Los Angeles: Recycle Your Christmas Tree

For super detailed information including drop-off locations around the city visit: http://dpw.lacounty.gov/epd/xmastrees/index.cfm

Christmas Tree Recycling Program

The City of LA Bureau of Sanitation has CURBSIDE collection for Christmas trees. If your Christmas tree is too big to cut and place it inside the green waste bin, simply place the tree next to your green waste bin on collection day.

Using your green bin to recycle Christmas tree?

1. REMOVE all ornaments, decorations, tinsels, and stand from the tree
2. CUT tree in pieces to fit into the green bin, and
3. PLACE the tree pieces inside the green bin for regular pick-up on collection day. Collected Christmas trees will be recycled into compost and mulch.

Multi-Family Residential Recycling

Program Participation (MFRRP)

Residents of multifamily buildings are requested to place their Christmas trees at the curbside on the day of collection by the Bureau of Sanitation. Please remove all ornaments, decorations, tinsels, and stand from tree.

Visit the City website at www.lacity.org for collection day information


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle your way to a greener life

(if you live in the Los Angeles area, see my LA-specific post on recent recycling initiatives.)

There is probably no clearer sign of the negative impact modern life has on the planet than the amount of trash we create just by living. At 1,609 pounds of trash annually per person, the United States is the #1 producer of trash in the world. Fortunately, there are many ways to lower your trash output, and the 3Rs, reduce, reuse, recycle, are key to this effort.

One thing to note is that the 3Rs are in a hierarchical order in terms of importance. Reducing is the highest impact way to reduce your impact on the earth, reusing is next and recycling is last (important, but not as impactful as reducing or reusing.) So, on to the steps:

The first step is to reduce your consumption by buying fewer products or choosing products with less packaging thereby reducing waste. The second step is to reuse, repair or repurpose products to extend their life-span such as using an old car tire as a funky planter in your garden. The third “r” is recycle which means “to process materials that would otherwise be considered waste into raw materials and new products” such as turning a glass bottle into a glass tile. Recycling is in some ways the most difficult of the “Rs” because it can be hard to find recycling plants locally for every product, but recycling is even more important now than ever before because:

  1. By recycling we are saving the energy needed to obtain and process “virgin” raw materials. For instance it takes less energy to recycle an aluminum can than to go out and mine the metal. Also, as materials get harder to obtain it’ll be even more important to recycle. A single ton of junked PCs has more gold than 17 tons of ore.
  2. We are running out of landfills, and as landfills fill-up it means we need to transport our trash farther and farther away which wastes gas and adds to carbon dioxide emissions (a leading cause of global warming.)

Besides these important reasons to recycle, there are some staggering statistics about what we throw away:

  • The world’s largest manmade object is the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island
  • Every three months American landfill enough aluminum to rebuild our entire commercial airfleet
  • Making paper from recycled paper reduces contributions to air pollution by 95%
  • Recycling a stack of newspaper 3 feet tall saves a tree
  • Making products from recycled reduces contributions to water pollution by 50%

But what’s recyclable? Well, some items are fairly straight forward to recycle: aluminum and tin cans, glass bottles and newspapers are recyclable just about everywhere in the U.S. Some cities have recycle bins that get picked up with the trash, in other cities you have to take these items to a local grocery store or community college for drop-off. But without a doubt, these items are easily recyclable and if you take them to a location like a grocery store you can often get cash back for these items. Other items that are easily recycled if you have a local Home Depot or Target are compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), which should never be thrown away because they contain a small amount of mercury and rechargeable batteries (including laptop and cell-phone batteries). Simply take CFLs and rechargeable batteries to your local Home Depot or Target and ask where their drop-off point is. Also, most “shipping stores” will take clean styrofoam peanuts off your hands.

However, some statistics estimate that about 75% of what is thrown away can be recycled, but since recycling happens at the city level the rules for what can be recycled are different for everyone. Some cities such as Los Angeles have curbside recycling programs that take back all plastics and even styrofoam, in addition to the usual metal/glass/paper, so it is possible to recycle these items on a large scale and if your town or city doesn’t’ have a recycling program, write to your mayor or councilperson to push for one.

Fortunately, there are a few good resources that can help you sort out what you can recycle (or donate for reuse) and how. Almost anything from prom dresses to make-up has a way of avoiding the landfill so keep these websites on-hand for future reference. And if you don’t find what you need here, try listing your item as “free” on an on-line resource such as craigslist.org. You can give away just about anything using craigslist.org, which is completely free to use for this sort of thing.

As with all steps to lead a “greener” life, take it one step at a time. Start with the “easy” items such as aluminum/glass/newspaper and step by step you can start reducing your trash even more. Eventually you’ll find that the vast majority of your “trash” is able to be recycled, reused or repurposed in some way and you can feel good about the fact that you are making a real impact on reducing your “footprint” on the planet and leaving your children and grandchildren a planet worth living on!


National Recycling Coalition: interactive map listing state recycling resources


COOP America’s “21 things you didn’t know you could recycle” guide


LIME media guide to “how to recycle everything.” Includes many great resources for organizations that take donations of everything from old prom dresses to eyeglasses.





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7/18/07 Update to recycling news:

Just came from a sustainability related conference where Eric Garcetti said that we can now put styrofoam in our blue recycling bins. I called the Bureau of Sanitation (800.773.CITY) and they confirmed this. Here are the latest additions to what we can put in our blue recycling bin: all plastic containers (including plastic bags and film…try and encapsulate all your bags ad film into one bag so that the plastic bags don’t go float out when the dump trucks empty the trash), styrofoam, wire hangers and aluminum foil. You don’t need to make sure these items are super clean (just rinsed) but nothing can be “contaminated” a la a pizza box that is drenched with grease can NOT be recycled.

Also, multi-family buildings (aka: apartments) can now use blue recycling bins too. Yay…I’m so excited!

Original post below…

Los Angeles: great news on plastics recycling

Yay…a new dawn has come upon Los Angeles as we begin to seriously deal with the issue of plastics. The bottom line? We can now put all plastic bags, film, wrappers and containers in our blue residential recycling bins. For more info, read on.

Plastic Bags
You only have to spend a minute walking the LA River to know what a serious problem the 19 BILLION plastic bags Angelenos use annually have become. They litter the trees like unwanted Christmas ornaments, birds often eat them and then starve when they have no room in their tummies for real food and it takes 82 MILLION barrels of oil a year to produce them.

The best way to end the use of disposable bags (paper or plastic) is to bring your own reusable bags when you go shopping. We leave at least 6 reusable bags in each of our cars and use them for all types of shopping. You know what makes great shopping bags? All those random giveaway bags you pick up going to events, etc.

The new law makes it so that all large stores have to provide plastic bag recycling in store. Even better, Los Angeles has finally made it so that we can put our plastic bags in our own blue residential recycling bins. This wasn’t the case before so that’s very exciting news. For more info go here: http://www.plastics.lacity.org/action.htm

Blurb from this page is below:
The Bureau of Sanitaion issues blue bins and recycling services to all residents in the unincorporated areas of the County of Los Angeles. Along with glass, paper, metal, aluminum and other materials, plastic bags can be recycled in these blue recycle bins. To help eliminate fly-away bags, place all your clean, dry plastic bags into one plastic bag, tie it off and then put it in the blue recycle bin.

Plastic Bottles
Also, we can now put ALL plastic bottles in these bins, whereas before we could only put #1 or #2, now we can put all plastics in the bin. Below is an updated recycling sticker that you can put on your fridge to remind you of what’s recyclable. You can download it here: http://www.lacity.org/san/solid_resources/pdfs/Blue_Bin_label.pdf

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