In 2012, the Alameda County Waste Management Authority passed the Mandatory Composting and Recycling Ordinance. The law requires most businesses, institutions, and multi-family properties to have recycling and organics collection service… and sort materials properly. Recycling and composting is important, not only to comply with the law, but also because most materials could be made into new products. Like rich compost to feed our soil, rather than sitting in a landfill. Many Alameda County businesses already do a great job recycling and composting and more are getting on board every day. So join them. Watch along to learn how to sort materials properly. It’s easy once you get the hang of it. Let’s start with recycling. Businesses must recycle bottles, cans, paper and cardboard. You may have been recycling for years, but let’s review the rules. Recyclable paper includes cardboard, paperboard, newspaper, white paper, and mixed recyclable paper such as paper envelopes, magazines and packaging paper. Plastic containers labeled with a #1 or a #2 must be recycled. Many cities accept additional plastics, including other hard or rigid plastic containers, bottles, and jugs. Glass containers include beer, wine and other beverage bottles as well as jars from condiments and other foods. Broken drinking glasses and ceramic plates are not accepted in the recycling. Metal containers include aluminum and steel beverage and food cans. Most cities also accept clean aluminum trays and foil. Metal spray cans like cooking oil sprays are recyclable, but must be empty. You may be wondering, “How clean do my recyclable containers need to be?” Tap containers to empty leftover food into the organics bin or wipe out sticky food residue with a paper towel. Place the dirty paper towel into your organics bin, and the container into the recycling. Let’s move on to the materials that must go into your organics bin for composting. After collection, organics head to large-scale composting facilities where they become a rich soil amendment. This compost helps grow our food so it’s important to sort properly, and keep plastic, glass, and metal out. In Alameda County, discarded food, compostable paper and plant debris like leaves, grass clippings, weeds, and flowers, must be collected for composting. Food scraps, such as trimmings and waste from food prep, uneaten food from plates, and any food that has gone bad, must be composted. And since these “organics” are going to a large composting facility, even things like raw and cooked meat, bones, fish, and poultry go into the bin too! Tea bags, wooden stir sticks, and coffee grounds with the paper filter can all go into the organics bin. In fact, all food-soiled paper goes in. Paper and cardboard that has touched food, including pizza boxes, paper plates, cups and takeout containers, parchment paper, egg cartons, napkins, and paper towels. Even if paper towels and napkins haven’t been contaminated with food, they still cannot be recycled into new paper. This is because they’re made from a lower quality paper. But they can be composted! Waxed cardboard goes into the organics, and so does shredded office paper. Since sorting facilities typically can’t capture paper shreds for recycling, they are best placed into organics for composting. Remove food items from packaging before placing them into the green bin. It really helps to have green bins right where food scraps and food-soiled paper are typically tossed, for example at dishwashing stations and food prep areas. Now that we’ve sorted out everything that can be recycled or composted, there should be very few items that need to go into the garbage. Here’s what should! Soft and flimsy plastic like food wrappers, strappings, loose plastic bags and plastic food wrap. This goes for plastic utensils, straws, lids, sauce packets, rubber and plastic gloves, hairnets, and any items that are made from multiple materials that can’t be separated into a single material. It feels good to recycle. And it’s so easy. Not just bottles and paper, but also food waste and compostable paper. And yes, it’s the law. But when most of what you throw away is now recycled or composted, you won’t have much garbage. This website link has all the information you need, including free resources and more details about Alameda County’s composting and recycling rules.