When it comes to using curbside organic waste containers, many Alameda residents find it’s not so easy being green.
A soupy mix of food scraps, congealed leftovers and greasy soiled pizza boxes can turn your green cart into a stinky, slimy mess.
Fortunately, Alameda County Industries (ACI) — Alameda’s garbage and recycling vendor —has announced that residents can seal their green cart contents in approved compostable bags.
In order to increase participation in the organic recycling program, Newby Island landfill made the decision to allow such bags, said ACI Spokesperson Teresa Montgomery. Paper bags or newspaper are still preferred, she said.
You can view the list of permissible compostable bags here.
That’s the good news.
Unfortunately, disposable plates, silverware and cups made out of potatoes, corn or other seemingly earth-friendly plastic substitutes are not allowed into Alameda's green carts.
This type of bioware should be placed in your gray garbage bin unless it is marked with a recycling symbol and the number 1-7. In that case, it can be put in your blue recycling bin.
Montgomery noted that some bioware products are not truly organic (they are petroleum based) and some do not adequately breakdown at the organic landfill.
What about coated or mixed-material products?
Most frozen food boxes have plastic films and coatings that could contaminate material in the green cart, so they should go in the blue bin.
The thin plastic (or PLA) lining inside paper cups and many other paper products is a contaminant for both compost and recycling. It’s better to use reusable cups and/or to buy plastic, glass, aluminum alternatives if available.
Milk cartons with plastic spouts require special handling to be recycled. It is recommended the plastic spout be removed and tossed into the garbage before putting the carton itself into the green or blue bin. If not, it will get screened out at the compost facility or at a paper recycling facility.
“It is better to buy milk in plastic jugs and put the empties in the blue bin,” said Montgomery. “These can be more readily recycled.”
Other mixed-type products which should go into the blue cart, not the green one, are asceptic or tetrapak juice or broth boxes.
“These boxes have many layers of different materials in them, and if you can find a substitute product for them, such as glass, cans or plastic," she said, "we recommend you substitute those instead."
How should dead animals be handled?
Dead animals should not go in the green cart. Small dead animals such as mice, rats and small birds should be bagged and placed in the gray garbage cart. Contact animal control for larger animal removal – (squirrels, large birds, raccoons, cats, dogs, etc.). And, of course, never directly touch dead animals!
Jumping on the green cart bandwagon
Montgomery hopes Newby Island's decision to allow food waste to be put in certified compostable bags before going into green carts will reduce the “ick” factor many people complain about.
“The goal in the Bay Area is to reduce what’s going into landfills from our communities by 75 percent,” said Montgomery. “We need to encourage increased use of our green carts to attain that level.”
If you missed the chance to place your summertime watermelon rinds in your green cart, there is still time to redeem yourself in the eyes of your environmentally conscious neighbors.
Pumpkin carving season will be here soon. Scoop away.