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: bit.ly/TheLoop_signup

Happy Earth Day 2022

 

Let’s celebrate Earth Day this April by sharing how and why we Recycle Right. Earth Day is an opportunity to bring awareness about the actions we can take to protect our environment and our planet. Throughout the month, we hope to inspire a new wave of San José residents to #Pledge2RecycleRight. Take the pledge today!

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, valuable natural resources, and creates jobs.

We would also like to invite you to our Free Earth Day event on Friday, April 22, at the City Hall Plaza from 9 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Expect music, Recycle Right resources, and fun Earth Day activities. We hope you have a Happy Earth month! Be sure to visit our website to share resources or get into the #RecycleRight spirit. Remember, it’s Earth Day Every Day!

What Happens to Food Waste in San Jose?

You may have heared a lot about new state regulations designed to keep food waste out of the landfill, where it creates greenhouse gases. You may be wondering what this means for your garbage and recycling services and whether you need to do anything differently.

The short answer is that you don’t need to change how you dispose of your garbage, recycling and yard trimmings. But it’s important to dispose of food waste correctly.

The City’s garbage processor does something called “backend processing.” This means that, before the garbage goes to the landfill, it is sorted much like recyclables are at a recycling facility. In this process, food waste and compostable food-soiled containers are separated out. This organic waste is sent to a composting facility in Gilroy – the same one that composts the City’s yard trimmings. This system put San José in compliance with these new regulations, known as SB 1383, before they even went into effect! And without you doing anything differently!

There are some things to keep in mind though:

-If you’ve got a recyclable food container such as clear plastic clamshells, be sure to empty and scrape the food residue into your garbage before you put the containers in the recycling. No need to rinse in this drought, but we do want to keep food and liquid from contaminating other recyclables in your cart.

-If you have paper packaging that’s food-soiled, it should go in the garbage so that it can be composted.

-Food waste does not go in your yard trimmings pile – even if it’s from your trimmed fruit trees! That fruit also goes in your garbage container.

At Z-Best, the composting facility in Gilroy, food waste and yard trimmings are used to make two different grades of compost. Compost from food waste is used locally in landscaping and median projects. Compost generated by yard trimmings is higher quality and can be incorporated into soil, used in agriculture and for growing plants. Both help keep soil healthy, and healthy soil can sequester carbon underground. Since we need healthy soil everywhere, you may also consider composting at home. And to reduce the amount of food waste we create in the first place, visit our Waste Reduction webpage for some handy ideas.

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: bit.ly/TheLoop_signup

Recycle Right This Holiday Season

If your usual garbage, recycling, and yard trimmings collection falls on or after Thanksgiving Day, your collection day will be one day later during that week. There are no changes to collection service on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Go to www.sjenvironment.org/lookup to find your holiday collection day. Please set out carts and bins by 6 a.m. on collection day.

San José Recycles Clean

[Embed RR Sharks holiday graphic]

Empty and scrape food-soiled containers before recycling. This holiday season, recycle clean by emptying and scraping food-soiled containers before placing in the recycling. Food and liquid-soiled containers go in the garbage. If they’re placed in the recycling, clean recyclables can be contaminated, making the entire bin or cart unrecyclable. For more recycling and waste reduction tips, and a complete guide of what goes where, visit SanJoseRecycles.org.

Recycle Your Holiday Tree

Curbside collection of holiday trees will be on your regular collection day from December 27, 2021, to January 28, 2022. Remove stands, tinsel and decorations. Cut into 5-foot pieces. Set out by 6:00 a.m. Multi-Family Dwelling Property Managers should contact GreenWaste at (408) 283-4800 to arrange for tree collection.

Too much holiday trash? Sticker it!

Buy Extra Garbage Stickers at San José City Hall, Lucky, and Safeway stores.

Request Services with San José 311

Visit sanjoseca.gov/311, dial 3-1-1 or call (408) 535-3500 to check your collection day or collection company, report missed collections and damaged carts, request an oil jug or filter bag, schedule a free Junk Pickup appointment, make inquiries about your account, or receive additional information about City services.

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: bit.ly/TheLoop_signup

America Recycles Day – November 15!

America Recycles Day is November 15th. To celebrate, people all across the country use the day to organize, educate and improve our recycling systems. In San José, we’ve put together some family-friendly recycling activities and resources for residents to explore on our America Recycles Day webpage. 

Why Recycle? 

Why does recycling need a special day? The United States recycling rate has hovered in the mid-30 percent range since the mid-1990s although much more could be recycled into new products. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set a goal to increase our national recycling rate to 50 percent by 2030. Recycling prevents us from using valuable natural resources, preserves our landfills, saves energy and prevents pollution.  

A common misconception is that recyclables don’t end up getting recycled and just end up in landfills. In San José, recycling collection companies sell the recyclables collected that meet today’s quality standards. In fact, San José has been doing well with a local recycling rate around 75 percent, well above the U.S. average. While we’re doing better than the country overall, we still have room for improvement here, too. America Recycles Day is an opportunity to commit to recycle right and make a difference in the community. 

Recycle right for America Recycles Day! 

With the current standard for high quality recyclables, not only is what we recycle important but how we recycle it is important as well. Here are a few ways to recycle right for America Recycles Day:  

  • Unsure of what goes where? Visit sanjoserecycles.org to find out.   
  • Be sure to empty and scrape any remaining food or liquid out of items so the rest of your recyclables stay clean (no need to rinse recyclables to conserve water). 
  • And last, never use your recycling container for garbage that you cannot fit into your garbage container!  It can contaminate the items in your cart so that they cannot be recycled.    

These three strategies will ensure that your recyclables really do get recycled and help us achieve our recycling goals.   

Visit ESD’s America Recycles Day webpage for videos, webinars, fun activities for all ages like word searches, crosswords and bingo, and more! 

Help us spread the word about America Recycles Day and the importance of recycling right. By committing to recycling right and sharing these resources with others, together we can #keepSJclean. 

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

Don’t be Haunted by Waste this Halloween

Image by Benjamin Balazs from Pixabay


This year, we may find ourselves returning to more normal holiday celebrations with family gatherings and traditions. That could mean a return to the holiday buying and the waste that it can generate. So, this year, maybe we can build the holidays back better, with a focus on experiences rather than things. With its disposable costumes and unrecyclable candy wrappings, let’s start with Halloween.

To reduce holiday waste, the waste hierarchy applies: reduce, reuse, recycle, rot.

Reduce: for what you buy, buy less. If you need a costume, instead of buying a new one that is primarily made from plastic designed for one use, put one together with items you or others have at home. If you’re having a Covid-friendly gathering, set out reusable cups, plates and napkins rather than disposables such as single-serve water bottles or plastic utensils.

Reuse:  if you don’t have to buy something disposable – for instance single-use decorations, don’t! Use reusable ones that gather sentimental value over the years. If you’re on a budget, many thrift stores offer reusable decorations and costumes at this time of year. You can swap used costumes or find them at thrift stores as well.  Alternatively, create costumes out of materials you already have at home.

Recycle: any clean paper, metal, glass and plastic products that are accepted in San Jose’s curbside program. See the Recycling Guide on SanJoseRecycles.org for details. Remember to keep food and liquid out of the recycling container. Make it easy for your partygoers by putting signs on your recycling and garbage containers to let them know what goes where.

Rot:  Halloween treats are fun, but their wrappers are not. Unfortunately, these tiny multi-material wrappers are garbage and can easily rot the landscape as litter. As an alternative, reduce candy wrapper waste by making your own or offering fruit (that comes in its own packaging) such as bananas or oranges.  Any leftovers can be composted along with your pumpkin jack-o-lanterns. (Just keep them out of the yard trimmings pile or cart!) Be sure to remove any candles or decorations from the pumpkins first.

If fruit is a step too far, look for candies that come in cardboard and paper packaging such as milk duds, rather than plastic wrappers.

The holidays can create a lot of waste along with all the merriment. With some careful planning and creativity, you can minimize the waste and still maximize the fun.

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: bit.ly/TheLoop_signup

Taking the Confusion out of Paper Recycling

Photo Courtesy of Millenium Recycling, Sioux Falls, SD


When it comes to recycling, some materials that come in a variety of forms can make it confusing to know what goes in the recycling and what goes in the garbage. Last month, we discussed the confusing world of jar and bottle caps. This month, we tackle all the different types of paper we come across.

Is there a difference between plain paper and paper with coatings such as wax or plastic? What about papers with staples or plastic ‘windows’ or binding? Or that food-soiled wrapper your hamburger came in? We’re here to help you sort out the variations.

There are two main things to consider in recycling paper: the quality of the paper, and whether it’s coated with something.

Quality of Paper

Higher quality paper, such as writing or printing paper, has long paper fibers. This means it’s easy to recycle and should be placed in the recycling container. These papers may be recycled into lower quality papers such as paper towels, napkins, and tissues. Turning high quality paper into lower quality paper means the fibers become shorter and are no longer recyclable.

Lower quality papers such as tissue, paper napkins, or paper towels are not recyclable and should be placed in the garbage container. Besides, these types of papers are often contaminated with other substances such as food or grease or personal care products, which also renders them nonrecyclable. It’s important to keep recyclables clean and dry to ensure they’re recyclable.

Newspaper and advertising inserts, however, are recyclable.

Coatings

Now, if paper is coated with something like wax or plastic, such as the liner on a disposable coffee cup, then the coating makes it unrecyclable, and these items should be placed in the garbage container. This includes the coated paper that comes on the back of address labels or stamps as well as parchment or butcher paper that may be used for cooking.

Store receipts are also not recyclable because they are coated with something called BPA, so make sure to put these in the garbage.

Other Types of Paper

Paper that is otherwise recyclable often has other things on it, too.  A rogue staple here or there can be recycled with a printed document. Same with a paper clip, though we recommend removing paper clips to reuse. Window envelopes that you get in the mail or envelopes with clasps can be recycled as well as papers with adhesives such as post-its and envelopes.

Bound paper such as books and magazines can go in the recycling container though you may want to donate them to a local thrift shop or start a neighborhood free library.

As always, any food-soiled items, including paper food wrappings or paper food ‘boats’, should go in the garbage or your home compost bin.  Food residue can contaminate the clean paper you’re recycling so that it, too, could end up in the garbage.

Fortunately, you can minimize some of the paper waste you make by taking your own cloth napkin and containers when enjoying take-out food, having receipts emailed to you instead of printed, and reading newspapers and magazines online.

With this ‘ream’ of information, you should now be able to dispose of all your paper products correctly. But when something ‘stumps’ you, go to SanJoseRecycles.org to get the answer.

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: bit.ly/TheLoop_signup

Got HHW? Be part of the solution to reduce pollution

Every September, we celebrate Pollution Prevention Week as a time to recognize our collective efforts to reduce sources of pollution. There are many ways that residents can reduce pollution at home, including reducing Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) and disposing of HHW correctly.

What is Household Hazardous Waste?

HHW are corrosive, flammable, or toxic materials that can accumulate in your garage or storage closet and endanger you, your family and the environment. If these items are left around the house, they can be dangerous for children and pets. HHW can also create air pollution inside your home, and products like chemical cleaners, nail polish, hair spray, and pesticides can contain ingredients that irritate eyes and skin, worsen asthma and can even be carcinogenic!

Here are some common HHW items:

  • paints, paint strippers and other solvents
  • wood preservatives
  • aerosol sprays
  • cleansers and disinfectants
  • moth repellents and air fresheners
  • stored fuels and automotive products
  • hobby supplies
  • dry-cleaned clothing
  • pesticides
  • nail polish and nail polish remover
  • glues and adhesives, permanent markers and photographic solutions.
  • office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper

What is the best way to store HHW items?

Store HHW items that you’ll be keeping for a while in well-ventilated areas, out of reach from children and pets. If you won’t be promptly using the products again, consider disposal to avoid the hazards of keeping them in your home.

How should residents dispose of HHW?

Dispose of all HHW for FREE by making a drop-off appointment with the Santa Clara County HHW Program or visiting a take-back location. Never put HHW in your garbage or recycling container or pour them down your toilet, sink, a household drain or storm drain.

How to avoid HHW

If it’s a product you use consistently, such as a household cleaner, consider non-chemical alternatives that are healthier and just as effective. If you’re more comfortable with a commercial cleaning product, look for third party-certified products such as the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice, or check out  the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. For all spray products, mist spray bottles are healthier than aerosol spray cans.

Taken together, these actions can reduce the risks associated with these hazardous everyday products.

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: bit.ly/TheLoop_signup

Got bottle caps and container lids? How to know what goes where

Have you ever wondered what to do with bottle caps and lids? With such a wide variety of containers and caps, it can be hard to know how to dispose of them all. Should a metal cap be recycled on a glass jar or separately? What if it came on a paper carton and not a plastic jug? We’re here to make it easier for you with this list of simple rules:

  • Plastic bottle caps can be recycled if they’re screwed onto plastic bottles. In contrast, if a cap is loose, or it came on a paper carton or tetra pak (oat milk cartons, soup cartons and coconut water containers that have a liner), it should go in the garbage, not the recycling.
  • Very small items go in the garbage. The sorters and equipment at the materials recovery facility (MRF) are calibrated to separate larger items to be recycled. Very small items like loose plastic caps fall through the machinery and end up in the landfill.
  • Plastic lids from larger containers can be recycled. Larger lids, like those on hummus or yogurt containers, are big enough to be sorted individually at the MRF, so they don’t need to be attached to the container. Scrape off any remaining food residue into the garbage and place these in the recycling.
  • Plastic coffee cup lids are NOT recyclable. The cardboard sleeve from the coffee cup can be removed and placed in the recycling. The plastic lid and the coffee cup go in the garbage.
  • Put metal lids in the recycling container. Remove metal lids, like those on glass jars or tins cans, from their containers. Lids will be picked up by magnets in the MRF. This is also true for metal beer and wine bottle caps.
  • Paint lids that have dry paint on them can be recycled. Empty paint cans in the same condition can also be recycled. However, paint cans with any leftover paint need to be disposed of through the County Household Hazardous Waste Program or PaintCare.
  • 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: bit.ly/TheLoop_signup

Is it Recyclable? When in Doubt, Find Out

Do you ever put things in your recycling container without checking to make sure they’re recyclable?  You probably mean well doing this – recycling keeps things out of landfill, conserves resources, and perhaps gives them new life in a new product.  But this ‘wishcycling’– the act of tossing things in the recycling that you hope are recyclable – can actually do more harm than good. If the items are non-recyclable or soiled, they can contaminate the recyclables you put in your cart.  When this happens, all those materials can end up in the landfill – the opposite of what you intended!

When in doubt, find out! If you aren’t sure if something is recyclable, look up the item on SanJoseRecycles.org. Disposal information for over 300 common, and not-so-common, items is searchable on the website. Watch this quick video to see how quick and easy it is to use.

 

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: bit.ly/TheLoop_signup