Residents Share Reasons for Recycling Right

Arleen Arimura, a 35-year resident of San José who lives in Willow Glen, has committed to recycling right in her home.

“I recycle right at home because I don’t like the idea that I’m filling our landfills with waste,” she said. “I try to tread lightly on the earth.”

She regularly goes online to check recycling guidelines to make sure she knows what items go where. is an online resource where residents can check hundreds of items to find out if they go in the recycling, the garbage or have some other disposal process.

“I know a lot of work goes into preparing recyclables for sale,” she said.

Recycling reduces waste, keeps recyclable materials out of landfills and helps protect the environment. It also saves energy and valuable natural resources, and creates jobs. The efforts contribute to quality of life, health and wellness as well as supporting the local economy.

It also helps the City of San José make progress on its goal Zero Waste Resolution adopted in 2008, in which the city committed to diverting 90 percent of waste to recycling by 2022. Residents have contributed tremendously to this effort.

Making sure the right items are sorted into recycling bins or carts has become even more important as the global market changes for recyclable materials. Before 2018, recycling collectors were able to sell bales of recycled materials more easily to overseas processors than they can today. In 2018, China enacted a new policy that the country would no longer accept imports of recyclables that are mixed with trash, the wrong type of materials, or low-quality materials like food-soiled papers and plastics so it now costs more to sort materials and more bales are rejected if they are contaminated.

Since that policy started, our local recycling companies have a harder time selling recyclable materials and often sell them at a lower price. Processing soiled items and non-recyclables increases costs for the recycling companies, which is why recycling right helps keeps service rates down.

David P. Hott, the director of Operations at Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen, is a native of Santa Clara County who has been in San José for more than a decade.

“I believe I have a responsibility to my children and to Mother earth to be mindful of the effects of not recycling,” he said.

Hott said he has set up protocols at home and at work to educate people on the importance of recycling and the need to change behavior.

“We all have a responsibility to be part of the recycling process,” he said. “We have to be sure that we do our part to protect our planet and become more responsible members of the entire sustainability system.”

One of the key concerns for recyclables is ensuring items are emptied and scraped before they go into recycling bins or carts.

Recyclables that have too much food or liquid increase processing costs:

  • Sorting garbage or soiled recyclables from the recycling stream requires more time and labor for recycling companies.
  • Food or liquid-soiled recyclables may contaminate otherwise high-quality recyclables, making them unable to resell.

San José residents can do their part to help clean the recyclables stream:

  • Empty and scrape containers before placing them in your recycling cart or bin.
  • Place food-soiled containers, such as dirty takeout containers, into your garbage cart or bin.
  • Place food waste into your garbage cart or bin so it is sorted and made into compost.
  • Visit, a searchable database with hundreds of items, to learn what goes where.

Keep extra garbage out of recycling carts and bins. Residents with single-family service can purchase an extra garbage sticker available at San José Lucky’s and Safeway stores for $6.25 each. Place extra garbage in a 32-gallon plastic bag affixed with the Extra Garbage Sticker and set out next to your garbage cart on collection day.

Happy Earth Day 2021

Read in Spanish (Español) and Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt)

For over 50 years, the world has come together every April for Earth Day, to celebrate our planet and protect its future. In San José, we’re excited to recognize Earth Day this year, and share some important actions we can take to protect our environment and #keepSJclean. 

Recycling is a simple and easy thing you can do every day to make a positive impact on the planet. Recycling is important because it reduces waste, keeps recyclable materials out of the landfill and helps protect the environment. Recycling also saves energy and valuable natural resources, and creates jobs.

To celebrate Earth Day, we are challenging all San José residents to take the #Pledge2RecycleRight. It’s quick and easy to participate – to complete the pledge, visit our digital pledge page and choose a few simple recycle right actions that you’ll commit to trying for Earth Day this year. Examples include subscribing to our bi-monthly newsletter, The Loop, emptying and scraping containers before recycling, or completing some fun and educational family-friendly activities. 

Take the #Pledge2RecycleRight here. Together, we can celebrate Earth Day and help #keepSJclean for years to come. 

Need some pledge inspiration? Check out local community members making their pledge and committing to recycling right. You may just see some familiar San José faces! 


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Did you know that mattresses can be recycled?

We spend almost a third of our lives in bed. But what happens when our mattresses and box springs reach the end of their lives?

It is estimated that over 50,000 mattresses are discarded every single day in the United States. And unfortunately, many mattresses will be sent to the landfill or illegally dumped on the side of the road. The good news is that there’s a better way of discarding your mattress.

Mattresses Can Be Recycled!

Your mattress is made of steel, foam, fiber and wood — and when disposed of properly, these materials can be separated and recycled individually. In fact, around 80-90% of mattresses by weight can be recycled. When mattresses are discarded on the side of the road, or otherwise sent to the landfill, these resources are lost and cannot be recovered.

Here are some easy ways you can recycle your mattress:

Donate Mattresses in Like-New Condition

If your mattress is still in excellent condition, consider donating it to a charity or give it away through Freecycle or Craigslist.

Make a Junk Pickup appointment

Mattresses can be picked up through our Junk Pickup program. Learn more about the program and schedule an appointment.

Get Your Old Mattress Picked Up By a Retailer

If you live in California and are having a new mattress delivered to your home, retailers are required by law to offer you the option of picking up your old mattress. Inquire with your retailer, as some services may be affected by COVID-19 and exceptions may apply.

Take it to a Participating Facility

Find a participating facility to recycle your old mattress at no cost to you.


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3 Ways to Keep Food Scraps out of the Landfill


Have you ever bought a bunch of veggies with dreams of eating healthier and preparing your own meals, only to find you were perhaps a bit too ambitious?

It can be frustrating to be left with food waste in your refrigerator or pantry. While we can take steps to prevent this from happening, we inevitably find ourselves with leftover food scraps sometimes. Here are a few ways to make sure our food scraps don’t go to waste in San José:

  1. Grow Your Own Food

Did you know that some food scraps can be used to grow more food? The next time you end up with scraps from carrots, green onions, beets, and more, you can reuse them to grow new food. No prior experience or exceptional effort required!

Unlike shopping at the grocery store, when you grow your own food, you avoid unnecessary packaging and food that can contain harmful pesticides and preservatives. Your food does not have to travel anywhere to get to you, and the satisfaction of having grown your own food makes it taste even better.

No garden? No problem! Try your hand at easy windowsill gardening – you can use cuttings from store bought herbs to grow your own.

  1. Compost at Home

Composting is nature’s way of recycling. Organic materials including fruit and vegetable scraps, leaves, grass clippings, coffee grounds and more can be composted into a nutrient-rich soil fertilizer that helps your garden grow. Composting has lots of benefits for your garden like keeping your plants healthy, conserving water, preventing runoff, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Sign up for a free home composting workshop to get started!

  1. Place them in the garbage

In San José, residential garbage does not go straight to the landfill. It is first processed at a materials recovery facility, where food waste and other organic materials are sorted out and sent to a composting facility. The finished compost is then used for landscape and median projects.  

Put food scraps into your garbage container, and rest assured that they will be composted. Never put food or liquid in the recycling – they contaminate recyclables, making them less clean and valuable. Food can get stuck in sorting equipment, forcing workers to stop the sorting line to clean it up. Food can also seep into paper products, making the fibers too weak to be recycled.

Learn more about what happens to San José’s residential garbage and recycling here.


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Grocery Shop with Reducing and Recycling in Mind

According to the EPA, plastic containers and packaging make up almost 30 percent of garbage nationally. To cut down on food packaging waste, keep these tips in mind when visiting the grocery store. 

  1. Check the Recycling Guide
    You are more empowered to make conscious decisions at the grocery store when you know which materials are recyclable. Check out the Recycling Guide for information on how to dispose of food packaging and hundreds of other items. Our website is mobile-friendly so you can quickly pull it up when you’re out shopping. 
  2. Be Prepared
    Bring your own alternatives to replace single-use plastics. The average American family currently takes home about 1,500 bags a year and uses each for only 12 minutes. To cut back, you can bring your own reusable totes and produce bags or simply reuse the bags from your last shopping trip. 
  3. Make Your Own
    Think about packaged foods you could make yourself at home. Find ideas and recipes online to make staples such as bread and crackers, condiments and salad dressings, or nut butters and milks. Staples made at home give you the option of avoiding additives and preservatives and allow for greater flexibility in making and freezing large batches. 
  4. Be Intentional with Your Plastic Purchases
    It can be difficult to ditch plastic and buy only items in sustainable packaging. Don’t get discouraged! Instead be aware and intentional about your purchases. Keep an eye out for the packaged items you need in more sustainable materials like glass, tin and aluminum. Purchasing items in larger containers also reduces packaging. Continue reducing, reusing and recycling packaging whenever you can. 

Want more recycling and waste-related content? Subscribe to our bi-monthly e-newsletter, The Loop, for the most current recycling, garbage and waste reduction news:

Top Troublemakers: Plastic Foam


Have you ever thrown egg cartons, meat trays or takeout containers made of white foam into the recycling bin?

Unfortunately, expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam – commonly referred to as “Styrofoam,” a trademarked name of a unique type of polystyrene – is not accepted in your curbside recycling. Here’s why.

There are two main problems with recycling EPS: 

  1. Contamination
    EPS is often contaminated with food debris or liquid and is difficult to sanitize. Food and liquid-soiled material can cause entire loads of clean recyclables to be rejected and sent to the landfill instead.
  2. Density
    Expanded polystyrene is approximately 5 percent plastic and 95 percent air. This means it is extremely lightweight and prone to flying away when collected from bins without a garbage bag. It also takes up a lot of room per unit of weight and is not cost-effective to transport. EPS foam is also problematic when littered. It does not degrade and breaks easily into tiny pieces, making it difficult to clean up. Those small pieces are often mistaken as food by fish and wildlife and are harmful to their health. To combat these problems and to protect the environment, San José has adopted a Foam Food Container Ordinance, requiring all restaurants to use non-foam food service ware for both dine-in and takeout. 
How you can reduce and reuse EPS: 
  • Choose wadded paper, shredded paper or newspaper instead of “packing peanuts” to protect fragile packages. 
  • Reuse foam packing peanuts for future packages, or to refill pillows, cushions, or stuffed animals. 
Need to dispose of EPS? Here are some alternative recycling programs for EPS: 

If the alternative recycling programs for EPS are not an option for you, please place EPS foam in the garbage. 

Want more recycling and waste-related content? Subscribe to our bi-monthly e-newsletter, The Loop, for the most current recycling, garbage and waste reduction news:

Back to the Basics for 2021: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

As the New Year starts, add a low-waste lifestyle to your list of resolutions. Reducing waste keeps materials out of landfills, saves energy and valuable natural resources, and helps protect the environment. From takeout dining to buying in bulk, we have eight simple tips to help you conquer the three R’s everyday—reduce, reuse and recycle.


  • When shopping, always ask yourself: Do I really need this? Is there a more sustainable way I can get this item? This checkin is a great way to think about what is truly necessary and evaluate whether there are better options without excess packaging waste. 
  • With California’s single-use carry-out bag ban in place, most stores are again allowing customers to bring reusable bags with them. Reusable bags are an easy way to eliminate some unnecessary plastic waste. Call ahead to make sure the store you’re planning to shop at is allowing reusable bags into the store. Alternatively, place unbagged groceries into your shopping cart and bag them into your reusable bags when you get to your car. Bonus points for using reusable produce bags, too. 
  • When shopping for groceries, buy bulk whenever you can, and avoid individually-wrapped foods. Stopping at the butcher shop or farmers market allows you to buy exactly how much food you need while also cutting back on plastic waste from packaging – a double win! 
  • Make home-cooked meals with real ingredients by shopping on the perimeter of a store and avoiding the middle aisles where food tends to be over-packaged to preserve shelf-life.
  • If you’re ordering takeout to eat at home, let the restaurant or delivery service know that you do not want plastic cutlery or a plastic bag. Fed up with all the foam and plastic takeout waste? Try making more meals at home.
  • Make your resolution with a buddy. Although we might not be able to gather together right now, we can set goals together! Share your commitment with friends and check in with each other regularly about new creative ways to reduce waste. 


  • Choose to reuse.  Reuse, sell or donate items that you no longer need. Before making purchases for new items, look to see if they might be available second hand. There are many websites and “virtual garage” social media pages that offer an impressive array of products from home goods and furniture to clothing and toys, among other items. And as a bonus, many items are priced well below similar brand new items. 


  • Recycle Right! Kick-off the new year by correctly disposing of those materials that you can’t reduce or reuseCheck if you are unsure of what goes where. Recycling Right reduces waste, keeps materials out of the landfill, and helps protect the environment. 

Looking for more of a challenge? Go beyond the three R’s and add Refuse and Rot. Find out how here. 

Want more recycling and waste-related content? Subscribe to our bi-monthly e-newsletter, The Loop, for the most current recycling, garbage and waste reduction news:

Top Tips to Recycle Right in the New Year

Read in Spanish (Español) and Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt)

A young boy and girl recycling flattened cardboard.

Are you still looking for a New Year’s resolution? How about an earth-friendly goal such as recycling right? Recycling reduces waste, keeps recyclable materials out of the landfill and helps protect the environment. Recycling also saves energy and valuable natural resources and even creates jobs. 

How can you make recycling right a permanent habit? While changing your recycling behaviors may not become automatic overnight, keeping these eight tips in mind will help you recycle right in the New Year. 

1. When in doubt, find out at 

Do you ever find yourself wondering things like: Can I recycle this milk carton? What about this pile of junk mail? Simply check for answers. We’ve made it easier than ever for San José residents to find out what goes where. 

2. Empty and scrape food and liquids: 

Recycling markets require high-quality, clean materials. To make sure your recyclables meet standards, empty and scrape out food and liquids. Items don’t have to be dishwasher spotless to be recycled. Just grab a utensil and empty and scrape out food or liquids before recycling. 

3. Food-soiled containers belong in the garbage: 

Store-bought food and takeout often come in recyclable packaging, but sometimes they can become too soiled to be recycled. Items made of paper and cardboard, such as pizza boxes, can’t be recycled once soiled with grease or food and belong in the garbage. Durable plastic items like takeout containers should be emptied, scraped, and recycled. If you don’t have time to empty and scrape soiled items, place them in the garbage. 

4. No plastic bags, wraps, films: 

Plastics bags, wraps, and films of any size, shape, or color are not accepted for residential recycling in San José. These items tangle and clog the machinery used to process recyclables, creating operational and safety hazards for workers. If you want to recycle these materials, you can recycle clean plastic bags by bringing them to a drop-off location. Otherwise, try to reuse them or place them in the garbage. 

5. Empty and flatten cardboard boxes: 

When cardboard boxes are not flattened before recycling, carts, and bins overfill quickly. Before recycling a flattened box, it’s also important to remove, separate, and properly sort other packaging. Plastic bags, air pillows, and Styrofoam are not allowed in recycling carts and bins. 

6. Put an end to “wishcycling”: 

If you don’t know where an item goes, don’t have time to look it up, or can’t find it on, place it in the garbage. Do not “wishcycle” and put something in the recycling because you think it should be recycled or hope that it will get recycled 

7. Dispose of household hazardous waste correctly: 

It is important to dispose of HHW correctly. Certain types of HHW, such as batteries and chemicals, can cause physical injury to workers, cause fires, and damage trucks and equipment. Dispose of HHW properly by scheduling a free drop-off appointment at    

8. Subscribe to The Loop: 

Stay informed with The Loop, our semi-monthly newsletter. Each issue features updates and tips on recycling and garbage collection, waste reduction, and more. Visit to subscribe.  

Now that you’ve reviewed our eight tips to recycle right in the New Year, maximize your impact by sharing these tips with friends or family. Feel overwhelmed with these tips? Try implementing one at a time, or focus on just a few to start with.

Want more recycling and waste-related content? Subscribe to our bi-monthly e-newsletter, The Loop, for the most current recycling, garbage and waste reduction news:

Christmas Tree Recycling

Three Chistmas Trees

The Do’s and Don’ts of Holiday Tree Recycling.

In San José, holiday trees are picked up and recycled into mulch. By setting out your real holiday trees correctly, you are helping reduce the amount of waste created over the holidays. Watch this short video to learn how holiday tree recycling helps our environment.

Ready to have your tree recycled into mulch? Here are some simple do’s and don’ts to get your tree ready for collection.


  • Remove all items from the tree so it looks the way it did when you purchased or cut it
  • Cut trees into 5-foot pieces
  • If you live in a single-family dwelling, set your tree out on the curb by 6:00 a.m. on your regular collection day. If you live in a multi-family dwelling, check with your property manager for set out instructions
  • Set out on your collection day between December 26th and January 29th, 2021


  • Attempt to recycle artificial trees. Instead, call your recycling company for a free Junk Pickup appointment
  • Put it in your recycle bin
  • Leave it in the tree stand
  • Leave ornaments, tinsel or any other decoration on the tree

Want more recycling and waste-related content? Subscribe to our bi-monthly e-newsletter, The Loop, for the most current recycling, garbage and waste reduction news:

Low Waste Alternatives to Traditional Wrapping Paper

gift wrapped in brown wrapping paper

Giving and receiving gifts can be a joyful experience, but the wrapping waste it creates can be a bit off-putting. When it’s just one present, it’s easy to simply toss the wrapping paper or gift bag away and move along. But after a holiday, party or shower, the waste is difficult to ignore.

According to Earth911, 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper alone is produced annually in the US. Approximately half of that – 2.3 million pounds – makes its way to landfills. That’s the equivalent of tossing out 10 Boeing 757 airliners each year!

While matte wrapping paper and gift bags can be recycled, metallic, shiny or glossy types cannot. Be sure to place these types of wrapping paper and bags in the garbage. These types of materials can’t be recycled or composted because it’s made of paper fiber and non-paper materials laminated together. While a lot of wrapping paper and bags belong in the garbage, the good news is there are many inexpensive, sustainable alternatives, and creative ways to repurpose materials.

Here are a few sustainable alternatives:


  • Fabric with a decorative print or interesting color (try tying it in a Japanese Furoshiki style)
  • DIY reusable fabric bags
  • Old pillowcases can be decorated and repurposed for larger gift bags


  • Newspaper with secured with twine* (pro tip: try using the comic section)
  • Paper bags with a piece of nature such as a pine sprig or leaf attached*
  • Cardboard boxes tied with decorative string*

*Remove any non-recyclable material before recycling

Leftover wrapping paper and bags?
If you still have traditional wrapping paper or gift bags hanging around, use and reuse it as many times as possible before tossing in the garbage. Bags, in particular, can be reused several times before disposing of them.

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