Recycle Right: Get Back to Basics

Recycle Right: The County of San Diego and I Love A Clean San Diego Offer New Tips and Resources to Make Recycling Easy

Recycle Right by getting “Back to Basics,” and Refuse, Reuse and Recycle the right material to help ensure what goes in the blue bin gets remade into new products. and the County of San Diego’s new Recycle Right webpage are countywide resources for all residents.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY – Most people want to do the right thing when it comes to recycling, but confusing messages make it difficult to remember the basics. The recycling system throughout San Diego County only works if everyone does their part to keep the right materials in the blue bin and the wrong ones out. Residents make decisions every day when faced with a greasy pizza box, a dirty take-out container or a used single-use coffee cup from a favorite coffee roaster. In hope or haste, we dispose of these items, but do we collectively Recycle Right and what are the consequences of not doing so?

Californians generate an average of six pounds of waste per person, per day. Therefore, recycling plays a vital role in helping us reduce our waste, conserve our limited resources and support the production of the raw materials manufacturers want and need.

If all the waste generated in San Diego County was deposited in SDCCU Stadium in Mission Valley, it would take less than three weeks to fill up and it would fill 18 more times each year.  Therefore, making the best decision now helps in the long run. By following these simple steps, recycling should become less confusing, more efficient and ensure valuable recyclables stay out of the landfill.

RECYCLING RIGHT means accepted materials are:

  • Empty – No or very little food residue remaining
  • Dry – No liquids left.  Liquids can ruin paper, cardboard and other materials in the recycle bin making them unrecyclable.
  • Loose – DO NOT bag recyclables. Doing so clogs the sorting equipment at the Material Recovery Facility where the contents of recycling bins go to be processed.  Place accepted materials in your blue bin loose.

Recycling Right cuts down on contamination. Contamination is anything that doesn’t belong in the blue recycle bin such as plastic bags, batteries, clothing, cords, hoses, electronics, food, liquids, napkins and paper towels, straws, plastic utensils and more.  Many of those items may be recyclable, but not in the blue bins.

Eric Wolff, Program Coordinator for Solid Waste Planning and Recycling at the County of San Diego, says, “There’s a big push to reduce contamination in the recycling bin since 20 percent or more of what some residents and businesses currently put in the recycle bin is actually not recyclable. Stopping contamination starts with consumers.”

“Residents want to recycle,” Wolff adds.  “They put items they’re not sure about in the recycle bin, hoping it’s recyclable. That’s called wishcycling, and actually causes more harm than good. That’s why we’re going back to basics.”

BACK TO BASICS means placing only accepted materials in the blue bin. Throughout the San Diego region, with a few minor exceptions, the four main groups of recyclable items are:

  • Paper, cardboard and cartons
  • Plastic bottles and containers
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Metal and aluminum cans and foil

Kick contaminants to the curb!

Workers and sorting equipment at the Material Recovery Facility (MRF) are not able to separate out all materials that don’t belong from recyclables. Residents throughout the county can help by cutting out wasteful single-use items and switching to durable, reusable materials instead.  To learn more about how to Recycling Right visit the County of San Diego’s Recycle Right webpage and check out, a countywide resource for information on recycling, reuse, repair and hazardous waste disposal.

Looking forward

San Diego County diverts about 61 percent of its waste. California has set a goal to reduce landfill disposal by 75 percent. A study by CalRecycle found that the majority of material brought to landfills could have been recycled or composted.

How we think about waste in San Diego County needs a change, and it starts with Recycling Right.