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Responsible Disposal Composting, Recycling, & Trash

Why is recycling so hard?


This page is a record of my journey to be more sustainable. It is not an easy task, it takes research, effort, frustration, more effort, and eventually success. As I strive to be more sustainable I want to share what I learn, because if it were easier to recycle & sort our waste responsibly more people would do so.

We know that matter does not just disappear, but "out of sight, out of mind" has a hold on us. We throw things away and never think of them again, for the most part. Sometimes I obsess over the things I threw away and later figured out how to recycle. What a waste. 


In our modern times we have become quite complacent with the ease of throwing things away. Obviously after we throw something away it exists somewhere else, or it changes form. That accumulation of trash does affect our environment, and somethings the transformations our trash goes through affect our world in ways we are unaware of.  We tend to think that if we put things in the proper trash/recycle/yard waste bin, then at least we are not littering. We are doing our part. But this thinking replies upon the assumption that what we throw away ends up somewhere it will not be considered litter or toxic. All too often our assumption is incorrect, and many of us are not putting our trash into the proper bin. Throwing things away responsibly is not simple, but it should be. 

Curb Side Trash Services: Compost, Recycle & Trash Bins

  • Many objects we put in the recycle bin are not actually recycled

  • Some of the objects we think are recycled are not recyclable

  • Many of the objects we put in the trash undergo chemical changes that introduce toxins into the environment

  • It is ridiculously difficult to figure out how to recycle things so that they are actually remade into reusable items & I hope the information I provide below will help us all recycle whenever possible.

Alternative Recycling Options For

  • Other plastics

  • Clothing & cloth

  • Reusable shopping bags

  • Large  plant debris (more than 4 inches wide &/or 4 feet long)

  • Chemicals and medications

  • DVD, CD, etc. & case recycling

  • Electronics

  • Batteries

  • Construction Materials

  • Holiday String Lights

  • Corks

  • Eyeglasses

  • Fire extinguishers

  • Paint

  • Metals 

  • Construction debris

  • Yard waste

  • AND SO MUCH MORE (so many options listed below)

Broken link? The internet is changing faster than I can keep up, so if a link is broken please let me know so I can fix it.

Curb Trash Service:

Every area has a trash service, but there are huge differences in what can be recycled or composted, and what should be just put in the trash. It depends on the facilities the trash service has available to them. The following is what Recology of Sonoma County offers. Many trash services offer much less recycling and composting, and few offer more.

What can Recology do?

Just because you want something to be recyclable or compostable, does not mean it is. Specific processes are required to break a material down and the n reform it in a usable material. Our local waste management does not have the equipment to recycle everything, no one does. 

Compost/Yard Waste Bin

Anything that is food and plant waste, not including animal feces. The provided image gives you a lot of detail, but a few highlights include what CANNOT be composted despite (some may surprise you):

  • The process of breaking down animal feces into compost requires specific temperatures and time, and these facilities are not equipped to break down animal waste.

  • The same is true of "compostable" plastics, some of which do not compost fast enough to meet compositing requirements.

  • Branches more than 4 inches wide &/or 4 feet long (these need to be mulched)

  • Palm fronds, bamboo & cacti because they have a longer decomposition time

  • Coated (with a wax or plastic or foil coating) disposable food containers & utensils, including milk and juice cartons

  • Cloth is not compostable, it requires a different material breakdown process

  • Any treated wood = it is treated with chemicals that would be a toxin the composted materials

  • Corks


Recycle Bin

This is complex. Recology can only break down some types of plastics and recycled materials must be clean enough that "you may consider reusing them again" otherwise the bio-waste (especially grease & oils) could contaminate materials, in which case they are not recyclable & end up in the landfill. What happens to non-recyclable items (+ any items you put in a plastic bag) you put in the recycle bin? They go to the landfill, so you might as well put it in the trash bin so the process is more efficient. If we all make the process for efficient the extra time & money could be put into additional recycling processes rather than sorting through trash to get to the recyclable..The provided image gives you a lot of detail, but the following items are NOT recyclable via the blue bin (some may surprise you & I provide alternative recycling options below):

  • Plastics #8+ & compostable plastics

  • Metallic wrapping paper (including lots of the shiny holiday wrapping paper)

  • Dirty aluminum foil

  • Corks

  • Coat hangers and any cloth/clothing

  • Electronics & batteries & light bulbs

  • Glass mirrors & windows

  • Plastic mixed with metal/fabric/rubber

  • Shredded or soiled paper

  • Styrofoam & waxed paper


Trash Bin

This stuff is heading to the landfill. It will be buried and become part of the mountains of trash that are the monuments to human wastefulness. Landfill trash is commonly sprayed with water to decrease dust, and some molecules will react to water creating a toxic substances. Some waste facilities around the world incinerate the trash rather than burying, which could cause secondary environmental hazards. The zero waste movement aims to reduce our contribution to the landfills, but it is not easy and most people do not sort their trash according to the guidelines..The provided image gives you helpful details, but the following items end up in the landfill regardless of which bin you put them in. These are the items that would be best to avoid using in the first place:


If you don't put it in a bin, where can you recycle it?

Sonoma County has a zero waste master plan with "five recommended strategies include those that seek to stem the flow of waste at its source, establish increased requirements regarding community participation in recycling programs, maximize and enhance the diversion services, increase the amount of recovery from construction activities, and establish the City as a community leader in implementation of programs to change wasteful behaviors." and has published a zero waste guide to help all of participate in the zero waste endeavor.

Search for a nearby recycling facility or drop off

RECOLOGY & Zero Waste Sonoma


Electronic Waste aka E-Waste

  • Cell phone, computers, tablets, TVs, printers, stereos, cords, holiday string lights

  • Recology Sonoma Marin will collect electronics for recycling, as a bulky item pickup. Contact customer service to set up an appointment, and for more details

  • Zero Waste e-waste listings

  • Any Sonoma County transfer station will accept household electronics for recycling

  • Goodwills accept electronics working or not

  • E-Waste Sonoma

  • Staples for small electronics & empty printer cartridges 

  • Best Buy 

Light Bulbs

  • It seems like this should be simple, but it is not. Fluorescent bulbs, incandescent bulbs & holiday strong lights have to be recycled in by different methods. String lights are usually considered e-waste

  • Fluorescent Bulbs & CFLs are considered hazardous & are disposed of accordingly

  • Some Friedman Brother Improvement hardware stores have non-fluorescent light drop offs near the store entrance


  • Zero Waste lists many drop off locations 

  • Recology offers curbside pickup of household batteries for those in Sonoma County. Please place batteries in a sealed plastic bag on top of your recycling cart on your service day. Your recycling driver will collect them separately from your recyclable materials. Cell phone and laptop batteries are NOT allowed.

  • Friedman Brothers Improvement hardware Stores have batter drop off bins near the entrance

  • Target Stores: drop off at customer service desk

Household Hazardous Waste Disposal


Motor Oil

  • Recology offers curbside pick up: Just call customer service to request an oil kit and filter bag. When filled, call us again to request a pick-up, and place oil and filters at the curb next (NOT IN) to your recycling cart for pickup. There are also many locations in Sonoma County that will accept motor oil and filters

  • Central Disposal Site Drop Off



  • People often drop off used clothing at consignment or donation spots

  • BUT if the clothing is dirty, smelly, or otherwise not wearable it usually goes to the landfill. There are companies that recycle fabric so it can be reused, but local trash services cannot do this. You can use these services to recycle old clothing (including underwear and socks), sheets, towels, shoes, etc. that are no longer usable and they are more likely to be be recycled...​

    • For Days - buy a bag and send it back with up to 15lbs of clothing and fabric that is not reusable (torns etc.)

Household Goods

  • Mattresses 

  • Chico Bag: Do yo have an excess of reusable shopping bags? Mail them in or if you live in Chico drop off (in a closed box) your worn, reusable bags at our warehouse. 747 Fortress St up by the Chico airport anytime M-F 9am-3pm at large warehouse doors and someone should come out to help you.

  • Recork Corks can be remade into shoes, flooring, etc.

  • Many household goods are reusable and Habitat For Humanity accepts a wide variety of building supply and household goods

  • Bateaff Salvage Co accepts unwanted metals such as metal like bolts, nuts, screws, etc. and other distressed merchandise can be brought to this salvage location to be weighed so that you get paid for the value of the metal 

  • Industrial Carting global materials recovery service accepts a lot of materials including Construction and Demolition Debris, Acoustic Ceiling Tiles, Insulation (all types except asbestos), Timber, Structural Wood, Wood Shelving, Plywood, Wood Shingles & Shakes, Pressure Treated Wood, Scrap Metal, Glass, Concrete, Dirt, Plastic, Drywall, Stucco, Cardboard, Tree and Yard Waste, CA Redemption Beverage Containers, Non-Ferrous Metals such as Copper, Brass, Aluminum and Stainless Steel and a complete list of what is not accepted is provided on the website.

Wood & Plant Debris

  • Not all plant debris needs to go into the yard waste bin, especially if it is a lot. Some can be made into mulch that helps to protect soil and plant roots, and can contribute nutrients to the soil for healthier soil ecosystems

  • Treated wood is not reusable and is considered toxic and is not accepted by many locations. Zero Waste is a good place to look at the current status of disposal sites & the State Water Resources Control Board maintains a list of disposal sites as well

  • Painted wood is usually a landfill item but some painted used is accepted by material recovery services

  • ChipDrop: for arborists looking to dispose of mulched plant material and garners looking to get free ships 

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