Recycling, Composting and Toxics, Oh My!

I grew up in the ’70s, with hippie parents who made regular trips to the local recycling center. I remember it as a treasured time spent with my dad, who always let my sister and I jump into the dumpster filled with magazines and rummage for good stuff. So for that reason, recycling is not only second nature to me but I associate it with fun. Because hey, what’s more fun than doing the right thing?

After college, in the early 90s, I did my time at a few newspapers in small, small towns in rural California where my desire to recycle was met with a blank stare. I remember driving my bottles and cans (they didn’t take paper!) to the bad part of town where you could redeem them for pocket change. There was always a wait, so I started just giving them to the last person in line and driving off.

These days, thankfully, it seems most every place you go has recycling bins alongside regular trash cans and it’s so easy to do the right thing. At home I have the awesome single-stream recycling bin that gets put out at the curb every week. It’s pure heaven for a recycling junkie like myself.

No piece of plastic or slip of paper or piece of cardboard is too small. Toilet paper rolls? Yep. Pill bottles? You bet. My husband cracked up the day we got home from the movies and I made a big show of tossing our ticket stubs into the bin.

Junk mail is the most fun to recycle. Stuff from the city I’m never going to read, included. But recently I got this newsletter that was all about recycling. Ordinarily I might not read something like that, figuring that I am some kind of recycling savant, but something caught my eye: Organics recycling.

While I love the concept of composting and yearn to start growing some of my own food, my thumb is not anywhere near green. So this exciting news that we could put vegetative food waste into our yard waste can was very exciting. Apparently this yard waste is used by farmers and landscapers and turned into compost and mulch. So now I can throw my banana peels and coffee grounds into that can, and I will be composting. Yay!

I kept reading, and I kept learning. I thought I would share a couple of interesting items.

Caps off: When you’re recycling jars, milk jugs, soda and juice bottles, etc., the caps have got to come off. Now I did a little Googling to see what’s up (apparently I am the last person on the planet to learn this) and found out that it’s basically because they are too difficult to sort. So there you go.

Waxed cardboard: That’s a no, meaning those takeout containers from Whole Foods are going to have to go into the trash. Bummer. Same goes for photo paper, pizza boxes and plastic lined cartons.

For one final bit of wisdom from the newsletter, I found out where we could take toxic waste like old paint and cleaning products and where the used motor collection centers (it can be recycled too!) are. It’s worth saying: Never, ever, put these things in a regular trash can so finding a safe way to dispose of this hazardous waste is key.

To think I almost threw this newsletter straight into the trash! (Oops, I meant recycling bin.)


Darla G.
Darla G.6 years ago

recycle, compost...all great!

Tim Cheung
Tim C6 years ago


Ian Smith
Ian Smith9 years ago

if you can't compost outside, you can atleast use worms inside(look up online, places actually sell the whole kit worms included). works the same, is out of sight, and doesn't smell.

Linda S.
Linda S9 years ago

I dumpster-dove my wedding dress pattern years before I got married!

Sue Cannon
Sue Cannon9 years ago

Lovely to hear you have been recyling all your life. Ive just got the bug to do it too. Had to read online what my council authority says can or can't be recycled.I've also been looking at zero waste blogs online they make fascinating reading.

Marya G.
Marya G9 years ago

oops -- i meant in yard waste bins. :)

Marya G.
Marya G9 years ago

You are lucky -- not all communities allow you to put vegetative food waste in compost bins. A few areas in the SF Bay area allow it, but mine does not. Even went through the hassle of calling our local trash company, but they said no. :(