How long until it disappears?

Toss an apple core and a metal can into your yard—which will disappear first? The core, of course. Toss them into a landfill and guess which one? The can!

Here’s why. Metal oxidizes, forming rust. Microorganisms break the can down into simple molecules, although it will take hundreds of years to disappear in a landfill.

But things that biodegrade—like the apple core, tree trimmings, food waste and paper—biodegrade very slooowly in landfills, because the artificial landfill environment doesn’t have the air, water, and bacterial activity needed for the decaying process.

That’s because a landfill is carefully designed to isolate trash from the surrounding environment (the air, groundwater that might be used for drinking water or irrigation, and rain that might run off into our streets). Under these conditions, trash won’t decompose very much. A landfill is not like a compost pile, where organic waste is buried so it will decompose quickly (see “)”.

The Garbage Project is a waste study conducted at the University of Arizona. Students there dug up the landfill and found hot dogs, corncobs and grapes that were 25 years old and still recognizable! And they found newspapers dating back to 1952 that were still readable.

What about plastic? Plastic photodegrades—it degrades under ultraviolet radiation from the sun. But there’s no light in that landfill. When will it degrade?

The estimates of 200 years, 400 years or 1,000,000 years to decompose in a landfill are a scientific way of saying “a really, really, really long time.” Instead, recycling and composting can make those items disappear like magic! And a bonus: it takes 1/20 of the energy to recycle aluminum products as it does to smelt aluminum from scratch.

Use the Abracadabra Widget!

Not quite sure how to make something disappear? Just go to You’ll find a range of convenient options for items that you can’t put in any of your carts.


9 things about cardboard...

...that you probably didn’t know.


The average home move requires 60 boxes, which is more than half of a one-ton pine tree.


The average person moves 11 times, about 6 trees worth of boxes.


Americans move 42,000,000 times a year: 28,560,000 trees!


Recycling cardboard requires only 75% of the energy used to make completely new cardboard.


Cardboard can be recycled over and over and over!


To make cardboard, trees are chopped, chipped, mixed together with recycled cardboard, boiled into pulp, dried and rolled.


Break down boxes to recycle—much easier to fit into your recycling cart!


You can leave tape and labels on cardboard boxes.


Cardboard pizza and food boxes go in your green cart for composting because the grease and food would contaminate the clean cardboard in your blue recycling cart.

You Need a
Bigger Cart


Tice Creek School Goes All In!

“Recycling is good because we can reuse and re-purpose items and that’s better for the environment,” says Cassius Bell, 5th grader at Tice Creek School in Walnut Creek.

Tice Creek promotes project-based learning. Students work for an extended time on investigating an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem or challenge and then create a project or product presented to people beyond the classroom.

It’s no wonder they went all in on the “4 Rs” for schools: reduce, reuse, recycle and rot.

Tara Bell is one of the parent Green Team leaders (Cassius’ mom) assigned to each classroom, along with a student leader. “We replaced foam lunch trays with compostable trays, we have recycle and compost bins in the lunch room and every classroom, and compost bins in the restrooms for paper towels.”

Next to go will be the dreaded “spork” packets (plastic bag, plastic spork and napkin). “I watch kids throw the whole packet into the landfill bin,” Bell says. “Instead, we can have napkin and fork dispensers so each item is disposed of in the right bin.”

Tice Creek is now recycling 74% of its waste away from the landfill and might make the 75% Statewide recycling goal this year!

Kudos Orinda!

City of Orinda, you rock! You’ve achieved a 70% overall diversion rate from the landfill for both residential and commercial. That’s 2,165 tons of recyclables that did not go into Landfill in 2016 just through October—the equivalent of taking 5 cars right off the road!

Your restaurants, grocery stores and other food-generating businesses diverted 182 tons of food waste to the Food Recycling Project, which allows EBMUD to convert food waste into electricity. In fact, enough electricity to power 2,366 homes for a year.

And not to be outdone, construction projects in Orinda diverted 702 tons of waste like concrete, dirt and roofing asphalt. Reprocessing this waste instead of creating new materials reduced CO2 emissions by 636 tons—we’d need to plant over 600 acres of forest to suck in that much CO2.

Keep it up, Orinda! And stay tuned for your city, everyone else! There are plenty more kudos to come.


How it works

Composting in the kitchen and yard.

dinner and yards infographic

From Farm to Table to Farm to Table to…

Organics make up about two-thirds of our solid waste stream; a combination of food scraps, landscaping green waste, food and soiled paper. Organics need air, moisture and heat to activate the decaying process. Your organics are processed on 20 acres in Richmond for about 2-3 months. The result is very dark, earthy soil, certified to be safe and pathogen free—and perfect for growing more fruits, vegetables and grains that find their way right back to your table!


Grow Celery Forever!

You can grow new celery from your leftovers! Before you use the celery, cut off about 2 inches of the entire base.


Put the base upright in a small bowl of warm water in a sunny spot and change the water every day.


You’ll see new leaves in about a week!


Put it in a planter or pot with drainage holes and cover it with dirt so just the leaves peek out.


Water generously.


You’ll see stalks in about another week.


Keep watering and snip off the thinner outer stalks if they wilt.


In a few months, you can snip a stalk and enjoy some ants-on-a-log!


The celery will keep on growing as long as you water it.

This will also work for lettuce, onions and other vegetables—time to experiment!


Turning food into electricity!

Our commercial food recycling program.

Your folks always told you to clean your plate...but if you can’t, now it won’t go to waste.

Because now there’s restaurant food recycling. More than 400 restaurants, grocery stores, schools and other large commercial and industrial food waste generators in the RecycleSmart service area participate in our Food Recycling Project.

Simply put, we turn the leftover food, grease and paper goods into electricity.

Republic Services collects the food waste, for no additional charge, and takes it to East Bay Municipal Water District’s wastewater treatment facility. The food is added to the “anaerobic digesters” that primarily process sewage waste. The digesters (called that because beneficial bacteria “digest” the waste) produce methane gas as a by-product. Big co-generation engines use captured methane to generate electricity that powers the entire water treatment facility, and then some. EBMUD sells the excess electricity to the Port of Oakland!

The leftover is a nutrient-rich compost-like material that is used as a soil amendment for non-food agricultural applications.

It’s a big win all around. Businesses save money by diverting waste out of their landfill bins, the environment benefits from smaller landfills and the renewable electricity reduces our dependence on fossil fuels.

electricity chart


Let’s eat out!

Food recycling participating businesses.

Alamo Palace
Bagel Street Café
Brass Bear Delicatessen
Don Jose's Mexican Restaurant
Five Guys
Great Donuts
Ha-La Sushi
High Tech Burrito
Katrina Rozelle
Lawrence's Meats
Panera Bread
Peet's Coffee
Round Table Pizza
Roundhill Country Club
Xenia Bistro!
Amici's East
Coast Pizzeria
and Car Wash
Athenian School
Bagel Street Café
Baja Fresh
Basque Boulangerie
Black Bear Diner
Cinemark Theater
Blackhawk Country Club
Blackhawk Grille
Blue Ginko 
Bridges Restaurant
China Gourmet
China Paradise
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Choice Lunch
Chow Restaurant 
Christy Donuts
Danville Brewing Co.
Danville Firehouse Bar
Danville Medical Center
Draeger's Market
East Bay Flower Company
El Cerro Medical Center
El Nido
Faz Danville
Ferrari's Cucina Italiana
Fieldhouse Sports Grill
Fish on Fire
Forbes Mill Steakhouse
Forge Pizza
Gotta Eatta Pitta
High Tech Burrito
Ike's Lair
In the Mix Salads
Incontro Ristorante
Jamba Juice
Jersey Mike's Subs
Juice Zone
Jules Thin Crust Pizza
Kane Sushi
Kanpai Poke
Leo's Chinese Restaurant
Little Pear
Locanda Ravello
Luna Loca Mexican Restaurant
Lunardi's Market
Mangia Mi
Melo's Pizza and Pasta
Norm's Place 
Old Towne
Danville Bakery
Panda Express
Peet's Coffee
Pete's Brass Rail
Piatti Ristorante & Bar
Pizza Antica
Pizza Guys
Prickly Pear Cantina
Reutlinger Community for Jewish Living
Revel Kitchen and Bar
RPM Mortgage
Slow G's Eatery
Sunrise Assisted Living
Sushi Bar Hana
Tal's Pattisserie
Taru Sushi
Thai House Restaurant
The Basil Leaf Café
The Great Impasta
The Growler
Tower Grill
Trader Joe's
Uncle Wang's Restaurant
Vally Medlyn's
Fountain & Coffee Shop
Vitality Bowl
Yo's on Hartz
Yuki of Tokyo
Diablo Country Club
360 Gourmet Burrito
Acalanes High School
Amarin Thai Cuisine
American Kitchen
Artisan Bistro
Back to the Table  Cooking School
Bentley School
Bistro Burger
Blue Ginko
Bonehead BBQ
Burton Valley Elementary
Casa Gourmet Burritto
Children's Center
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Chow Restaurant
Coffee Shop
Contra Costa
Jewish Day School
Diablo Foods
El Charro Mexican Dining
El Jarro Mexican Café
Girl Scouts
Summer Camp
Hamlin Cleaners
Happy Valley Elementary
Hideout Kitchen
Jamba Juice
Johnny's Donuts
Kabab Burger
Kane Sushi
Lafayette Care Center
Community Center
Lafayette Elementary 
Lafayette Park Hotel
Mangia Ristorante Pizzeria
Meher Schools
Metro Lafayette
Millie's Kitchen
Oakwood Athletic Club
Oasis Café
Open Sesame
Panda Express
Peet's Coffee
Pizza Antica
Postino Restaurant
Rancho Cantina
Reve Bistro
Roam Artisan Burgers
Round Table Pizza
Rustic Tavern
Sideboard Kitchen & Coffee
Smitten Ice Cream
Springhill Elementary
Intermediate School
Starbucks Coffee 
Susie's Cakes
Swad Indian Cuisine
T's Fire House Restaurant
Temple Isaiah Event
Hall and Preschool
The Rising Loafer
Café & Bakery 
Town Hall Theatre
Urban Farmers
Vitality Bowls
Whole Foods
Yankee Pier
Aegis of Moraga
Asia Palace
Berg Senior Services
Bianca's Deli & Catering
Camino Pablo School
Campolindo High School
Chef Chao Restaurant
Golden Palace
Graze Food Bar
Homemade Kitchen Café
Joaquin Moraga School
Kirin Sushi
Lamorinda Montessori
Little Hearty Noodle
Los Perales Elementary
Moraga Country Club 
Moraga Office Park
Moraga Post Acute
Moraga Produce
Mountain Mike's Pizza
Ranch House Café
Rheem Elementary
Ristorante Amoroma
Round Table Pizza
Royal Siam
Saint Mary's College
Saklan School
Town of Moraga Offices
Baan Thai
Barbacoa Restaurant
Casa Orinda
Del Rey Elementary
Genuine Goodness
Geppetto's Cafe
Glorietta School
La Cocina Mexicana Restaurant
Lava Pit
Maya Mexican Grill
Miramonte High School
Niwa Restaurant
Orinda Country Club
Orinda Intermediate School
Orinda Theater
Peet's Coffee
Petra Café
Piccolo Napoli
Republic of Cake
Serika Restaurant
Siam Orchid Thai Restaurant
Taverna Pelligrini
Village Inn Café
Wagner Ranch Elementary
Wild Magnolia
Wild Magnolia
Yan's Restaurant
Zamboni's Pizza
1515 Restaurant & Lounge
5 Star Tiffany Court
54 Mint 
A Sweet Affair
Bakery & Café
Alborz Persian Restaurant
Atria Montego Heights
Atria Valley View
Bagel Street Café
Baja Fresh
Bancroft Elementary
Black Bear Restaurant
Boudin Bakery
Boundary Oaks Clubhouse
Brass Bear Delicatessen
Broderick Roadhouse
Brown & Caldwell
Buckhorn Grill
Buena Vista Elementary
Burger King
Buttercup Grill & Restaurant
Byron Park Retirement Community
Café La Scala
Café Pica Deli
(Walnut Creek Library)
Caffe California
California Pizza Kitchen
Casper's Hot Dogs
Chalogy & Cornology
Cheesecake Factory
China Village Restaurant
Cinco de Mayo Restaurant
Civic Garden Deli
Civic Park
Community Center
Civic Plaza
Cocola Bakery
Coffee Shop
Corners Tavern
Creekside Grill
Crepes Ooh La La
Del Monte Research Center
Del Valle High School
Deli Delight
Diablo Oriental Foods
Dragon Pond 
Dunkin Donuts
Eagle Peak Montessori
Edible Arrangement 
Embassy Suites
Extreme Pizza
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Foothill Middle School
Gateway Centre
Genova's Delicatessan
Guanatos Ice Cream
Hick'ry Pit
High Tech Burrito
Hillcrest Produce
House of Bagels
House of Sake
Il Fornaio
Restaurant & Bakery
Il Forno
Il Pavone Restaurant
India Bazaar
Indian Valley Elementary
Jade Garden
Jamba Juice
John Muir Medical Center
Kaiser Data Center
Kaiser Hospital
Kaiwa Sushi
Kana Sushi
Kara's Cupcakes
Kasra Market
Kevin's Noodle House
KLA Schools
La Fogata
Lark Creek Walnut
Creek Restaurant
Larkey Market & Deli
Las Lomas High School
Lawrence Berkeley Lab
Le Cheval
Lottie's Creamery
Lunardi's Market
Main Street Kitchen
Marriott Hotel
Mary's Pizza Shack
Massimo Ristorante
Mi Casa Restaurant
Mixed Grain
MOD Pizza
Modern China
Mona's Burgers 
Morucci's Si
Mangia Bene
Mountain Mike's Pizza
Mr. Green Bubble
Mr. Lucky's Bar & Grill
Mr. Pickle's
Sandwich Shop
Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church
Murphy's Deli
Murwood Elementary
Nama Sushi & Teriyaki
Nordstrom Café
Northcreek Academy
Northgate High School
Pacific Bay Coffee Company
Pancheros Mexican Grill
Pancoast Pizza
Panera Bread
Papa John's Pizza
Parada Kitchen
Parkmead Elementary
Parkside Association
Peet's Coffee
PF Chang's
Pinky's Pizza
Pizza Oliva
Pressed Juicery
Prima Ristorante
Quizno's Sub
Ramen Hiroshi
Renaissance ClubSport
Rocco's Ristorante
Rossmoor Diner
Ruth's Chris Steakhouse
Sabores del Sur
Vietnamese Bistro
Salvatore Ristorante
Sargam Indian Cuisine
Saroor Indian Cuisine
Sasa Restaurant
Sauced BBQ & Spirits
Scott's Seafood
Sichuan House
Silk Road Restaurant
Skipolini's Pizza
Slice House
Small Talk Family Café
Sorrento's Restaurant
Bakery & Café
Sports Basement 
Restaurant & Bar
Sufism Reoriented (Consortium of the Arts)
Sunnyvale Market
Sunol Ridge
Sunrise Bistro & Catering
Taheri's Mediterranean
Tatsu Sushi
Taylor Made Cake
Teleferic Barcelona
Tender Greens
The Counter Burger
The Gardens at
Heather Farm
The Greenery Restaurant
The Habit Burger
The Kensington Vintage Senior Living
The Original Mel's Diner
The Perfect Cup
Tice Creek Elementary
Tiki Tom
Tomatina Restaurant
Tortilleria el Molino
Treat Towers
True Food Kitchen
Tullio's Restaurant
Tutti Frutti
Va De Vi Bistro
& Wine Bar
Valle Verde Elementary
Vanda Thai
Vanessa's Bistro
Veggie Grill
Vic Stewart's
Vitality Bowl
Walnut Acres Elementary
Walnut Creek City Hall
Walnut Creek
Farmer's Market
Walnut Creek Intermediate School
Walnut Creek Plaza
Walnut Creek Produce
Walnut Creek Yacht Club
Walnut Heights School
Whole Foods Market
Yalla Mediterranean
Yan's China Bistro
Ygnacio Valley
Care Center