This article was posted on Thursday, Mar 01, 2018

San Francisco has among the nation’s highest per capita recycling and composting rates. Zero waste is the City’s ultimate goal. Recology and customers like you are working hard to make that goal a reality by ensuring that discarded materials of all types end up in the right place. Educating the public about “what goes where,” and highlighting simple ways to re-use materials and reduce waste lie at the heart of this effort. Below is a list of the most commonly discarded items and in which of the three color bins, if any, they belong. Visit or, for a definitive list, as well as drop-off locations for items that don’t go in any of the three bins. For more information, please call Recology at (415) 330-1300 or visit 

Recycling and composting are mandatory in San Francisco. Rental property owners should educate tenants about proper waste disposal, including disposal of large items. Printable educational materials that may be included with your building’s House Rules, available at, are a good way to raise awareness and improve compliance.

Blue Bin Recycling

Note: Items that go into the blue bin must be CLEAN AND EMPTY (rinse out salad dressing, oils, etc.). Items that can now go in the blue bin are marked (NEW!)

• Cardboard boxes (flattened, cut to 2×3 ft.) and tubes

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• Cardboard food packaging

• Paper coffee cups, sleeves, lids (NEW!)

• Newspapers, magazines

• Junk mail, phone books

• Envelopes with plastic windows

• Shredded paper (put in paper bag and roll shut)

• Paper bags of all types

Aseptic soy milk and soup cartons (NEW!)

• Paper soup cups

• Egg cartons (paper only)

• Ice cream containers

• Milk cartons and juice boxes (dry)

• Cereal boxes (remove internal plastic bag)

• Aluminum containers, trays, foil (squeeze into ball)

• Cans (steel, tin, aluminum)

• Spray cans/bottles

• Bottle caps and metal jar lids

• Paint containers (must be empty!)

• Plastic film and bags (NEW!) – place all bags and film in a clear bag and tie shut

• Plastic jars and bottles

• Plastic clamshells, other food containers

• Plastic cups, plates, tubs and lids, buckets

• CDs/DVDs

• Glass bottles and jars


Green Bin: Compost

• Food scraps and residues, spoiled food

• Coffee grounds, filters, paper tea bags

• Eggs, meat, seafood (including bones, shells)

Paper boxes, greasy pizza boxes, take-out containers

Paper plates, towels, tissues, napkins, greasy bags

Clearly-labeled “COMPOSTABLE” bags, cups, plates, bowls, utensils

• Waxed cardboard, paper

• Tree/shrub branches, pruning debris

• Flowers, grass cuttings, weeds

• Untreated wood (no painted, treated, or plywood)

• Misc. untreated wood products (popsicle sticks, etc.)

• Feathers, hair, cat/dog fur (natural only)


Black Bin: Landfill

• (Dog and cat poop, kitty litter)

Diapers, feminine sanitary products


Toothpaste, ointment, cream tubes

Light bulbs (incandescent only)

Disposable ice packs, disposable gloves

Mixed materials (disposable razors, metal-clasp and

bubble-pak envelopes, plastic candy/food wrappers,

paper/foil bags), soiled plastic bags with food or liquid

• Dishes, drinkware, pottery, ceramics (broken)


Drop Off or Curbside Pickup

Certain refuse items should NEVER go into any of the three color bins. They must be disposed of separately. Visit recycle and the Bulky Items Recycling page at for the nearest drop-off locations for proper disposal of each of these items:

Motor oil, transmission fluid, anti-freeze, etc.

Chemical sprays, pesticides, cleaning products

Flammable and corrosive materials

Surplus paint and art supplies

All non-incandescent light bulbs and tubes

Medicines, syringes, needles, thermometers


• Toys with electronics or batteries

Consumer electronics (computers, printers, etc.)

Clothes, shoes, and other items in usable condition

Bulky items, e.g., old appliances, mattresses, etc. (free

residential curbside pickup by appointment only)


Paul Giusti is the Government & Community Relations Manager for Recology – San Francisco Region. Reprinted with permission of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute (SPOSFI) News.  For more information on becoming a member of SPOSFI or to send a tax-deductible donation, please visit their website at or call (415) 647-2419.