Gray, Blue, and Green Bins: What Goes Where and Why Does it Matter?

You may have noticed your neighbors making more use of their green organics bins on trash day, coworkers paying closer attention to where they put their waste after lunch, or even your favorite restaurants introducing organics bins into their waste area. Slowly but surely our community is caring more and more about the waste we produce and where it ends up long term. 

Why is Waste Sorting Important?

Take a moment to consider all the “run of the mill” items you use throughout your day: a paper towel to clean up a spill that you toss into the trash, a plastic bag to hold your sandwich that you put in the recycling bin after lunch, a shampoo bottle that is nearly empty that you throw in the trash, etc. 

Believe it or not, all of those items should have made it to a different destination. The paper towel should get thrown into the organics bin, the plastic bag is unfortunately too flimsy to be recycled and belongs in the landfill bin, and if there is still product in the shampoo bottle, it needs to be washed out before going in the blue recycling bin. Properly sorting these items saves a good amount of hassle down the line for the workers who process our waste. With the expansion of accepted material in the green organics bin, our waste sorting knowledge is more important than ever. 

What is the City of Encinitas Doing?

The City’s Zero Waste Program integrates outreach tools to encourage community members and City staff to reduce their waste. A significant element of this program is learning how to properly sort waste. At our City facilities, we have well-established waste receptacles categorized into waste, recycling, and organics, along with clear signage. These receptacles undergo occasional waste audits where the contents of each bin are examined to identify commonly misplaced items. These audits are then used to make improvements, educate, and track progress over time. In our most recent audit, we were pleased to observe minimal cross contamination, especially in the organics bin. Additionally, the City of Encinitas and EDCO provide kitchen caddies for households to support their organics recycling journey. You can track our progress on Zero Waste on the City’s Climate Dashboard.

How Can I Begin to Sort My Waste?

While throwing everything in the garbage may seem easier, sorting your waste will quickly become second nature if you make it convenient to do so. Below are some helpful tips and tricks to get you started:

    Make it convenient! If your organics and recycling bins are all the way outside and your trash is inside, odds are you are not going to walk further just to sort your waste. If space is tight, use two small containers to collect your organics and recyclable items inside, making them easy to take out with your trash bag at the end of the night.

    Make it clear! If you live with multiple people, especially tiny humans, pictures are going to be your best bet. Clear signage somewhere in your kitchen or on the side of your container showing what goes where adds an extra security net, but when in doubt, throw it out! Click here for premade signage or get creative and make your own. 

    Make it consistent! Consistency is key. Sorting your waste will become second nature, but only if you give it a fair chance.