A guide to recycling in San Jose, CA

Recycling bins_Feature

Do you know what goes in these bins? | Photo by SJtoday

Table of Contents

Let’s be real. We all want to recycle — but sometimes it’s easier said than done. Can plastic packaging go in the bin? Do you need to rinse food waste out? What do the little numbers even mean?

There are tons of questions about recycling, so we’re sharing a simple guide to San Jose’s recycling system.

Bin 1

What’s wrong with this picture? Glass + plastic bottles, food tupperware, detergent containers — all good. Plastic bags — nope. | Photo by SJtoday

♻️ Do I need to sort?

No. Most recycling centers have gone single-stream, which means you can put all your loose recyclable materials in your bin, and our city’s recycling centers will do the rest.

♻️ Simple do’s

  • Empty + scrape food waste from plastic containers before recycling. Due to drought conditions, skip the rinse.
  • Clean paper + cardboard only. Food-soiled packaging (like your pizza boxes) is not recyclable — place these in the garbage for composting.
  • Empty + flatten cardboard boxes before recycling.
Bin 3

What’s wrong with this picture? Plastic bottle, paper, cardboard — perfect. Chip bag, used napkins, plastic produce bags — ruh roh. | Photo by SJtoday

♻️ Simple don’ts

  • Batteries, light bulbs, paint, and medicine are some examples of household hazardous waste that cannot be recycled. Bring these to your nearest safe drop-off location.
  • Cable-like objects like hoses, cords, and wires cannot be recycled because they get tangled in the machinery — often breaking it.
  • Foam + polystyrene are a no-go. These plastic products are marked with a “6” and unfortunately, must be put in the trash.
  • Aluminum cans are a can-do — but don’t crush them. When cans are crushed, it can confuse automatic sorting and likely end up in the landfill.

♻️ More trash tips

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