Recycle Right!

City of Stockton residential garbage customers, let’s “Recycle Right!” Did you know that placing garbage in a recycling or green waste cart requires the whole cart to be thrown out as garbage? Despite what people think, the recyclable material in contaminated bins cannot be separated and end up in the landfill. You can help reduce contamination in the recycling and green waste carts by picking the right sized cart for your household’s needs.

Since one size does not fit all, Stockton residents can choose between three (3) sizes for their garbage cart: 32-gallon (holds about 3 tall kitchen bags), 60 gallon (holds about 4 tall kitchen bags), or 90 gallon cart (holds about 5 tall kitchen bags). The 60-gallon recycling cart and the 90-gallon green & food waste cart are provided at no extra charge. When the waste haulers service the carts, they collect and transport the garbage to a landfill, recyclables to a recycling processing facility, and green & food waste to a composting facility. Waste haulers can’t deliver trash-contaminated loads to recycling and composting facilities. It is important that carts are used only for the correct material.

Since contamination of green waste and recycling carts has become an increasing problem in Stockton, the waste haulers (Republic Services & Waste Management), in collaboration with the city’s Solid Waste & Recycling staff, have proposed a pilot project to bring attention to the situation. The project will begin with a content study of a green waste load from a selected residential route. The load will be weighed, the contamination removed and weighed, and the results documented. Educational information will be mailed out to the residents in the pilot area. Inspectors will observe the green waste carts for a number of weeks and place tags on carts that are contaminated. If contamination continues and the carts are tagged three times, the green waste cart will be removed.

After 6 to 8 weeks, another content study will be conducted to examine the amount of contamination in the green waste load from the pilot area. The results will be compared to the first study to gauge improvement in the quality of the load. Residents can help reduce contamination by requesting the right size garbage cart and not placing garbage into the recycling or green waste cart.

New Contact Lens Recycling Program!

Good news, contact lens wearers! Now you can recycle your contact lenses and blister packs. Thanks to the partnership of Bausch + Lomb and TerraCycle, you can mail any brand of used contacts and their blister packs to the Bausch + Lomb ONE by ONE Recycling Program.

Contacts may seem too tiny to bother recycling, but over 30 million people in the U.S. currently wear contact lenses. With disposable and daily contacts, not to mention their packaging, the waste adds up quickly.

You can learn more here, or click here to request a free shipping label. Note: Don’t ship cardboard contact boxes — these can be recycled with paper.

Tips for a Green Easter

Spring is all about new life and new beginnings, which makes it the perfect time for egg hunts. One thing we don’t normally associate with spring? Trash — but sometimes it’s difficult to avoid at holidays, even Easter. So what can you do? Check out these tips for reducing waste from the biggest Easter culprits:

Plastic Eggs

Need new eggs this year? Consider avoiding plastic ones, which tend to be made from plastic #7 and may contain BPA. A safer plastic option is Eco Eggs, which are made from plant-based plastic but would need to be industrially composted. There are also non-plastic options — wooden eggs are easy to find online or in craft stores, and these can be hand-painted. These dyeable ceramic eggs are pretty neat, too. Or, there are hollow wooden eggs and cloth eggs that you can fill with candy or other treats, though you might not find these in a local store.

If you already have plastic eggs, reuse them from year to year. You can also consider repurposing plastic eggs if you no longer need them. You can find seemingly endless ideas online for upcycling plastic eggs, but here is one for a sophisticated spring nest and another for a row of tea lights.

Real Eggs

When it comes to using real eggs at Easter time, there are a few ways to green your activities. Choosing locally sourced, pasture-raised eggs will mean your eggs have a smaller carbon footprint and likely a higher nutritional value, too. If you like to blow out eggs, remember to use the raw yolks and whites for cooking. If you hard-boil your eggs, check out these recipe ideas — that way you won’t be faced with the quandary of how to make yourself eat dozens of plain old hard-boiled eggs. If you don’t eat your dyed eggs, be sure to compost the leftovers.

Although the probability of health hazards from egg dye seems low, consider looking into non-toxic egg dye, or making your own with this how-to from ABC News.

Basket Fill

Plastic grass cannot be recycled curbside, and it doesn’t decompose easily. If you already have some, reuse it, but if you don’t, there are alternatives. Raffia is a great option, because it looks like dry, tan-colored grass (think hula skirts), it’s made from strands of tree leaves, and it can be found at craft stores. Shredded paper and tissue paper would be eco-friendly choices, too.

Candy

Easter candy is a lot of fun, especially when you have little ones, but it can generate a lot of waste, too. The biggest thing you can do to reduce its impact is to choose minimal packaging. Paperboard or foil packaging are greener choices than plastic, but unpackaged candy from the bulk section of a grocery store would be even better.

Why You Should Never Recycle Your Garden Hose

In the springtime, a lot of us dig out our lawn and garden supplies and strategize what we’re going to do with our yards this year. This is usually when we realize that we need to replace our garden hoses. Whether they froze when they still contained water, got run over by a car or lawn mower, or broke down over time, hoses just don’t last forever. Although you might think garden hoses are recyclable, you need to throw them away.

Why? Garden hoses are one of the most dangerous items to accidentally toss in your recycling. They are long and unruly, and can wrap around sorting machinery. This not only can damage the machinery, but it also endangers the workers who have to try to untangle them. Toss them in the trash, or, if you’re feeling resourceful, check out these ideas in the recycling guide for repurposing them.

How to Read Those New Lighting Labels

The next time you shop for light bulbs, you may notice a Lighting Facts label on the package, almost like Nutrition Facts for lighting. Required by the Federal Trade Commission since 2012, the new labels are meant to help you better understand what you are buying and choose the light bulbs that are right for you.

These labels include a wealth of useful information: the bulb’s lifespan, an estimate of the bulb’s annual operating cost, the amount of energy (or watts) the bulb uses and the color of the light — from warm, yellowish tones to cool, blue tones. The Lighting Facts label also lists how bright a bulb is in lumens, a unit of measurement for brightness that most people are not familiar with.

So when you need to replace a 100-watt bulb, you should look for a bulb that lists 100 watts as the amount of energy it uses, right?

Wrong. The best way to choose bulbs is to compare lumens — or bulb brightness — rather than energy usage in watts, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends. Once you identify the amount of lumens you want, you can evaluate light bulbs across different technologies — halogen, CFL or LED — and by characteristics like yearly energy cost. If you have several choices of bulbs with the brightness you need, you can pick the bulb with the lowest energy use and operating cost to reduce your energy use and save money on your utility bills.

So how do you know the right number of lumens to look for in a bulb? The higher the number of lumens, the brighter the bulb. Here are some general guidelines for shopping for lumens:

  • To replace a 100-watt incandescent bulb, look for a bulb that puts out about 1,600 lumens
  • 75-watt bulb = about 1,100 lumens
  • 60-watt bulb = about 800 lumens
  • 40-watt bulb = about 450 lumens

Having trouble remembering that already? Watch this two-minute video from the Department of Energy:

Or you can use this chart as your lumen-buying guide.

light bulb chart

Start Composting Now for Your Summer Garden

It might still be cold outside, but summer is just around the corner. And the beginning of summer means the beginning of gardening season.

If you start a compost now, it could be ready in three months — the perfect time to add it to a flower or vegetable bed. You can use compost as mulch around existing plants, or mix it into the top layer of a new planting bed. In addition to containing a lot of micronutrients, compost also improves the ability of soil to retain water and transfer nutrients to plants.

Want to try, but not sure where to start? Check out our composting page for tips and how-tos. Don’t have a lot of space? You could try a tabletop composter or worm farm. If you don’t have a garden, you can always give your compost to a friend who does, use it on houseplants or donate it to a community garden.

What Do Those Recycling Symbols Mean, Anyway?

Everyone knows the recycling symbol. First created in 1970, it seems to turn up everywhere these days. But did you know the recycling symbol doesn’t always mean an item is recyclable? In fact, there are multiple recycling symbols, and each has a different meaning. Let’s decipher them:


recycling symbol

1. Recyclable (Sometimes, Some Places)

This symbol doesn’t necessarily mean that an item is always recyclable. It has multiple meanings, and typically means that an item is recyclable somewhere. In other words, it’s possible that it’s recyclable in Stockton, but it’s not definite. Sometimes a recycling symbol will be accompanied by the phrases “please recycle” or “widely recyclable,” which means it is likely that you can recycle it curbside, but you still need to check the recycling guide to ensure it is accepted by our program.

This symbol is also used to indicate that an item is made from recycled materials. In this case, it might have a number in the middle indicating the percentage of recycled materials used to make it. Or it might say “Made from recycled materials.” Items made from recycled materials are sometimes recyclable but sometimes not.


recyclable symbol

2. Made From Recycled Paper

This symbol, the recycling sign over a dark circle, is more specific. Used by paper products such as cardboard and napkins, this symbol means that the item was made from materials that have already been recycled. However, even though it looks like the recyclable symbol, not all products with this symbol can be recycled. Napkins, for example, are end-of-use products, meaning it’s the end of the road for those super-short paper fibers, and you’re going to have to throw them away. Cardboard, however, could still be recycled.


plastic-resin-code

3. The Plastic Resin Code, or Type of Plastic

Items with this symbol are not necessarily recyclable. The symbol doesn’t stand for recycling at all — it stands for the type of plastic the item is made from. Among all plastics #1-#7, #3 and #7 are rarely recyclable. The other types of plastic are more commonly recycled, but it depends on the local recycling program.


bpi logo 250

4. Compostable (But Probably Not in Your Backyard)

An item carrying this symbol is compostable in an industrial compost facility. However, not all industrial compost programs accept all materials, so you will still have to check with the facility you are bringing materials to. Please note that compostable items are not recyclable. Also, do not try to compost items with this symbol at home unless the label says you can. Industrial facilities can handle items that might never break down in a backyard compost.


how2recycle

5. The How2Recycle Label

The How2Recycle label is becoming more common, and it’s carefully regulated to provide you with accurate information. It indicates if an item is recyclable widely, in limited areas, not at all, or if it needs to be dropped off at a store. Since up to 40 percent of U.S. households might not be able to recycle items designated as “widely recyclable,” it’s wise to check our local guide no matter what.

The How2Recycle label also tells you what materials the item is made from, which parts can be recycled and if you need to prepare the item for recycling, such as by rinsing it out. For example, check out the instructions on the frozen food package below.

how2recycle_2


It’s helpful to have these symbols memorized, but even if you do, they’ll never be as accurate as our local program information. Remember that you can look an item up in our recycling guide at any time, even from your phone. Try to recycle everything you can — but don’t assume that you should toss something into your recycling just because it has a symbol on it.

Daylight Saving Time: When You Change Your Clocks, Change the Batteries in Your Smoke Detector

March 12 is the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, which means we have to move the clocks forward an hour. But Daylight Saving Time is also the perfect time to check your smoke detectors and change the batteries! When it comes to fire safety, it’s always better safe than sorry.

When you change your batteries, remember to recycle your old ones. Never throw batteries in the trash — they contain dangerous metals and corrosive chemicals that can leach into the environment. Find out how to recycle batteries here.

Does Running Water Make You Think of Energy? It Should

When we think about saving energy, we tend to think about electronics, heat, and gasoline. But running water uses energy, too. According to Energy Upgrade California, running hot water for just 5 minutes uses as much electricity as leaving a 60-watt lightbulb on for more than 14 hours. This adds up quickly. Home Water Works reports that 15 percent of all household energy is spent heating water.

So the next time you’re brushing your teeth, washing dishes or taking a hot shower, be conscious of what water you really need, and what water you don’t. When we run tap water, it’s not only the water we’re consuming. It’s also all the resources that are needed to pump the water to our homes, heat it, and sanitize it afterwards. Simply being aware of this can help you strategize how to use less.

For additional water conservation information, please visit the Municipal Utilities Department Water Conservation page. For tips on saving water, check out the EPA’s WaterSense or eartheasy.com. Read more about your home’s biggest energy hogs here.

Read This Before You Throw Out That “Expired” Food

Ready to toss out that jar of spaghetti sauce because it’s past the “use by” date? Not so fast: Those “use by,” “sell by” and “best before” dates on food products actually have nothing to do with food safety, and do not mean that you should discard the food once the date has passed.

These labels merely indicate the manufacturer’s suggestion for when the food is at its peak quality. In fact, there are no federal standards regulating food dating labels except in the case of infant formula. So, unless you see visible signs of spoilage, that canned corn or box of cereal is safe to eat days, months or even years after their use-by date — though the food products may not taste or look as good as they would have before that date.

Because many consumers throw out food they think is expired, use-by labels contribute to the country’s growing food waste problem, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Americans trash up to 40 percent of our food supply — worth about $165 billion — each year, the NRDC found.

But there are simple ways consumers can keep usable food — and all that money we spend on groceries — out of the trash can.

  • Find out how long food products last using the Food Marketing Institute’s FoodKeeper, through their online directory or mobile app. For example, canned beans can last 2-5 years unopened in the pantry. Eggs, if kept refrigerated, are still fresh 3-5 weeks after you buy them. You’ll need to be more careful about following dates on refrigerated meat products: Use them within a few days of purchase, or freeze meats to keep them fresh for months.
  • Storage temperature is the main factor affecting food safety, not the amount of time passed since the food was made. Keep your fridge’s temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to best preserve food.

To find out more about how you can cut down on food waste — including best practices for storing food in the fridge — visit our food waste page here.