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.