On average, each American creates over four pounds of trash per day. About one-quarter of that is organic waste (food), and only about a third of all household trash will end up recycled or composted.  

No matter how green we attempt to be, no matter how much we reduce, reuse, and recycle, there will be trash.

So, here’s what to do with everything on its way out.

Curbside Recyclable Materials

Paper, plastics, glass, empty aerosol cans, and metals (aluminum and bimetal cans), which should be placed in the recycling container loosely and without a plastic garbage bag.


Old cosmetics should be emptied into the trash for landfill (unfortunately) and bottles or containers should be recyclable if they are glass or plastic.

Green Waste (Garden Byproducts)
Green waste refers to yard trimmings, garden weeds, and leaves that are generally collected curbside.

A Place for Waste (Requiring Special Drop-off)

Electronic Waste

Electronic waste is also often recyclable, but it’s not suitable for curbside pickup and should be taken to designated e-waste collection sites.

This includes everything from major electronics to the piles of charger cords and cables you may have collected over the years, and compact flourescent lightbulbs.

Hazardous Waste

Hazardous waste includes items like batteries that need to be safely disposed of for free at HHW locations throughout the region. Paints can be recycled at PaintCare drop-off locations at paint supply retailers.

Organic Waste (Cooking Waste)

The majority of household waste is lumped under the term solid waste, as current waste management regulations do not require organic waste to be separated for residences. The best choice is always composting (if you can), but when composting isn’t an option, some of us at home are likely to throw organic waste down the garbage disposal followed by fats, oils, and greases (FOG).

This practice adds more biosolids and muck for overly burdened treatment facilities to remove before releasing treated water back into the environment.

The garbage disposal can be the greener choice over the trash can when it comes to dispelling food waste, but only if we avoid dumping fatty foods, FOG, and coffee grounds down the drain, since they can accumulate in pipes and compromise plumbing.

Trash Heap Alternatives

Clothing should be donated or recycled. And so we don’t see another recliner in the middle of the 805 at 4:30pm on a Friday, look to get rid of large furniture items and mattresses through a county recycling program or junk hauler.

Refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners may be eligible for rebates through SDG&E.

Sign up with a company like TerraCycle or check-out Waste Free SD to find recycling programs for everything from cigarette butts to beach cleanups, and find easy-to-read recycling PDF guides for download on the County of San Diego website.

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