Reduce Waste at Home

Most people don’t want to look at their trash. Take a quick peek today. You might be putting a lot in the landfill that you shouldn’t, including cans, food waste, cups and things that you didn’t have to use in the first place. What about hazardous trash like old paint or motor oil? These are harmful if not disposed of properly.

No matter where you live, you can do a lot of good without going to too much trouble.

For starters, simply recycle. Chances are your waste hauler or landlord has a bin for you. And you can reduce and reuse – think travelling coffee mugs and reusable grocery bags. Make compost for your garden out of kitchen scraps. Or be a real hero and encourage others to organize a recycling or waste reduction program where you live.

Orange County’s landfills won’t last forever. It’s time to save room for tomorrow.

What’s in your trash?

According to the EPA, American’s trash consists primarily of paper and yard trimmings – both are recyclable! Here’s a closer look at what’s in your trash, and how can you keep it out of the landfill.

Waste Reduction at Home

Trash Type Percentage Tonnage
paper 40.4% 71.6 million tons
yard trimmings 17.6% 31.6 million tons
metals 8.5% 15.3 million tons
plastics 8.0% 14.4 million tons
food scraps 7.4% 13.2 million tons
glass 7.0% 12.5 million tons
other 11.6% 20.8 million tons (e.g., rubber, leather, textiles, wood, miscellaneous inorganic wastes)

The good news is, you can reduce, reuse or recycle just about everything on that list. Here’s how:


Is paper a problem?

The great thing about reducing paper waste is that you can reduce hassles right along with it. Free yourself from piles of paper and stacks of mail. Here are a few tips:

  • Recycle Newspapers and magazines can go straight to the recycling bin. If everyone in the U.S. did that every Sunday, it could save 26 million trees a year.  Better still, read your favorite publications online. It saves the landfills, and often it’s free!
  • Go Online Pay bills electronically; no paper statements, no envelopes.
  • Don’t Waste Print double-sided from your home computer.  Reuse envelopes and paper from your mail as notepads.
  • Don’t take the ATM receipt. ATM receipts are one of the top sources of litter on the planet.
  • Reuse Wrapping paper or newspaper can be reused to wrap gifts instead of buying new paper. Use a cloth towel versus paper towels, and use real dishes – not paper plates or cups.
  • Junk Mail Free yourself from junk mail by following these tips:

    • To stop credit card offers, call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (888-567-8688). You will be connected to a recorded message (24 hrs a day) that will prompt you for your contact information. You can also visit for more information.
    • For catalogs and other mailings from a specific source, call the company’s 800 number and ask to be removed from the mailing list. You can also use a free service called Catalog Choice and choose which catalogs you would like to stop receiving.
    • Register online with the Mail Preference Service. It costs $1.00, but should significantly reduce the amount of junk mail you receive.
    • Have your address removed from the Valpak and Advo coupon mailing lists.


Yard trimmings aren’t trash!

Over 17% of what people put in landfills is organic waste from their yards. That adds up to a lot of wasted space in the landfills. If you’ve got a yard, here’s what you can do to help.

  • Composting You’ll turn both yard waste and food scraps into valuable compost for your yard and garden.
  • Green Waste Bins Contact your waste hauler to find out if this is available. If you live in an apartment, ask your manager if they can recycle it for you.
  • Xeriscape Drought tolerant plants will reduce grass clippings and save water and other natural resources we desperately need in Southern California.


What about your aluminum can?

Americans throw enough aluminum away to rebuild every commercial airliner in the sky every three months. But it’s simple to eliminate so much of the metal you send to the landfill.

  • Buy in bulk Go for the 2-liter beverage bottles instead of individual cans. Go large for canned food items as well. Bigger quantities actually use less packaging. And you can serve them in trusty, washable, reusable glasses, plates and bowls.
  • Recycle Sometimes using metal containers is unavoidable, but you can always recycle. Use your curbside bin, or Check out our recycling locator. You can even cash in on beverage containers in California.


How do you avoid plastic?

A lot of people are beginning to realize that plastic beverage bottles are a huge problem. But there are lots of other places to eliminate plastic from your waste, as well.

  • Buy in Bulk Purchase bulk items when grocery shopping. It saves money and uses a lot less packaging.
  • Think Reusable Take a reusable cloth or mesh bag to the grocery store, and never again answer the question “paper or plastic?”
  • Use Cloth Diapers Americans use 18 billion disposables each year — enough to stretch to the moon and back seven times.
  • Avoid Styrofoam  It’s not biodegradable, it’s hard to recycle, and simply won’t go away.


You can do more with food waste.

Leftover food and kitchen waste can do a lot of good – if you don’t send it to the landfill.

  • Share Give leftovers to family, friends and coworkers. And save them in re-useable containers.
  • Compost Start a compost bin in your back yard or kitchen. You’ll end up with rich soil you’ve for your garden, or you can donate it to local community garden.


Do something different with your glass pickle jar.

There aren’t as many glass containers around anymore, but glass still generates 7% of your waste.

  • Recycle The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle will light a 100-watt light bulb for four hours.
  • Reuse An empty wine or cider bottle can be reused as a candle holder or vase.
  • Buy recycled Furniture, building supplies and more can be made from recycled glass. Buying them helps “close the loop” in the recycling process.


The “other” stuff.

This is the nasty inorganic material that is so hard to get rid of. 

  • Household Hazardous Waste Save batteries, paint and other electrical items and bring them to the county’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection Centers.
  • Consolidate Look for multipurpose cleaners: You don’t need a different cleaner for every kind of surface in your house. You can even make your own.
  • Just add water Purchase concentrated forms of laundry detergents, household cleaners, and even certain juices to save on extra packaging and cost.
  • Tire Recycling If you’re purchasing new tires for your vehicle, allow the mechanic to take your tires.  They will make sure your tire is recycled properly.  If you have a tire hanging around the house, visit our recycling locator to see where you can recycle it.


Where to Recycle?

Even though it’s last when we say “reduce, reuse, recycle,” recycling is vitally important. We want people to first find ways of not creating waste in the first place. Then think about recycling when that isn’t possible.

Chances are, you can recycle right at your curbside or apartment complex. If you can’t, use our recycling locator to find out where you can go.


Avoid contaminating your bin.

  • Be sure to rinse out all bottles and cans.
  • Cardboard and paper touched by food cannot be recycled. That includes pizza and takeout containers.
  • Take batteries, computers, electronics, paint and more to one of the four Household Hazardous Waste Centers in Orange County.