Compost, Recycle or Landfill?


I remember when my high school first introduced recycle and compost bins on campus. Although their intentions were good, no one took the time to educate students on how to properly dispose of their waste among each of the three bins. It’s great that compost and recycle bins appear more commonly, however, these bins aren’t very helpful if people aren’t told how to properly use them. This is why environmental education is so important! If you aren’t confident about recycling and composting, you’re not alone so don’t be embarrassed!

It’s important to take the time to dispose of your waste properly. I know that it’s very easy to simply toss everything in the trash can, but think about it. Everything that you put in the trash bin will end up sitting in the landfill forever. If you take the time to compost and recycle, you will make a difference!

Over the last few years, San Francisco has made recycling and composting mandatory for both businesses and residences. Because of this rule, San Francisco now diverts 80% of it’s trash away from landfills! SF Environment has many great resources for how to correctly dispose of your waste, such as their signs posted below.


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  • Why is it so important to compost if these items will break down in the landfill anyways? Food that decomposes in landfills is not exposed to oxygen, therefore, as it decomposes, it begins to release methane, a greenhouse gas that has a much higher warming potential than carbon dioxide. If food scraps and yard clippings are placed in compost bins instead of landfill bins, they will be exposed to conditions in which they can properly decompose and their nutrients are returned back into the environment.
  • Examples of what you can compost: pizza boxes, coffee grinds, tea bags, paper plates, wooden utensils, napkins, yard trimmings and leftovers


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  • You cannot recycle containers that have food residue. If you want to recycle things such as an ice cream tub or milk carton, please rinse it out first!
  • Examples of what you can recycle: glass bottles, wrapping paper, magazines, cereal boxes, aluminum cans, plastic toys and plastic bottles.
  • Not sure if something is recyclable? Just look for the little recycling symbol which is usually on the bottom!


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  • Examples of what should go to the landfill: diapers, Styrofoam and shiny food packaging wrappers
  • What should NOT go in the landfill? Hazardous items such as medicines, batteries, light bulbs, paint and electronics. These items need to be dropped off at designated waste locations within your city.


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