Make it your Mantra: Empty, Clean and Dry.

Those three words tell you everything you need to know about how to prepare glass and plastic for recycling.

Why are we chanting this new tune? It’s because recent international policies have set a much higher standard for the quality of glass, plastic and paper that countries like China will accept for recycling. For example, all paper products must be completely clean—even a trace of food waste will turn that recyclable cardboard into garbage. Offending leftovers like soda, grease, mayonnaise or milk can creep out of containers and contaminate paper products. And don’t even get us started on peanut butter…

Keeping our recycling uncontaminated can be a challenge when it all goes into the same blue cart. But if we take a little time to make sure that our plastic and glass containers are empty, clean and dry beforehand, we can keep our recyclables pure. Of course we can do it!

So take that last bite of almond butter, spread that last bit of jelly. Wipe the jars clean (or stick them in the dishwasher along with your dirty plates), then let them dry completely before you put them in your blue cart. Those extra few seconds really make a difference between a longer life cycle for our materials or the landfill forever.

All food-soiled paper products (like greasy pizza boxes, take-out cartons and used napkins) go into the green cart to be composted, keeping the blue cart pristine for empty, clean and dry recycling. So let’s all sing together: Empty, Clean and Dry!

image of papers and cans

image of Oliver the dog
hand clap icon

Meet Oliver, RecycleSmart’s new poster pup!

Oliver wants to remind everyone to clean out your jars before sorting them into the blue cart. Woof!

Heart your Green Cart

image of green cart recycling

The green organics cart is the go-to place for food scraps and yard waste!

What goes in the green cart?

  • Yard waste like grass cuttings, tree trimmings, flowers, leaves and weeds.
  • Fruits and vegetables; meat, fish and poultry; bread, grains, coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells and other food scraps.
  • Food-soiled paper such as pizza boxes, take-out containers (no metal or plastic coatings!), coffee filters, paper towels, napkins, paper plates and cups.
  • Everything must fit in the cart—Republic Services won’t collect loose material next to the cart or items in plastic garbage bags.

What DOESN’T go in the green cart?

  • Large tree trunks or stumps.
  • Rocks, concrete, dirt or sod.
  • Poison oak or poison ivy.
  • Plastic, glass or metal. (Use the blue cart!)
  • Any animal or human waste: diapers, baby wipes and other sanitary products, cat litter or doggy doo bags (black cart).
  • “Compostable” plastic plates, cups and utensils. Try a reusable set!

for a complete list of accepted items.

image of spring trimmings


Image of bananas

How it works

image of bottles and cans
we use things graphic
laptop icon

How can I be sure?

Feeling overwhelmed by changes in recycling policies? Don’t sweat it! There’s a lot of information available online and through other resources, but Bay Area cities and counties recycle things differently, so what works in Alamo might not work in Alameda.

RecycleSmart provides the latest in recycling information direct to residents and businesses in our service area. Mailers, newspaper advertisements, social media posts, website and…this snazzy newsletter you’re reading right now contain the most reliable information for people in the RecycleSmart service area. Berkeley is so jealous.

Patron Saint
of Compost

Patron saint of compost

In the tradition of St. Francis, the patron saint of ecology, San Damiano staff takes extra care to be kind to the natural world. Even so, facilities director Ron Roncarati was startled when he saw someone he didn’t know looking in his recycling bins. “I asked, can I help you?”

It was the beginning of a rich partnership: Ron invited the recycling checker, Heidi Smalley, Republic’s Recycling Coordinator for Danville businesses, to talk with his staff about recycling and compost. She visited twice, presenting in English and Spanish.

“My staff loves recycling!” Ron reports, “housekeeping and kitchen staff recycle every can and toilet paper roll.”

San Damiano has 72 guest rooms available 340 days a year, and its kitchen serves three delicious meals a day. Even with all of that activity, the retreat center has reduced a 6-yard dumpster to a 4-yard replacement. “The smaller one is hardly ever full,” Ron is proud to announce, “and that saves us money week after week, year after year after year.”

All are welcome to come and stay, but you don’t have to visit to be inspired by the folks at San Damiano. Just take a deep breath and listen carefully to the sound of your orange peels as they land in the green bin. Enjoy the moment and be sure to spread the peace you find.


Free Compost is Garden Fuel!

International Compost Awareness Week, May 5–11

We make this “black gold” from your green cart organics! Compost is a super fertilizer for your houseplants or summer garden. Alone it can be too feisty for delicate roots, so just make sure to mix it with soil or use it as a mulching top layer.

Each household in the RecycleSmart service area is invited to take what they need—up to 3 yards of compost! One cubic yard can be spread 3 inches deep over 100 square feet (or a 10×10 foot area).

Visit for the date of our 5th Annual Compost Giveaway and register at: to be sure there’s plenty for everyone. Bring your own rigid containers to carry compost.

picture of tub

A tip from Joyce V. In Orinda

Meshin’ Around at the Grocery Store

Image of apples in a bag

It seems like more companies are wrapping products in fabric or mesh bags lately in addition to other packaging. I save those bags and re-use them for produce when I go grocery shopping. In fact, I like them so much I bought a few more mesh bags in different sizes to hold certain items. I tuck them into my reusable grocery bags and give them a wash as needed!

Easy peasy lemon squeezy­—no more plastic baggies in my grocery cart!

email icon

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

Send your ideas to


Methane Molecule Munchies

Each methane molecule is 20 times as powerful at trapping heat as one molecule of carbon dioxide! That’s what makes it such a nasty greenhouse gas. While we’re working hard to keep it out of the atmosphere, it’s fine to make a tasty model at home.

Image of kids corner craft project

To make your own methane, you’ll need:

  • 4 small round fruits—try grapes, olives, cherry tomatoes, blueberries or kumquats
  • 1 larger round fruit—like a mandarin or small apple
  • 4 toothpicks or wooden coffee stirrers

Methane is made of four hydrogen atoms (your little fruits) and one carbon atom (your larger fruit).


Poke the toothpicks into the large fruit, evenly spaced all the way around the sphere.


Attach the little hydrogen fruits to the toothpick points and you’ve made a methane molecule model.


Be a climate champion by capturing and gobbling up your methane! The wood toothpicks or wooden coffee stirrers can go into the green cart.