have in place.

So next time when you go to sort your waste, remember that diverting compostable or recyclable items from the landfill helps us use our wonderful resources to their full advantage. You can also remember the energy you can save by turning your items into new ones when you recycle right or that composting your organic waste will help improve our soils to grow our next meals!

To learn more about energy savings and emissions reductions from recycling and composting, check out these resources:

·        https://www.epa.gov/warm/individual-waste-reduction-model-iwarm-tool

·        http://www.stopwaste.co/calculator/

RethinkWaste COVID-19 Updates

General RethinkWaste information

  • Where can I find updates about RethinkWaste’s actions on COVID-19?
    • You can find updates on the Latest News section of our website. You can also follow our social media channels for updates!
  • Are Brown Act meetings still occurring?
    • Brown Act meetings (such as Board of Directors, Technical Advisory Committee, Finance Committee meetings, etc.) are still occurring virtually. For more information, visit our meetings page.
  • Is the RethinkWaste administrative office above the library still open?
    • No. The City of San Carlos has directed that the library building remain closed, so all Staff have been working remotely.
  • I have questions for RethinkWaste, how can I best contact you?
    • You may email us at info@rethinkwaste.org or leave a voicemail at our main line (650) 802-3500. Staff will return emails and voicemails within one-two business days.

Shoreway Environmental Center/South Bay Recycling Information

  • Can I still drop items off at the Public Recycling Center in San Carlos?
    • No. The Shoreway Public Recycling Center in San Carlos is temporarily closed. Check Latest News or social media channels for updates.
  • Can I still drop items off at the Transfer Station In San Carlos?
    • Yes. The Shoreway Transfer Station in San Carlos has reopened to the public. Hours are Mon.-Fri. 6 a.m. -6 p.m. and Sat. & Sun. 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. All site employees and visitors are required to use masks and observe all mandated social distancing measures while on site.
  • Can I still pick up free compost?
    • Yes. Now that the Transfer Station has reopened, residents of the RethinkWaste service area can obtain up to two 50-pound bags of compost free of charge. Bags and shovels are provided, though residents are welcome to bring their own gloves, shovels, and residents must load the compost themselves. Find more information here.
  • Are recyclable items still being sorted?
    • Yes. Recyclables are still being sold to domestic and international markets.
  • Are there precautions in place for South Bay Recycling workers at the Shoreway facility?
    • Workers at the Shoreway facility are practicing physical distancing with required protective equipment with increased cleaning and sanitizing of workspaces and common areas.
  • Can I put my masks, gloves, wipes, or other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the recycling or compost?
    • No, these always belong in the garbage even if the label says biodegradable. They contaminate the recycling stream and provide a health risk for facility workers.

Collection Services/Recology Information

  • I was notified that Bulky Item Collections (BIC) have been paused. When can I reschedule?
    • BIC services resumed on May 4th. Recology will complete all previously scheduled appointments that were suspended first. New appointments will be booked and serviced beginning the week of May 11th.
  • Have the kinds of items that go into the recycling cart changed?
    • Items that belong in each cart has not changed. Please continue to use your recycling, compost, and garbage carts as normal. If you need help knowing which item goes where, check out our residents page.
  • Are all three streams (compost, recycling, garbage) still being collected?
    • Yes. Compost, recycling, and garbage are all still being collected by Recology San Mateo County and processed at the Shoreway Environmental Center.
  • Will my service schedule change due to COVID-19?
    • At the moment, there are no service schedule changes for residential customers.
  • Can I still dispose of household batteries by placing them on top of my black garbage cart?
    • Yes. Residents in single-family homes can still place batteries in a clear zip-top bag on top of your black garbage cart on your regular collection day.
    • Some apartments or condominiums participate in Recology’s battery collection program. If so, collect batteries in a clear zip-top bag and place inside the orange bucket normally found in common areas such as a lobby, multi-use room, mailroom, or club house. If you don’t see one at your location, ask your property manager or owner to get a bucket for your building(s) from Recology San Mateo County.

4 Tips to Reducing Waste During Quarantine

With Shelter-In-Place orders in San Mateo County and Statewide, the sudden spread of COVID-19 has caused each of us to pause before going out on simple trips to the grocery store, even leading many of us to favor services that deliver food and goods. With so much additional time spent in home, items like soft plastics associated with shipping have increased in our waste stream. While not all waste is avoidable, this time at home can be a wonderful opportunity to form better habits and learn something new about the ways we generate waste.

Here are a few waste-reduction tips to try out during quarantine:

1) Conduct a Home Waste Audit: Hold yourself accountable of the waste you generate by taking note of everything you throw into any of your 3 carts. Your audit could be for just one day or even a week’s worth of waste, but the goal is to become more aware of the volume of waste we are personally responsible for. Take note of each item, what it’s made of, and which cart it’s tossed into. At the end of your audit, reflect on what types of items were tossed the most, and consider finding at least one solution to preventing this waste. Here’s a Home Waste Audit Campaign that can help you get started. If you have children or roommates, this makes for a great group activity!

2) Ditch To-Go Disposables: As many of us turn to delivery options from our favorite local restaurants, it can be easy for unnecessary single-use plastics to pile up. A simple way to avoid excess utensils, straws, or napkins is by requesting in the “special instructions” that your order is delivered without them! Our collective actions can make a significant impact!

3) Explore Eco-Alternatives:  Support smaller businesses online and reduce trips to the store by trying out low-packaging or compostable products. Many of these products may not be available at a regular grocery store, so quarantine is a great time to browse the internet and find your new favorite eco-alternative! Some examples may be: toothpaste tablets, reusable coffee filter, bar shampoo/conditioner, bamboo dish scrubber, or a silicone baking mat.

4) Trash to Art: If you’ve got kiddos at home this one’s especially for you – exercise your creativity by turning items that would otherwise go into the landfill into a beautiful masterpiece! Whether it be a sculpture of your favorite cartoon character, a re-creation of your favorite painting, or something entirely original, this is a fun activity to give your waste a second life. If you know a 3rd-5th grader that goes to school in the RethinkWaste service area, you’re in luck! The RethinkWaste Trash to Art competition is open until May 8, and your submission might just get recognized!

With restrictions surrounding reusable cups and bags, as well as a surge in medical waste like gloves, these days we are seeing the return of single-use garbage in our environment. Although much of this waste is difficult to avoid during this time (and most of it belongs in our garbage and not the streets), it’s important that we continue to look for small changes we can make at home that will keep the zero waste movement alive. As we continue to be conscious of the items we throw out, know that the time for reusables will come again, and it will be as important as ever to enact these habits of environmental responsibility.

Earth Day Webinar Q&A

RethinkWaste and Recology San Mateo County held a Webinar Q&A on Earth Day’s 50th Birthday on April 22, 2020. We received many engaging and thoughtful questions, and we promised we’d share them all here for future reference. If you have more questions, fill out the form below!

Q: How do we dispose of empty prescription bottles? I have heard that even though there is a Renewable Identification Number (RIN, also often referred to as a chasing arrows symbol) #5 on them, they are not actually recyclable – is this true?

A: Rigid plastic containers that hold their shape can go in the recycling. We recommend removing the label to protect your personal information. If you still have unused medicine, you can dispose of it at various locations including police stations and local pharmacies, such as CVS. 

Q: How do we dispose of the metal lids on glass jars? Are they trash or recycle?

A: Although they are two different materials, both are recyclable and should be put into your blue recycling cart with the metal lid on the glass jar. When the glass jar comes to the Shoreway Environmental Center to get sorted, the glass is easily separated from the metal lid so you can keep it on. We prefer all lids from containers be replaced back on before putting it into the recycling to protect clean, dry paper products. 

Q: How clean do plastic and glass containers need to be in order to recycle them properly? For example, does peanut butter need to be completely scrubbed out before putting them in the recycling?

A: The cleaner the container is the better chance it has to be recycled. Please take the extra step to rinse or wipe your containers out, then let the container dry before placing into your blue recycling cart. Additionally, keep the lid on to prevent any remaining food residue from contaminating the paper products. 

Q: Do labels need to be taken off of jars/bottles? And what about the glue that is stuck on it from the removal of the label?

A: We do not require labels to be taken off of jars and bottles, as they end up getting taken off in the recycling process. Labels on medications should be taken off for privacy. Glue that is stuck from the removal of the label can be left on and does not need to be cleaned off.

Q: Can compostable pet waste bags (BPI certified) and their contents go into the compost bin? And kitchen compost bags?

A: No, we don’t want any kind of pet or human waste in the green compost cart because it presents a health risk. The finished compost gets sold to farmers and vineyards to fertilize our food supply, so we want our compost to be clean. The BPI certified pet waste bags are still a good alternative to plastic, however if they contain feces, please discard them in the landfill cart. 

Q: How can we encourage others to compost? 

A: Sharing the many benefits of composting and how you compost at home can encourage and lead others to start! A huge benefit of composting is its ability to return valuable nutrients to our soil and plants. It has the added bonus of combating climate change as diverting organic material away from the landfill reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Diverting this material will also lead to a reduced amount of landfill garbage you discard—you might even save on your bill as compost is offered at a reduced rate!  It’s easier than people realize, and you can share that with them. 

Q: Are biodegradable items compostable? 

A: Biodegradable and compostable are often used interchangeably, but not all things that are labeled biodegradable are actually compostable. The only non-organic items that can go in the compost are those that are BPI-Certified compostable. BPI certification indicates that the product has been tested by a third party, and guarantees the material will break down in an industrial composting facility within the appropriate time. The term biodegradable is often used, along with other greenwashed marketing words such as eco-friendly and nature-made, as a marketing tool. It has no certification associated with it, and there is no guarantee that the material will break down at the composting facility. Non-BPI-Certified products should go into the black garbage cart. 

Q: What about single use utensils that say they are compostable?

A: Single-use utensils that are labeled BPI-Certified compostable are okay to go into the green compost cart, as that stamp of approval means they can break down in an industrial composting facility. All other plastic or non-BPI-Certified utensils should go into the black garbage cart. 

Q: What is the difference between compostable vs biodegradable?

A: The difference between BPI-Certified compostable and biodegradable products is that items that have gone through the process of becoming certified compostable can break down at an industrial composting facility. In contrast, items that have the ‘biodegradable’ label are still made up of some plastic and will not break down in a composting facility.

Q: I heard China isn’t buying our recycling material anymore. Is it true that our recycling material eventually end[s] up as landfill?

A: In March 2018, China enacted the National Sword policy requiring imported recyclables to meet more stringent contamination rates. This made it harder to market plastics and mixed papers. Despite this, most the recyclables collected in the Recology San Mateo County service area are still being sold, either domestically (glass and metal) or internationally to other countries (mixed paper, cardboard, plastics #1 & #2). Currently there are no markets to sell plastics #3-7, and these plastics are being landfilled. This should encourage people to refuse plastic items, knowing that not all plastics are recyclable, and choose metal and glass options which can be recycled.   

Q: If we see the three chasing arrows on the black plastic can we put it in the recycle bin?

A: No, black plastic should be placed in the black garbage cart because the optical sorter at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) cannot sort it out. Additionally, black plastic is a low-quality plastic that is difficult to market. It is important to note that the three chasing arrows symbol does not mean that the plastic is recyclable, please refer to only our acceptable items as a guide to placing products in your blue recycling cart. 

Q: We were told at one point that we could put recyclable plastic bags into the blue bin (preferred all placed into one bag), but now is that no longer the case?

A: If you work and live in different cities, you will want to check if there are differences for what items are accepted in the recycling. The plastic bag policy you are referring to is for Recology San Francisco, please check with them if plastic bags are still accepted in their recycling program. For Recology San Mateo County service area, plastic bags are not accepted in the blue recycling cart. Like other soft, flimsy plastics plastic bags are hard to recycle and can become entangled in the machinery at the MRF. 

Q: Can you recycle plastic bags?

A: Plastic bags are not accepted in the blue recycling cart. Like other soft, flimsy plastics plastic bags are hard to recycle and can become entangled in the machinery at the MRF. All your recyclable materials should be placed into the blue cart loose, not bagged up in a plastic liner! Check with major grocery distributors such as Safeway or Lucky’s as they sometimes have collection centers for plastic bags. 

Q: What about bundled cardboard, we were told we can use duct tape to bundle. Is this true?

A: Cardboard can be bundled with string, which is preferred for easy removal, whereas duct tape is more difficult to remove for the sorting workers at the facility since the sorting line is moving very quickly.

Q: Can we place shipping plastic in a separate bag for processing?

A: No, we do not accept shipping plastic in the blue recycling cart. It is a type of soft, flimsy plastic that can become entangled in the machinery at the MRF. Many large shipping companies such as UPS or FedEx are willing to take the plastic packing bubbles back to reuse, but you should call ahead to check that they will take it back. Additionally, think about if you will be sending packages in the future to reuse for your own packages! 

Q: Are the foil tops to yogurt containers recyclable? And just to confirm, labels on eg. banana peels are not compostable?

A: Yes and yes! Foil tops of yogurt containers can be recycled; the foil wrap should be balled up before placing into the blue recycling cart. This includes any aluminum foil sheets. Sticker labels are not compostable and should be removed from fruits and vegetables before the food waste is placed in the compost. The sticker labels should be placed in the black garbage cart.

Q: How about shredded paper with staples, credit cards? Where does it go?

A: Staples in shredded paper is fine, but we ask that the shredded paper is in a sealed paper bag that is labeled “shredded paper” to easily identify when on the sorting line. Credit cards are unmarked plastic and belong in the black garbage cart. 

Q: I purchase almond milk that has a waxed cardboard container and plastic top. I rinse the container, tear out the plastic top, throw the plastic top away and put the waxed cardboard container into the compost bin. Is this correct or does even that waxed cardboard container have a plastic liner?

A: If you purchased your alternative milk from the refrigerated section, you can remove the plastic top/lid and place your container in the recycling. If you purchased your alternative milk in the shelf-stable aisle, this type of container is known as an aseptic container (sometimes known as Tetra-Pak). These containers are made of different types of materials – plastic, paper, and aluminum, and because these items are mixed it cannot be recycled. Aseptic containers go into your black garbage cart. A good reuse tip would be to cut the container in half and use it as a planting pot, avoiding the landfill altogether! 

Q: Can cooking oil be put into compost?

A: No, we do not want heavy liquids in the compost. Used cooking oil can be collected in a sealed container and taken to the Shoreway Public Recycling Center once it is back open after the Shelter In Place has been lifted. 

Q: Can you help me figure out what to do with mail? There’s a mixture of postcards and daily fliers made of paper materials. Does the type/quality of paper matter for recycling (specifically the thick, glossy-coated papers)? Also, what about envelopes with windows? Are those recyclable?

A: Mail of all paper types can go in the blue recycling cart. We welcome anyone going above and beyond, but do understand this is a lot to ask for so we do not require envelopes with windows to be taken off. We also encourage you to take your name off of mailing lists that you do not read, as this ends the cycle of receiving unnecessary mail! 

Q: Quite a bit of plastic packaging does not have the chasing arrows and a number on it. Does that go into trash?

A: Yes, it has to go in the black garbage cart, unless you can creatively reuse it! The three chasing arrows symbol does not guarantee that plastic products can be recycled. It is better to follow the guidelines than to “wishcycle” plastics. It is even better to refuse plastics and instead buy glass or metal products that we know can be recycled. 

Q: Living in an apartment complex, we do not have a compost bin. Does Recology provide compost bins for apartments?

A: Compost is currently available for apartment complexes. We recommend speaking with your Property Manager to set up a compost program. It is also helpful to speak with your neighbors to see if they are also interested in a compost program, because with more residents interested, the Property Manager will be more inclined to add the program. We encourage more multi-family complexes to have a compost program to divert more organic materials out of the landfill! 

Q: Many grocery stores have bulk dry foods but only flimsy plastic bags to put the materials in.  Do any stores make it easier to get the tare on our own containers if we want to bring them to the store for these bulk items?

A: Certain stores, like Whole Foods and Sprouts, will let you tare the weight of your containers. After the first time it has been weighed, you can label your container with that tare weight so you do not have to keep doing it every time! Cloth bags are also good alternatives to plastic bags and can be used for dry goods and fresh produce as well!

Q: If I have old ratty 100% cotton shirts (that aren’t appropriate for donating to Goodwill, etc) can I place these in the compost since cotton is a natural fiber?

A: Since we don’t know what the shirt is treated with, it is not safe to place in the green compost cart. Consider donating to a local animal shelter first. Another reuse idea is to cut up the shirt and use it for dusting, cleaning, etc. During this time, some people are using old shirts for making face masks. 

Q: In some areas, you are no longer allowed to bring in your own reusable bags to grocery stores.  Any tips on getting around this in a safe manner?

A: An option is to keep everything in the cart and wait until you go outside the store, you can bag it yourself in your reusable bags. Alternatively, you can choose paper bags at the grocery store instead of a plastic bag.

Q: What if my paper gets wet, can I still put it in the recycling?

A: Whenever a paper product has touched food or liquid, it should then go into the green compost cart. Now that the paper is wet it has lost its quality and will be harder to recycle, but paper is an organic material and can go into the compost instead! 

If you still have questions about proper sorting or what to do with other hard to recycle items, please fill out the form below.

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5 Pantry/Freezer Recipes to Try

With the current shelter in place orders, many of us are having to “shop” in our own pantries and freezers. This doesn’t mean your meals have to be boring! Below are 5 recipes you can make with ingredients that you might already have in your home, whether it be in your cupboards or the freezer. Shopping in our own kitchen is also an easy way to prevent food waste while saving yourself a trip to the grocery store (and the emissions that may come with it)! Enjoy these recipes! 

Fresh Pasta

Making homemade pasta requires few ingredients. If you don’t want to eat all the pasta at once, you can separate it into serving sizes, dust it with a bit of flour so it doesn’t stick together and then put it into the freezer on a sheet pan. Once it’s frozen, store it in a container or bag until ready to eat!

You will need:
1 large mixing bowl
1 clean kitchen towel
1 sharp knife
1 cutting board

Ingredients:
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
2 cups all-purpose flour
1.25 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • Mix eggs, flour, oil, and salt in a large mixing bowl with your hands until a sticky dough forms. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic. Cover dough with a wet towel and let rest at least 30 minutes. This allows the gluten to form!
  • Cut and roll as desired.

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone soup is hearty, yummy, and a great way to use up any vegetables that might expire soon. Play with the ratios to find your ideal flavor!

You will need:
1 large pot
1 knife
1 cutting board
1 can opener
1 wooden spoon or other spoon for cooking

Ingredients: 
Olive oil
Onions, diced
Garlic, diced
Canned beans or other protein
Vegetables, cut into small pieces (examples are carrots, celery, potatoes, or chard stalks – anything that requires a bit longer to cook)
Tomato sauce (this is a great way to use up any half-jars of sauce, though a whole jar is best)
Stock (if you don’t have stock and are a meat-eater, browning the meat + using water instead is a good substitute)
Leafy greens (spinach, chard leaves, etc.)
Cheese (optional, dairy-free, or vegan)
Salt & pepper, to taste

  • If using meat – Add olive oil to a stock pot and brown the meat.
  • Add onions and sauté until almost translucent.
  • Add garlic and cook until both onions and garlic are fragrant and translucent.
  • Add your vegetables that take longer to cook (carrots, celery, chard stalks, etc.). Cook until soft.
  • Add tomato sauce and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for 10 minutes.
  • When finished simmering, add any leafy greens and/or canned beans. Let simmer for a few minutes.
  • Add cheese and stir.
  • Taste your soup and add any salt or pepper if needed. Enjoy!

Tomato Stew

An easy, filling dish that goes great with rice. Any protein will do, but if you’re using canned beans make sure to let them stew for a while so they absorb the flavor.

You will need:
1 large pot
1 knife
1 cutting board
1 wooden spoon or other spoon for cooking

Ingredients:
Olive oil
Onion, diced
Garlic, diced
Canned tomato sauce and/or fresh tomatoes, salted
Bayleaf
Protein (if using pork or beef, cut into 1” cubes)
Soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper, to taste

  • Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent.
  • Add tomatoes or tomato sauce & bayleaf. Simmer until tomatoes soften & cook down.
  • Add protein into simmering sauce.
  • Season with 2-3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce & soy sauce.
  • Cover and let simmer until meat (or other protein) is tender and cooked through.
  • Taste your stew and add any salt or pepper if needed. Enjoy!

Fried Rice

Day-old rice is best, but if you don’t have any on-hand, cook some rice and let it sit out for a bit. Feel free to add any other spices or sauces that you like!

You will need:
1 large pan
1 cutting board
1 knife
1 spoon or spatula
1 fork

Ingredients:
Oil
Onion, diced
Garlic, diced
Frozen or wilting vegetables, diced
Cooked meat, cut into small pieces
Rice
Egg (leave out if vegan)
Soy sauce

  • Sauté onions and garlic in a pan until translucent.
  • Add your vegetables and cook until soft.
  • Add your meat and stir.
  • Add your rice and mix thoroughly.
  • If adding an egg, make a small well in the middle of the pan. Crack the egg into the hole and either cook until sunny-side up OR scramble with a fork.
  • Add a few dashes of soy sauce and/or other sauces that you like. Stir and let cook until the rice is to your desired doneness.

Casserole

Casseroles are an easy, one-dish meal that serves as a tasty way to clean out your fridge.

You will need:
1 large mixing bowl
1 wooden spoon or other spoon for cooking
1 oven-safe baking dish
1 can opener
1 knife

Ingredients:
Canned cream of mushroom soup
Stock
Milk, alternative milk, or water
Thyme, rosemary, or other herbs
Salt
Uncooked pasta
Chicken (uncooked or cooked then shredded) or other protein
Mushrooms (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  • Mix canned soup, stock, milk (or alternative milk or water), thyme, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add uncooked pasta, protein, and mushrooms. Give it another good stir.
  • Pour into an oven-safe baking dish. Cover with foil.
  • Put in the oven and let bake for 35-40 minutes or until pasta and chicken are cooked through.

These meals are meant to be adaptable to your palate, so have fun with them! If you like your casseroles a little spicier, add some red pepper flakes. If you like herbs in your pasta, fold in some basil! This can also be a fun activity for kids if you want to pretend you’re in a cooking competition.

Whether you use these recipes or not, it’s always important to think about minimizing food waste. If food waste is sent to landfills, it becomes a source of methane emission, which is a greenhouse gas and contributor to climate change. Even if food waste is composted, there is still water, land, emissions, and labor that is wasted. By shopping our own pantries and freezers while being creative about our cooking, we can all make a difference! 

Bulky Item Collection Temporarily Suspended

Updated May 2, 2020

Recology has reinstated the Bulky Item Collection Program to new requests. Please be patient as there may be a backlog of residents wanting to use this program.

March 30, 2020

To prioritize the safety of their employees, customers, and the communities they serve, Recology San Mateo County has taken the precautionary measure to temporarily suspend the Bulky Item Collection Program in the RethinkWaste service area as of March 30, 2020. The Bulky Item Collection Program requires human handling of the materials, whereas weekly garbage collection is performed by mechanical means. The temporary suspension of this program avoids further risk of exposure of Recology Staff, while still providing other essential waste collection services, such as recycling, organics and solid waste collection services.

For more information, please visit the Recology website.

Please check back here or our social media channels for the latest updates on when the service will be available again.

Please note that recycling, composting, and garbage services are still occurring for residents and businesses by Recology San Mateo County in the RethinkWaste service area as this is an essential infrastructure service. Please continue to place carts out the night before your normal collection day to ensure proper service.