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Recycling in Sonoma County


This is a subject that I feel the need to revisit often. Why? Because I am often confused by the changing recycling environment. I suspect I am not alone.


In 2018, when China banned almost all plastic trash imports, recycling plastic, as we understood it in the US, took on a powerful stink! Our throwaway culture started a horrific back up and our nation was forced to address a problem we had grown accustomed to ignoring, assuming it was going far, far away.


You might say China did us a favor. It woke us up to our complacency. Drawing overdue attention to the way we deal with our waste; our focus is slowly turning to finding workable alternatives. As a result, bans have begun to be implemented on some single-use plastic items, policies are changing where manufacturing practices are concerned, and biodegradable and compostable options are becoming more available. All of these are steps in the right direction; however, the biggest problem, as I see it, is the consumer. That is you, and that is me.


But hey, you came here to learn about recycling and not necessarily to read about my opinions. Ok, let’s get to the nitty-gritty of the subject.


First, bookmark this website: www.zerowastesonoma.gov, and save this phone number (707) 565-3375 (Eco-Desk). If you take away nothing else from this article, you will still be well equipped with everything you need to know about recycling in Sonoma County. The website will answer all of your questions and the phone number will provide you with access to a live person, in the unlikelihood your question was not answered on the website.


There you have it; you could stop reading right now! But, if you would instead like a comprehensive summary of the how, what and where of recycling in Sonoma County, the following is information gleaned from a conversation I had with Anita Migliore, a Waste Zero Specialist with Recology Sonoma Marin.


First you need to determine what you are disposing of: Is it garbage (Gray Bin), recyclable (Blue Bin), or compost (Green Bin)? These 3 categories are important because each bin goes to a different area to be processed. If you have more than each of your bins can hold, please arrange for an extra pick-up (for an additional fee), or hold off and dispose of the overflow on your next trash day – do not cross contaminate.


Since this article will only deal with recyclables, I’ll get straight to that topic.


How to recycle the 4 usual suspects: Glass, Metal, Paper/Cardboard, and Plastic

Proper way to use the Blue Recycling Cart – drain all liquids, rinse or wipe out all containers, and please do not bag your recyclables; put them in your recycling cart loose, and keep all caps on the containers. Recyclables go through processors screened with 3” x 3” grid openings. For this reason, you should leave caps on all containers, ball up your aluminum foil to larger than 3” in diameter, and not recycle scraps or shredded paper; these items will fall through the screen and not be captured for recycling. Think of that screen when choosing whether an item is suitable to recycle.


Now, just what is recyclable?


Glass: Food and beverage grade only, empty and rinsed

Bottles (leave caps on)

Jars (leave caps on)


Metal: Empty and rinsed

Aluminum, Tin and Steel/Bi-Metal cans

Aluminum foil and aluminum pans (foil balled to larger than 3”)

Aerosol cans (empty and without pressure)


Paper/Cardboard: Clean and dry, no aseptic cartons

Cardboard (non-waxed)

Cereal boxes