Learn the New Plastic Recycling Rules

Learn the New Plastic Recycling Rules title=
Learn the New Plastic Recycling Rules
Reads 13103

Source: City of Santa Barbara

Learn the new plastic recycling rules for your curbside blue bin. Recycle plastic bottles that hold liquid, plastic toys, flower pots and trays, and certain rigid plastics. Avoid or put in trash: Styrofoam, plastic produce or food containers, straws, cups, plates and utensils, and "compostable" plastics.

In Santa Barbara, the blue bin is for recycling.

NEW RECYCLING STANDARDS: For a complete list of Acceptable and Unacceptable items, review the detailed table at the bottom of the page.

Blue Bin Rules-of-thumb:

1. All items should be empty/clean, dry, and loose (not bagged).

2. No styrofoam or film plastics like plastic bags, plastic wrap, or bubble wrap.

Plastic Bags are Trash Flyer (English)

Plastic Bags are Trash Flyer (Spanish)

3. If you're recycling correctly, with no food or liquid contamination, your bin will always be clean with no need for a liner or bag. (plastic bags are not allowed in the blue bin anyway)

Other Tips:

  • All recyclables can be mixed together in the container.
  • Please flatten cardboard boxes.
  • Empty your recyclables of all of their contents.
  • Emptying and rinsing containers is required because it keeps your recycling bin clean and makes the containers more likely to be recycled. Learn more: "How Clean Do My Recyclables Need to Be?" 
  • It is not necessary to remove labels, rings, staples, paperclips or other items.
  • We DO NOT accept plastic bags in the blue bin and prefer you return them to a drop-off location or don't take them at all. Learn more about plastic bag recycling.

What Happens to My Recycling?

Here in the City of Santa Barbara, our blue bin recyclables are collected and brought down to Gold Coast Recycling and Transfer Station in Ventura County where items are sorted into material types by machine and by hand on a sorting line. These materials are then purchased by buyers from companies that recycle them into other products. In the near future, the City's recyclables will head to a new processing facility currently under construction by the County of Santa Barbara called the ReSource Center. Read more about the upcoming facility here.

Recycling markets have changed drastically over the last year, so our Accepted Items list has also changed. If there aren't buyers for certain types of low quality plastics, then they cannot be recycled.


  • All Metal
    No liquids or food
    • Aluminum cans
    • Aluminum foil and trays
    • Caps and lids from bottles, jars and steel (tin) cans
    • Paint cans (must be empty or dry)
    • Spray cans (must be empty)
    • Steel (tin) cans, scrap metal, metal parts
  • Rigid Plastics greater than 6" and Plastic Bottles
    No Styrofoam, plastic wrap,  or plastic labeled "compostable" or "biodegradable"
    • Any Liquid Bottles: beverage, shampoo, detergent etc. (emptied and it's recommended to put the cap back on)
    • Buckets (metal handle okay)
    • Large plastic tubs
    • Laundry detergent bottles (emptied)
    • Plastic Flower Pots and Trays
    • Plastic Toys (without cords or batteries)     
  • Most Paper
    No paper food and beverage containers. No cartons. Items must be clean, dry, and unsoiled.
    • Paper Bags
    • Cardboard (non-waxed)
    • Cereal boxes and Paperboard (remove plastic liner)
    • Computer and office paper
    • Envelopes (windows okay)
    • Junk mail and magazines
    • Newspapers
    • Packing or Kraft paper
    • Phonebooks
    • Shredded paper, but not crosscut  
  • All Glass Containers
    Must be emptied of any food and liquid
    • Glass bottles and jars (metal caps and lids too)
    • NO tempered glass like windows or kitchen glassware as this has been treated for heat which makes them hard to recycle


  • Paper Food and Beverage Containers: paper cups, cartons, "tetrapack", aseptic containers
  • All Plastic Bags and Film Plastics: saran wrap, pallet wrap, peel-away seals on food containers, food bags and wrappers, or any other type of flexible plastic wrapping
  • Pizza Boxes (even if the lid is clean)
  • Plastic Food Containers: clear plastic produce containers, yogurt cups, frozen meal containers, salsa cups, peanut butter jar, etc.
  • Common Disposable Items: coffee cups, plastic utensils, plastic plates/cups, "styrofoam", etc.
  • Any food and liquid contaminated materials:grease stained, filled with a lot of liquid, impossible to clean all the food out of, etc.

Other Items:

  • Batteries are acceptable in a sealed plastic bag placed on top of the blue bin (not inside) or in orange buckets for large apartment buildings
  • Cartons (dairy, soup, juice, etc.) go in the trash
  • Ceramic dishware or glassware
  • Clothing, linens and rags
  • Electronics
  • CD's, DVD's, CDROM & Cases (remove paper insert ) 
  • Foil-backed or plastic-backed paper
  • Food (residents can do backyard composting and businesses can sign up for our Foodscraps Program)
  • Glass mirrors and windows
  • Large items (furniture, appliances, etc)
  • Light bulbs: Incandescent, Fluorescents, CFLs, LEDs and HIDs
    Incandescent light bulbs can go in the brown bin to the landfill. Fluorescents, CFLs, LEDs, and HID bulbs contain mercury and must be disposed of as hazardous waste.
  • Plastic labeled "Compostable" or "Biodegradable"
    If the plastic says 'compostable' on it and you are a participant of the foodscraps program please put this material in the yellow bin. 'Biodegradable' is not a certified standard for any method of disposal. Please reuse these materials or put them in the landfill.
  • Soiled paper (paper cups, plates, napkins, tissues, towels, take-out boxes and greasy pizza boxes)
    If you are part of the foodscraps program please put these materials in the yellow bin.
  • Styrofoam
    We are currently unable to recycle styrofoam. You might see a recycling symbol on it, but it is not marketable.
  • "Tetrapak" lined aseptic cartons - these are shelf-stable products like soy milk and soup cartons
  • Waxed cardboard and paper
    If you are part of the foodscraps program please put these materials in the yellow bin.
  • Waxy paper milk or juice cartons
  • Window glass
  • Wine Corks
  • Wood
  • Yogurt Containers 


Learn more here

Login to add Comments


Show Comments
PitMix Aug 21, 2019 01:49 PM
Learn the New Plastic Recycling Rules

Possible contamination issues from food can make it hard to recycle. They avoid that by not accepting it. Not everyone cleans their recyclables as well as you do.

a-1566418102 Aug 21, 2019 01:08 PM
Learn the New Plastic Recycling Rules

Marborg does a great job- efficient service, clean equipment, friendly staff. As a point of comparison, we were traveling in eastern Canada (Prince Edward Island)- at that time that province had 5 different colors of recycling bin, along with a 30 page instruction book on what kind of waste to put where. Some of the recycled material had to be refrigerated. It got to be so complicated we just started throwing everything into the trash.

PitMix Aug 21, 2019 01:51 PM
Learn the New Plastic Recycling Rules

Was the process really so disruptive that landfilling everything was the only solution? Were Candians willing to do it because it was normal to them? I remember hearing they took away our 3 bins because they thought we were too lazy to recycle unless they made it one-bin easy. Probably are right.

a-1566416453 Aug 21, 2019 12:40 PM
Learn the New Plastic Recycling Rules

Huh. I thought Marborg just made a big announcement about how now we (City) can recycle clean styrofoam, including meat trays, by taking styrofoam to the Nopalitos facility. The Santa Barbara City gov. site says to put styrofoam in the trash, as does this article. I put a call in to environmental services. My mission today: to get back to Edhat readers with valid info. Styrofoam: recyclable or not?

a-1566494095 Aug 22, 2019 10:14 AM
Learn the New Plastic Recycling Rules

You can see the styrofoam recycling info here: https://www.marborg.com/article/14857-free-styrofoam-recycling-drop-off-now-available
It is not a pick up service, that is why it says styrofoam goes in the trash. Also, only rigid styrofoam is accepted, not soft styrofoam that bends.

PitMix Aug 21, 2019 01:47 PM
Learn the New Plastic Recycling Rules

The recycling process is expensive and it can't be reused for the same purpose. The best approach now is to compact it and use it for a lightweight material that can be faced with laminates to be a counter on an airline, for example. A Canadian Company named Styro-Go used to take styrofoam from Lowe's but their website is not active currently. Marborg will take it if you transport it over to their Nopalitos or Goleta facility. In order to buy one of the compactors for SB they need about 15000 lbs of it a month, which is a really large volume. At that point maybe they would allow you to put it in your recycling bin?


Please Login or Register to comment on this.