Seven ways to go beyond

Here at RecycleSmart we’re proud of how well our customers get recycling. So now we’re asking: How can we take the extra step to move beyond recycling and reduce the amount of materials that we use in the first place?

Here are some ideas to reduce waste and help get us into a more sustainable mindset.

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Go to a farmer’s market with reuasable bags or bring your own bags to the store to avoid over-packaging—from produce to pasta and shampoo, we have lots of bulk options here in Contra Costa County. If you do shop at a grocery store, choose the items with less packaging.


Visit a local shop on your way home from an outing rather than ordering online to reduce the use of excessive mail order packaging.


Carry durable items in place of single-use straws, foam cups, plastic water bottles and utensils.


Place usable items out on Reuse Day to give them a new home. If Reuse Day on your street has passed, why not host a toy or clothing swap with friends, schoolmates or neighbors. What’s “used” for you may just need a new home for a second (or third) life!


Repair items before you replace them. If you don’t know how, maybe someone nearby does! Or you can visit YouTube to learn all kinds of fix-it skills.


Before you toss it, reconsider—Can that chipped mug hold a succulent sprout? Challenge your creativity to find a new use before you toss.


Take a moment to ask yourself, “Do I really need this? Is there something that already exists that can do the job?”

We don’t expect everyone to follow all of these principles all of the time, but each small change adds up!

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Lighten That Load

How about reducing the amount of temptation and paper waste in your mailbox? You’ll find complete information about how to remove your name from direct marketing lists at

Meal box mystery

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Home delivery meal kits are getting more and more popular—it seems like a new service opens every day! Getting pre-made or ready-to-assemble meals delivered right to your door certainly saves time and effort, but what about their impact on the environment?

Many companies deliver food stored with plastic freezer packs to keep them cool. Plastic freezer packs are NOT recyclable, whether they’re filled with gel, water, or cotton. Even if you empty out the goo inside, we CAN’T recycle the lightweight plastic bag.

Here are a few ideas for what to do with ice packs, instead of throwing them out:

  • Reuse a few for picnics, camping trips or kids’ lunches.
  • Send them back to the meal kit service that sent them to you (Blue Apron will accept them; you can check with other meal kit services about their policies.)
  • Share with family and friends who could use them. Wrapped in a pillowcase, a cold gel pack can cool your bed on a hot night.

This is a tough product and unfortunately, they’re trash! The fewer we use, the better.

You’ve got questions, we’re here for you! Send your “Can I Recycle That?” questions to us at!

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Lead the Way

How it started

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We’ve posted information about how to recycle different types of packaging at

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People around the world just finished Plastic-free July, a global effort to reduce plastic use. Throughout the month, communities shared tips and inspiration to reduce plastic usage. If you participated, how did it go? Did you find a new way to bring less into your home? Did you find a new plastic-free version of your favorite product? We’re excited to hear what you learned or tried- send us a note at and share your favorites.

Champs earn scholarships!

This May, RecycleSmart awarded three student leaders with Waste Reduction Student Scholarships. This year’s recipients are:

Champs earn scholarships

Rohith Moolakatt

Under Rohith’s leadership, Northgate High School’s environmental club has started developing eco-leaders in their junior and sophomore years, even reaching out to Foothill Middle School and Walnut Acres Elementary to start sorting early! Rohith is studying Environmental Science at the University of California, Berkeley this fall.

Ava MacKay

Ava joined the Environmental Board at Acalanes High School in tenth grade—in her senior year as head of the board, the school switched from ketchup packets to ketchup pumps and from styrofoam cups to compostable paper cups. Ava is majoring in Communications at California State University, Chico.

Emily Tamkin

Emily’s legacy at Campolindo High School is easy to spot since she joined the Environmental Club as a freshman. What once was “a sea of black trash cans” is now a fully integrated three-bin system that includes recycling and compost. The diversion rate at Campolindo is up 50% from two years ago! Emily is off to Bates College, where she will study Biology.

For more information about RecycleSmart scholarships or to apply, visit

Keepin’ it Clean

This kitty, Alvin, of Orinda, was inspired by Oliver (the dog on Republic’s trucks) and is helping keep its household’s recyclables empty, clean and dry. If your pets help you clean up the cans and jars, give the containers a wipe or a rinse and then make sure they’re nice and dry before you put them in the blue cart. That keeps your paper and cardboard free of leftover food spilled from empty jars, cans and bottles, ready for its recycling makeover. You can be sure that your paper has a long and productive future!

There’s more info online at

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A tip from Janet C. in Walnut Creek

Tumbling tips!

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I have two waste-free tips for laundry day. Instead of buying dryer sheets, I dunk a wash cloth in fabric softener, wring it out and let it dry. I put the dry washcloth in the dryer with my wet clothes to get soft, fresh-smelling laundry. I use the same washcloth over and over again.

I don’t use fabric softener for towels or workout clothes because it works against their absorbing ability. For those loads, I use wool dryer balls to speed up drying and keeping them nice and fluffy! Sometimes I even put peppermint or lemon essential oil onto the balls for a nice smell.

Thanks for the newsletter!

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Do you have any tips you’d like to share?

Send your ideas to


Captain Zero strikes again!

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Click the image above to print out at full size.

The hottest number these days is ZERO! Color in the zero-waste lunch and hang it up to remember these zero-waste tips when packing your lunch

  • Use a cloth napkin instead of paper towels
  • Pack a stainless-steel fork and spoon
  • Use a refillable drink container and reusable food containers
  • Pack up all your goodies in a lunch box or fabric bag instead of a paper bag
  • Bring home any leftovers so parents know what you like and don’t like

And, just like that, you have a zero-waste lunch! Aye aye, Captain!