Guide, tips for responsible recycling in Sacramento CA



Typically, a person gathers the recyclables they’ve collected over several days and drags a color-coded bin – marked with circular arrows – on the sidewalk of their house with the idea they’ve recycled.

But the recycling process has only just begun – and not everything will be reused.

Responsible recycling means first of all understanding what recycling means. It’s not just about putting an empty soda can in a recycling bin, or when the materials are sorted and processed by workers at the facility. The cycle is not complete until a material is converted into a new product and reused.

“Just throwing things at random in your recycling basket does not necessarily mean they will be recycled, because if they are not placed correctly in the basket or if it is not the correct item, you could ruining other recyclables collected along the state highway, ”said Paul Rosynsky, spokesperson for Waste Management Northern California – Nevada.

But for many people, including Sacramento resident Jennifer Wood – who accumulates more recyclables than garbage – the dos and don’ts of recycling are unclear.

“I don’t even wash my recycling anymore, I often throw it in the trash,” said Wood, who asked the California utility team to review the city’s recycling system. “I don’t even rinse the cans because I never really got a serious message about cleaning them.”

According to Columbia University School of Climate Report 2020.

Rosynsky said, for example, that if someone places a half-filled water bottle in the recycling bin, it will be crushed and the water will spill out, destroying other materials.

“And then that paper or cardboard is sort of dissolved because it’s all wet and it can’t be recycled,” he said.

Another problem facing recycling facilities is the use of plastic bags.

“We all put plastic bags in our recycling carts and garbage carts, but once it gets here, that plastic isn’t recyclable – it’s waste,” said Casey Vaccarezza, director of operations at Cal-Waste Recovery Systems, another regional recycling service, in a December 2020 interview with The Bee. “Emptying those plastic bags that you put in your carts, in your cans in your house, really helps. ”

However, not everyone knows this – and they don’t want to recycle in vain.

“I think people would be interested in knowing that because I think a lot of people are just confused and we’re doing anything,” said Wood, who recycles about 40 gallons of recycled material every two weeks.

To further improve the recycling system, California Governor Newsom recently signed a bill prohibiting placing the chasing arrow – a symbol that means an item is recyclable – on an item that cannot be recycled.

“We’ve always said not to recycle based on what you see on the container in terms of recycling arrows, but to recycle by item type,” Rosynsky said.

Acceptable recyclables include plastic bottles and containers, food and beverage cans, paper and flattened cardboard – excluding, for example, your greasy pizza box.

The journey of your recyclable materials

Recycling is typically handled by the City of Sacramento and is mixed with other residential recycling. The material is then transported to a center – like the Waste Management Center and Transfer Station in Sacramento – where multi-million dollar machines and staff sort it.

Then optical scanners, air blowers, and other machines are used to help sort cardboard and paper, glass and plastic into different piles. If the material is in good condition, the separate piles are pressed together and shipped to companies who turn the material into something else.

Glass is chopped and reused, and paper and cardboard are made into a newer material.

Rosynsky said any residential plastic collected by Waste Management is not shipped overseas, but rather is processed and shipped to a company in the United States that makes benches, coats and shoes, to name only a few.

In 2019, Waste Management, the largest waste carrier in the United States, said it sent nearly a quarter of its recyclable plastics overseas before ending the practice. But even after 180 countries agreed to strict limits on exports of plastic waste from the richest to the poorest, the data showed America was not listening.

In 2020, Nation Geographic reported that the United States has been shipping recyclable plastic overseas for 30 years, primarily to China and elsewhere. And while China may be the world’s largest plastic manufacturer, the United States is the world’s largest producer of plastic waste, producing around 42 million tonnes in 2016..

“The stories about a lot of recycled plastic that just dumped in various countries that are not really being dealt with, we have made a commitment not to do that,” Rosynsky said. “We are committed to ensuring that all the recycling we collect – plastic – stays in the United States and is actually processed.”

Recycling buy-back centers

Another recycling method is the California Redemption Value program. Consumers pay California Refund Value (CRV) when they purchase beverages from a retailer and receive CRV refunds when they exchange containers at a recycling center, according to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, or Cal Recycle.

Most beverages packaged in aluminum, glass, plastic and bimetal containers are eligible for CRV. While milk, wine and distilled spirits are not included in the CRV program.

Consumers are urged to empty any liquid from their cans and jars and to separate materials. The recyclable materials are then checked for integrity, weighed and the consumer is paid. Consumers receive 5 cents for each container of beverage less than 24 ounces and 10 cents for each container of 24 ounces or more.

The collected materials are then sold to processors who dispose of them, send them abroad or to paper mills. In Sacramento, this process is carried out by Capital City Recycling and Ming’s Recycling, one of the oldest certified recycling centers in Sacramento County.

“I would say that our plastic bottles, which are the most recyclable material these days, probably every two or three days, we send a truck to [Ming’s Recycling]Said Jason Wu, owner of Capital City Recycling. “And then maybe once every five days we send a truck full of cans.”

Capital City Recycling uses machines to condense its collected recycled materials, then it is packed in a bin. Ming’s Recycling – which serves between 100 and 300 people per day – then compacts it further, empties it and ships it to be converted into new material.

“Most of these markets are in either California or the United States, so the CRV program has some good material in it,” said Jeff Donlevy, general manager of Ming’s Recycling. “The curbside programs may have material for which they can no longer find homes. “

The California Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets & Curbside Recycling released an extensive 183-page report in June aimed at providing recommendations to state lawmakers and regulators to help California get back on track to meet its recycling targets and others.

The commission process was initiated by the California Recycling Market Development Act of 2019 and subsequent legislation, which called for recommendations on how the state can meet its recycling goals: recycle, compost, or reduce at source at least. 75% of solid waste generated in the state by 2020.

The state missed that target, reaching about 37% in 2020. California achieved a recovery rate of 37% in 2019, up from 40% the year before, according to the commissioners report.

“I think people do a really good job recycling properly,” Rosynsky said. “If the material is a recyclable material, we will capture it and recycle it. “

Make recycling easier

Materials accepted include:

  • Plastic bottles and containers (make sure they are clean, dry and have the cap back on).
  • Food and drink cans
  • Paper
  • Flattened cardboard

Recyclable electronics include:

Electronics do not go in the trash. They must be deposited in a collection center for household hazardous waste.

  • Desktops and laptops
  • Monitors and televisions
  • Printers, copiers and scanners
  • Ink and toner cartridges
  • HDDs
  • Battery
  • Cell Phones and Tablets
  • Digital cameras
  • Cords
  • Keyboards

Accepted CRV materials include:

  • Aluminum cans
  • Glass bottles
  • Plastic bottles
  • Bi-metal cans

Non-ferrous materials accepted include:

  • Aluminum
  • The copper
  • Brass
  • Other materials (stainless steel, dirty stainless steel, die-cast, 5% cast aluminum, ironic aluminum, litho, lead).

Items not accepted in recycling bins:

  • Recyclable in bag
  • Plastic bags
  • Film and plastic wrap
  • Flexible packaging
  • Polystyrene foam and plastic

Sacramento area recycling centers

Ming recycling

Contact: 916-281-0476

Address: 3316 47th Ave., Sacramento

Hours of operation: 8:30 a.m. to noon, 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Saturday

Recycling of the capital

Contact: 916-334-3591

Address: 3185 Longview Drive, Sacramento

Opening hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday to Sunday

For other certified recycling center locations, visit CalRecycle.

What do you want to know about life in Sacramento? Ask our California Utility Team your most important questions in the module below or send an email to

This story was originally published October 25, 2021 5:00 a.m.

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Brianna Taylor is a reporter with the Sacramento Bee Public Services Office. A former Bee intern, Brianna has also reported in Missouri and Maryland. She graduated from Morgan State University.


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