A front door opens up to a scene of wrapping paper and ribbons

Home for the holidays

Hosting family and friends during the holidays means more of everything: more meals, more mess—and more trash and recycling! In all the holiday hubbub, it can be hard to keep a handle on just what goes where.

Don't fret! Our room-by-room guide helps you sort it all out. We make it simple, so you have time to enjoy your holiday turkeys, latkes, mazao, dumplings, gumbo, casseroles, choppino, Hoppin' John, stews, pies and sweets!

We've also got great tips for zero-waste holiday items and crafty ways to reduce wasteful wrapping by reusing paper and other materials to bring extra holiday cheer to your home.

So come inside and see what we've got cooking!

Keep it Trim this Season

This year, make your holiday meals zero-waste! Here are a couple ways to get started:

  • Need to go grocery shopping? Shop at your local farmers market to reduce packaging and support small businesses.
  • The greenest dishware? Use reusable cups, dishes, and cutlery whenever possible! If you need extra plates, uncoated paper ones can go in your green organics cart when you're done.
  • Have leftovers? Turn it into soup or casserole, or have the household face off in a cooking challenge to clean out your fridge. But remember any amount of food scraps go in the green organics cart.
  • Pledge to compost! You can win prizes from local eco-stores! Sign up and share the pledge at ContraCostaComposts.com

For more ways to trim your food waste, check out RecycleSmart.org/food-recovery

All that glitters is not good (for your cart)

A man pours in the contents from a smaller compost bucket into his green compost cart

In our last issue we showed you the magic of the big sorting machine. What's not so magical: when ribbons or glitter get into its gears. Remember, these items can get tangled in the machinery, which creates safety hazards for people working the machine and can even cause the machinery to shut down completely. Please keep those stringy things and other tiny bits (I'm looking at you, tinsel!) out of your blue recycling cart.

While you're at it, keep greenery displays natural so they can happily compost. Use trimmings from your tree, dried fruit or pinecones for alternatives to synthetic decorations. If you do use store-bought decor, make sure that you remove any wires, tape or other non-compostable materials before you drop wreaths or garlands in your green organics cart (and skip the snow spray altogether!).

Recycling room by room

Take the guesswork out of recycling this winter with our recycling guide! If you can't fix, repurpose or donate items—they belong in the black landfill cart. Remember, your recyclables need to be empty, clean and dry before they go into you blue recycling cart.

If you have a question about an item that is not listed, go to RecycleSmart.org/houses/blue-cart for our full list.

Bathroom recyclables: bleach container, two empty toilet paper rolls, a small contact solution bottle, a plastic cleaner bottle, a plastic box of baby wipes, a shampoo bottle. Living room recyclables: a stack of paperback books, a stack of magazines, a stack of paper envelopes, a plastic water bottle, a soda can and a box of tissues. Kitchen contents: plastic dish soap bottle, plastic butter container, plastic yogurt container, empty paper towel rolls, a plastic milk jug, an empty and clean pie tin, a paperboard cereal box  and an empty wine bottle. Garage recyclables: a big cardboard box with other cardboard boxes folded up and stacked inside of it, a blue bucket, an empty, clean pet food tin, a clear jar, a plastic bag with other plastic bags inside of it, a paper bag, a plastic detergent bottle. WHAT'S NOT RECYCLABLE: BATHROOM: Used tissues, cotton swabs, feminine products, wipes, toothbrushes (remove and recycle batteries properly), diapers, mirrors, aerosol cans. KITCHEN: Snack wrappers, chip bags, single-use plastic utensils, plastic straws, broken dishes and glasses, juice pouches, dirty or oily containers, paper milk and ice cream cartons, biodegradable plastics.LIVING ROOM: TV remotes*, firewood ashes, all electronics*, receipt paper, unusable textiles, plastic and padded envelopes, hangers, hard cover books. GARAGE: Car batteries*, polystyrene foam sheets and popcorn, spray paint cans*, water hoses, hazardous waste*, wires, treated wood, motor oil. *For information on how to dispose of items that require special handling, go to RecycleSmart.org/HHW

Food saving all-stars

Three Oke Poke staff in red shirts smile and give a thumbs up

Restaurants all over Central Contra Costa County have been going above and beyond making sure they are aligned with SB 1383—California's organics law. Most commercial businesses participate in the food to energy program in partnership with EBMUD. Here are a few that we want to give a big shout-out to:

Oke Poke (1529 Locust St, Walnut Creek)

For the last few years, Oke Poke has actively been participating in the food to energy program. Their material is well-sorted and their recyclables are always empty, clean and dry. See their cheerful staff above!

Postino (3565 Mt Diablo Blvd, Lafayette)

Chef Stewart and his staff do an excellent job with food scraps. They have dedicated employees who empty the food scraps into the outdoor food waste bins.

Yu Bistro (1 Orinda Way, Orinda)

Says our Recycling Coordinator: "Yu Bistro is really great with preventing food waste! The staff knows what to placed in the food scrap containers and outdoor food waste bins. Nice!"

Cantinho do Brazil (370 Hartz Ave, Danville)

This is a newer restaurant in Danville that opened late last year. Nick, the owner, is very excited about participating in the food to energy program to stop food waste from going to the landfill. He even sells the leftover pastries and food for a discounted price to prevent good food from being wasted—available on the Too Good To Go app.

To find an all star near you, go to RecycleSmart.org/restaurants

Clearing the Clutter

We all have it—stuff that wants attention! To start the new year with a clean slate (or garage!), we have a tool for you. re:source is the new and improved tool for Contra Costa residents to handle their stuff.

From malfunctioning electronics to wobbly chairs, to worn out clothes, re:source gives you options. Just enter the item and your zip code, and the tool will provide a list of options to help you repair, recycle or safely remove it.

Look for the widget on our home page at RecycleSmart.org

Smart holiday tips

Folded up green checkered dish towel

RecycleSmart is sharing our own holiday checklist on how you can reduce, reuse and recycle in the coming months:

  • Use reusable shopping bags when you are out gift or grocery shopping to cut down on plastic and paper bag consumption.
  • Think outside the box with gift wrapping: use tea towels, maps, reusable bags or newspaper to wrap your gifts.
  • Take the time to break down boxes and separate out packaging before recycling.
  • Do not throw away electronics. Go to our website and check out the re:source site for information on how you can properly dispose of your items.
  • Remember to make sure your recyclables are empty, clean and dry before placing them into your blue recycling cart.
  • Separate out your batteries. Place household batteries in a clear bag and place on top of your blue recycling cart on your collection day or on your bi-annual Reuse Day.
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Do you have any tips you'd like to share?

Send your ideas to Authority@RecycleSmart.org


Cheery chains of delightful decor

Shiny, glittery and velvety wrapping paper and any type of ribbon can't be recycled, but they can be re-used. Let's give those pretty things a new life as a garland! You can use it to decorate a wall, mantle or even as a wrapping decoration.

top left photo: Scissors cutting a piece of velvet wrapping paper. top right photo: A glue stick with the lid off next to six squares of red and pink velvet wrapping paper. bottom left photo: A child's hands holding a piece of wrapping paper with one hand and stringing ribbon through it with the other hand. bottom right photo: Close-up of the wrapping paper pieces strung together to create a garland.

Gather your materials: paper or greeting cards with velvet, metallic coatings or glitter texture, plus a few lengths of ribbon. Any ribbon works!


Cut shapes out of the paper or cards. Try squares and triangles first (they're easiest), or advance to circles, hearts and stars.


Now attach the shapes to the ribbon! Put matching shapes on either side of the ribbon, and glue them together, or poke a hold through the center of the shapes and string your ribbon through (shown above).


Ta da—a twirly garland that looks great from any angle!