Learn the New Plastic Recycling Rules

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

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Show Comments
mm1970 Aug 23, 2019 10:19 AM
Learn the New Plastic Recycling Rules

One might argue that it's actually at least partially the responsibility of the companies that generate the packaging to reduce the packaging and handle the refuse. At least, I remember being tasked with being responsible for materials "from cradle to grave" in the military.

a-1566501904 Aug 22, 2019 12:25 PM
Learn the New Plastic Recycling Rules

So confusing.
The header is fine with what IS recyclable. But then the sub header lists what's NOT acceptable.
Then the bullet points refer illogically refer to the sub header of what's not acceptable. Just take the line about food particles and liquid and outline it separately. Speak to how to address and what is too much food or liquid residue. Is some peanut butter okay? If it's dry? Should I wash it?
So much to confuse here.

CityTrashandRec... Aug 22, 2019 04:29 PM
Learn the New Plastic Recycling Rules

As the list of Unacceptable items states, peanut butter jars and other plastic food containers should be placed in the trash and not the recycling (no matter how clean). There is no market for these types of plastics and they are usually food contaminated and contaminate the paper product. Liquid plastic bottles (beverage, detergent, soap, etc) should be empty but you should replace the cap to prevent any residual liquid from escaping while in your blue bin.

RHS Aug 23, 2019 10:12 AM
Learn the New Plastic Recycling Rules

City--not all peanut butter jars are plastic. Aren't glass jars recyclable without regard to content or is peanut butter so contaminating that it ruins glass? You need to get a better handle on the real world before you write stuff like this.

SBZZ Aug 22, 2019 01:11 PM
Learn the New Plastic Recycling Rules

The article does need a bit of a re-write to eliminate repetition and to be more clear - ambiguity - always an impediment to progress. Rinsing items at home makes sense, as it is easier for us to do when much of the materials in the containers are already wet - once it dries it is harder to clean. Also, cleaning means less junk fouling the other materials in the bin. One can use water collected in dishes in the sink (my messy sink anyway) to clean most items and save on tap water.

CityTrashandRec... Aug 22, 2019 05:28 PM
Learn the New Plastic Recycling Rules

This already exists for all of our businesses - it's the yellow bin foodscraps program. For households however, starting in 2021 organic waste will be sorted from the trash stream and turned into clean energy and compost. This will be done at a new facility called the ReSource Project currently under construction at the Tajiguas Landfill. Since household food waste (along with any other organic material like paper towels, napkins etc.) will be sorted from the trash bin, we will not have a separate food only bin for households. Adding another bin to the mix of trash/recycling/greenwaste ads more trucks, more pickups, and added costs to customers. Our greenwaste to mulch program is highly used and would be contaminated if we added food to it so we will continue to keep that stream of materials separate.


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