Why Keep Your Recyclables Clean?

Because China’s new policies have dramatically reduced the amount of recycling it’s accepting. And it’s requiring much cleaner materials.

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The U.S. exports about one-third of its recycling, and nearly half has been going to China. For decades, China has used recyclables to supply its manufacturing boom, but the boom has slowed and China now says that our recycling is contaminated with too many non-recyclable materials, which prevents them from accepting our recyclables. (Contamination is when garbage or non-recyclable material is in the blue recycling cart). China is insisting that recyclables be much cleaner than what we’re currently sending from the RecycleSmart service area to our recycling processor.

Even though our recycling goes through a complex process of screens, blades, scanners, fans, air jets and magnets to sort and separate out all the non-recyclables and contamination, inevitably some non-recyclables slip through. It’s just not possible to meet that new standard without your help. To meet strict quality requirements in this new era of recycling, here are the top things you can do to reduce contamination in your blue recycling cart:

  • Place recyclables in cart loosely (not bagged except for plastic bags) for easier processing.
  • Wipe food residue out of plastic containers with a paper towel and put the paper towel in the green cart.
  • Keep plastics and containers empty, clean and as dry as possible.
  • Keep paper clean and dry.
  • Toss food-soiled paper (like napkins and paper food boxes) into your green cart, not with other clean paper.
  • Bag your clean and dry filmy plastic bags inside a larger plastic bag.
  • And most of all…NO garbage in the blue cart!

RecycleSmart has a commitment to divert 75% from landfills by 2020. So, it’s up to us as a community to keep the recycle life cycle going. For more tips about recycling and what to put in which container, head over to RecycleSmart.org.

Put a little spring…

…in your cleaning. Sun, flowers, birds, bees, it must be time for some spring cleaning. And you can do it au naturel!

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Most of your home can be cleaned with water, soap, vinegar and baking soda. There are tons of recipes online.


Stores also offer lots of less toxic cleaning supplies.


Old, cut up sheets and cloths that are not reusable make great substitutes for paper towels.


Haven’t worn it or read it in a year? It’s collecting dust and might be happier in a new home (you can put out on your next Reuse Day or donate it).


Opening windows while cleaning keeps chemicals from settling on you and your home.


Most of your laundry can be cleaned in cold instead of hot water, which cuts about 1,600 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year.


Indoor plants can help keep the air fresher inside.


Dusting off refrigerator coils and deep cleaning ovens makes them more energy efficient.

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Feeling Bulky?

How It Started

Recycling—it’s a tale as old as time. It all began with the Pharaohs...

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The recycling life cycle

Scientists can now read the layers of recycled papyrus in Egyptian sarcophagi, finding ancient grocery lists and household accounts! Paper making evolved from plants and bark to rags to wood and back to cellulose plant fibers, now using recycled paper and cardboard over and over. Our recycling got a big boost in 1987, when a US garbage barge spent months at sea, searching for a location to take its garbage cargo—a rude awakening about how much waste we each generate. The average American produces about 4.4 pounds a day. But now, over 1 billion people take part in Earth Day to promote recycling and protecting the earth. And we Californians plan to do our part by keeping 75% of our waste out of landfills by 2020.

Eating well
and being green

Pizza Antica

Pizza Antica in Danville dishes up fine, classic Roman-style pizzas. What it doesn’t dish up is a lot of waste.

“We know how much impact a restaurant can have on the environment and we want to be as green as we possibly can,” says manager Drew Perry. The bar, for example, generates no trash at all. “We recycle the empty bottles. We squeeze all our own juices and we use paper straws that we compost.”

In the kitchen, the restaurant generates less than one 15-gallon bin of trash a day, and that’s serving up to 200 people! “All our food waste is part of RecycleSmart’s Food Recycling Project—it’s sent to EBMUD and turned into electricity. We just have some plastic wrap that we have to put in the trash.”

And all the pizza boxes (for takeout) are made of unbleached, recycled paper. “We suggest that people toss the box in their residential green cart after they enjoy the pizza” (because inevitably the boxes are food soiled when the pizza is, sadly, all gone).

Why do all this? “We want to take care of the environment that’s taking care of us,” Perry says. “And do it while offering some mighty tasty fare!”

Check out Food Recycling Project participating restaurants at RecycleSmart.org/foodwaste

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Moving Upwards!

Way to go, Moraga! You’re all recycling more and every bit helps. The Town as a whole has a 69% diversion rate which means only 31% is going to the landfill.

  • You’ve increased organic tons recycled annually from 3,945 to 4,126, which is like taking 9 cars off the road.
  • Over 2,400 tons of recyclables (blue cart) did not go into landfill—that’s the equivalent of carbon sequestered by 9,900 acres of forest in a year.
  • Commercial food recovery is about 267 tons, powering 25 homes.
  • It’s going to take a push to get to that 75% diversion rate by 2020—and you know you’re up to the challenge!


Check out My Resource™ for 24/7 secure access to your account—from your desktop or mobile phone. You can pay your garbage bill, set up Auto Pay, go paperless, schedule extra pickups, get weather/holiday service updates and lots more. Sign up at RepublicOnline.com.


Rock and Roll(s)!

Here’s a project that even the littlest can join in on. You can use small empty toilet paper rolls or larger paper towel rolls to create an entire orchestra of sound! (Rolls not in your orchestra can be recycled with your other paper.)

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Paint the rolls however you like and let them dry well.


Put tape across one opening, first one way, then the other, then around the tube.


Put some pasta pieces, rice or other small objects in the roll.


Seal up the other end.


Sing or listen to a song with a good beat and shake, rattle and roll!