5 Tips for Managing Your Recycling, Compost & Garbage

[1] The Sorting Hat

Not sure what goes where? Check out WhatBin.com to learn what materials belong in each cart. Think you’re a master sorter? Test out your skills with our Interactive Carts Game.

[2] Let’s Break It Down

Optimize space in your blue recycling cart by keeping recyclables loose (not bagged) and breaking down boxes.

Remember that you are able to place all recyclables in the same cart—this includes cardboard, clean paper products, glass bottles and jars, metals, and plastics containers #1-7. Shredded paper may be placed inside a paper bag labeled “shredded paper.”

Please make sure lids are completely closed to prevent items from falling out of your cart.

[3] Bag Your Garbage Before You Toss It

Do your part to keep drivers safe and reduce litter. Garbage should be secured in bags to prevent unwanted critters and materials from blowing onto the street. Make sure all garbage fits inside your cart, with the lid completely closed.

[4] Save Your Donations

Put reusable items aside for now. Once Shelter-In-Place restrictions are lifted, donate reusable goods to a local charity, non-profit, family or friend. They will appreciate the donation, and it won’t go to the landfill. You can also find a location for your donatable items at: RecycleStuff.org

[5] Roll Out!

Place residential carts out by 6:00 a.m. on your service day. Drivers may pick up carts earlier or later due to temporary routing changes. Carts should be put away within 24 hours of service. Remember to position carts two feet apart to allow automated trucks to collect carts efficiently.

Temporary Closure of Buyback at Shoreway

The buyback portion of Shoreway Environmental Center’s Public Recycling Center (PRC) will temporarily close effective Friday, August 16 at 4:00 p.m. 

The recycling markets have significantly changed recently and as a result, the largest independent recycling company in the state, rePlanet, abruptly closed all 284 of its buyback centers throughout California on August 5, 2019, including three in the RethinkWaste service area. The unexpected and unforeseen closures created an overwhelming response to RethinkWaste’s San Carlos PRC, resulting in an unprecedented number of customers and volume of collected CRV containers to our facility. While our PRC recently completed a layout update to allow for a few more vehicles to queue in the buyback area, the percent increase does not match up with the increases in vehicles experienced in the last week. 

 “The safety of our community members and area is always our top priority and the long lines along Shoreway Road places our customers, the driving public, pedestrians, cyclists, employees of our facilities and neighbors and vendors at risk when arriving or departing the facility area,” said Joe La Mariana, RethinkWaste Executive Director. “We appreciate the public who use the CRV program now and in the past. We will assess market conditions and necessary program costs during this temporary closure period and look to the state for assistance in helping resolve this situation. Earliest possible date to resume buyback operations at the PRC is early October.” 

Please note that the Public Recycling Center will remain open Monday – Saturday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. to accept a wide variety of drop-off items (at no charge) from the public including excess cardboard, latex and oil-based paint, batteries, cooking oil, fluorescent lights and more. To see a full list click here.

RethinkWaste sincerely apologizes for the inconvenience and encourage people in search for alternate local buyback locations to visit RecycleStuff.org

Shoreway Facility Tours Update

RethinkWaste is always looking for ways to improve the equipment and processes at our publicly-owned Shoreway Environmental Center in San Carlos, and have just begun the installation of new, updated machinery to divert organics waste from landfill and convert it into natural biogas.

While we are very excited about this project, it does involve major construction, a major time commitment and major safety concerns for our site workers and guests.

The safety of our community members is our top priority and to ensure public safety and accommodate construction schedules and severely reduced parking capacity at the facilities, tours for the general public will not be available Fall 2019 through Summer 2020.

Tours will still be offered to school, business and organization groups that are able to arrive by bus. No-charge busing is provided for 3rd-5th grade classes in the RethinkWaste service area of Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Carlos, San Mateo, parts of unincorporated San Mateo County and the West Bay Sanitary District.

Tour access to certain areas of the Shoreway Environmental Center Transfer Station and Materials Recovery Facility may also be affected by construction activity during this period.

The RethinkWaste team expresses our sincerest apologies for the inconvenience. For questions or inquiries about qualifications please contact us.

Top 5 Compost Misconceptions

Do you know what is and is not accepted in our compost program? We recently surveyed people in the RethinkWaste community to find out what they know. And we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 compost misconceptions.

  1. Pizza boxes – 43% of those surveyed knew which bin pizza boxes go in. While pizza boxes are made of cardboard, most end up with oil or cheese remnants. Cardboard that’s come in contact with food is now ‘food-soiled paper,’ which means pizza boxes go into the COMPOST.
  2. Disposable paper coffee cups – Only 56% of those surveyed knew where to correctly put their paper coffee cups. This item when completely made from paper is also considered ‘food-soiled paper’ and goes into the COMPOST.
  3. Pet waste – About 59% of those surveyed thought that they could throw pet waste into their compost cart. We send all of our compost to industrial composting facilities that sell the finished product to farmers, landscapers, and vineyards, and they do not want pet waste in their soil. Some of the finished product even gets sent back to the Shoreway Environmental Center, where residents can pick up compost, at no cost! So, remember to put pet waste in the GARBAGE.
  4. Food-soiled napkins and paper towels – One may think these items go into the recycling since they are paper, but food-soiled napkins and paper towels go into the compost cart! Only 67% of those surveyed knew where these items go. Remember all paper products that come in contact with food is ‘food-soiled paper’ and belongs in the COMPOST.
  5. Produce stickers – Although produce stickers seem like they would break down into compost, they do not because there is plastic in the sticker. Remember to peel those produce stickers off and throw them in the GARBAGE!

Have a question about what does or doesn’t belong in your green compost cart? Shoot us a note below!

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Pilot program aims to save food waste from landfills

Every day, hundreds of tons of food are thrown away in San Mateo County. Not composted—thrown away.

“The reality is people aren’t very good at separating food waste,” said Hilary Gans, senior facilities manager at the waste management authority RethinkWaste. Organic waste makes up a third of all garbage collected in the county, he said: more than any other category. All that tossed food piles up in landfills, where it decomposes and releases harmful methane gas into the atmosphere.

A new device, however, could pull those numbers way down. It’s a big, green, $5 million machine called an OREX.

“It’s kind of like a garlic press,” Gordon Tong, program director of waste reduction at the county Office of Sustainability, said of the device, adding, “except all the stuff that oozes out of it is organics.”

Basically, he said, you load up the OREX, or “Organic Extrusion Press,” with garbage, and it separates out the organic waste — the food and compost — from everything else.

Read the full story by Matthew Vollrath on The Almanac here.

Are you Disposing Your Batteries Properly?

Do you have a laptop, sneakers that light up or a key fob at home? Do you know all these items contain batteries? When these items no longer work, you need to dispose of them responsibly and not toss them in any of your carts or bins!

Batteries are a type of hazardous waste containing toxic chemicals, that when tossed in the trash or recycling can cause a lot of harm to the environment and recycling facilities.  In the garbage, batteries can leach chemicals into the landfill and in the recycling, they can be crushed by sorting machines and potentially cause a fire. That’s exactly what happened at our Shoreway Environmental Center in San Carlos. On September 7, 2016, our recycling facility suffered a catastrophic fire that caused nearly $8.5 million in damages and all due to a lithium-ion battery.

So little, yet so destructive!

Next time you have a device that no longer works, check to see if it has a battery in it and dispose responsibly. There are lots of options!

Residents in single-family homes can place bagged batteries in a clear zip-top bag and place ON TOP of the black garbage cart on collection day. Residents in apartments or condos can see if they have an orange bucket and placed bagged batteries in there. You can also bring batteries to the Shoreway Environmental Center’s Public Recycling Center for free or you can drop off batteries at a dozen locations in the RethinkWaste service area. Get more information about the above services here.

Waste facility upgrades take major financing step in San Carlos

RethinkWaste issues $50M in bonds for green infrastructure

A long-imagined goal to turn organic waste into biogas that can fuel garbage trucks is inching closer to reality after RethinkWaste issued nearly $50 million in green bonds this week, marking a step forward for an effort to make major facility upgrades at the Shoreway Environmental Center in San Carlos.

Aimed at reducing waste and greenhouse gases and improving recycling operations, the improvements the bonds will help pay for are expected to modernize the sorting equipment used at the waste authority’s recycling plant and begin a pilot to convert organic material into a clean energy source, said Joe La Mariana, executive director of RethinkWaste. Though major upgrades have been considered as the facility enters its 10th year in operation, La Mariana said officials began work on a financial analysis of the facility’s operations last summer to determine how large-scale improvements could be funded.

Increasingly stringent standards for fiber-based recyclables put in place by China last year and a growing interest among officials to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills were among the priorities officials considered in identifying some $25 million in capital projects needed for the 16-acre site northeast of the Holly Street and Highway 101 interchange, noted La Mariana. He said the staff and the board of the joint powers authority RethinkWaste represents, also known as the South Bayside Waste Management Authority, recognized interest rates were much lower today than they were when the authority first borrowed bonds to construct the facility in 2009.

Read the full article by Anna Schuessler on The Daily Journal here.

Recycling Piles Up in Bay Area After China Bans Most Plastic Waste

For years, American consumers believed that when they were putting out their recyclables on the curb, they were doing their part to help the environment. Much of this waste ended up in China, but after the country said last year that it would no longer accept plastic and other incoming waste, cities have scrambled to find a new way to dispose of the materials. How are Bay Area cities dealing with the problem of plastic and what legislation is in the works to address the problems?

Listen to the full segment hosted by Scott Shafer on KQED News here.

Where does your plastic go? Global investigation reveals America’s dirty secret

A Guardian report from 11 countries tracks how US waste makes its way across the world – and overwhelms the poorest nations

What happens to your plastic after you drop it in a recycling bin?

According to promotional materials from America’s plastics industry, it is whisked off to a factory where it is seamlessly transformed into something new.

This is not the experience of Nguyễn Thị Hồng Thắm, a 60-year-old Vietnamese mother of seven, living amid piles of grimy American plastic on the outskirts of Hanoi. Outside her home, the sun beats down on a Cheetos bag; aisle markers from a Walmart store; and a plastic bag from ShopRite, a chain of supermarkets in New Jersey, bearing a message urging people to recycle it.

Read the full story by Erin McCormick, Bennett Murray, Carmela Fonbuena, Leonie Kijewski, Gökçe Saraçoğlu, Jamie Fullerton, Alastair Gee and Charlotte Simmonds on The Guardian here.

3 Simple Tips to be Plastic Free this July and Beyond

The month of July is “Plastic Free July!” Help be part of the solution to single-use plastic pollution with these three simple tips on how to be a part of this growing movement!

  1. Skip the produce bag. While California has banned the single-use bag from check out, those pesky produce bags are flimsy and can easily carry with wind. Most produce has a protective layer and those that don’t, have no need to be in a flimsy throwaway bag. Refuse the bag while our shopping OR purchase reusable produce bags. They come in many sizes and materials.
  2. Go for a reusable cup. Yes, we all have reusable water bottles, but what about that cup of coffee, boba tea or juice? Keep an extra cup or mug at work, in your car or in your backpack so you always have on hand when you’re getting that afternoon pick me up!
  3. Bring your own utensils. For those on the go, refuse the single-use plastic utensils and bring your own. Investing in a set of reusable utensils such as those made of bamboo can help save possibly millions from piling up in landfills as these items are difficult to recycle and thus not accepted in our recycling program.

Have other ideas on how to reduce plastic use? Share them with us!