Recycling Basics: Don’t be a “Wish-cycler”

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Do you feel that you’re a good recycler? While many people place items in their curbside cart for recycling, very few people are clear about what can and can’t go in that cart. Have you ever walked up to your recycling cart with an item, but you’re not completely sure it can be recycled, but just in case, you toss it in. This common practice is called “wish-cycling” by recyclers. No big deal right? The recycling facility will just pick it out if you’re wrong. The problem is that when the wrong items are placed in your cart, it costs time and money to sort them out, and can often contaminate the other recyclables so that they have to be thrown away.

What can you do? Start by finding out what your refuse company can recycle, since not all sorting facilities are set up to process the same materials and please don’t wish-cycle. Please don’t place items in plastic bags and make sure containers are relatively clean. They don’t have to be spotless, but most of the food residue should be cleaned out.

If the City of Redding picks up your recyclables, here’s a short list on what can be placed in your blue curbside cart:

  • #1 and #2 plastic bottles and jugs. Generally, if the top is smaller than the bottom, it can be recycled.
  • Tin or steel cans – it’s okay to leave the labels on.
  • Aluminum beverage cans.
  • Clean cardboard, newspaper, junk mail and paper.
  • Magazines
  • Glass bottles and jars – only glass containers that held food or drink

These are some of the most common items that should NOT go in your recycling cart:

  • Pizza boxes – the grease and food residue contaminate the clean paper.
  • #1 plastic clamshell containers.
  • Aluminum pet food cans.
  • Plastic bags
  • Styrofoam

A more detailed list can be found by going to: The City does recycle additional materials at their recycling/drop-off area at the Transfer Station at 2255 Abernathy Lane. Items such as: clean, dry, clear or light colored plastic bags, #5 plastic tubs, rigid plastics, shredded paper, and clean, dry styrofoam (#6 only).

If your solid waste pickup is done by Waste Management, go to:

Do you have recycling questions? If so, contact Christina at

Learn more about recycling by joining Shasta Environmental Alliance on our field trip to for a tour of the recycling facility in operation at the City of Redding Solid Waste Department, 2255 Abernathy Lane, Redding on October 16 at 10 am. Please contact David Ledger at is you wish to participate.

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10 Responses

  1. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    One bonus of having a home in Redding is having curbside pick up of trash, recycles, and green waste. We haul all of our garbage and recycles from our Eastern County home each time we go to Redding. There is so much Stryofoam used in packaging that we were grateful when Redding started taking it even though we have to drive to the transfer station to recycle it rather than putting it into the blue can. And the orange battery bags that can be put into the gray can are a real help, also.

  2. Avatar Tim says:

    Weird that office paper & mail are recyclable unless shredded – shredding must make the sorters lives too difficult? Oh well, it makes good kindling…

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      I’ve wondered about that, too. We’re cautioned not to toss documents that include personal info yet that same document can’t be recycled if shredded. I suppose shredded paper gums up the machinery, but as Tim Allen would say, “Rewire it.”

  3. Avatar Candace C says:

    I read that envelopes with cellophane windows are not acceptable (which involves a lot of junk mail). I’ve formed a habit of going directly from my mailbox to my recycle/garbage bins where I separate those envelopes from the recyclable paper inside. This sounds like maybe I needn’t be doing that?

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      While on the Shasta Grand Jury, we had a chance to tour the recycle center. It was actually pretty interesting. The center employs those with learning disabilities to sort the recycles, it was heartening to see these folks gainfully employed and enjoying their work. They stand in front of a large conveyor belt and pull out the particular recyclables they are in charge of. My guess is that in any load, it is about 50-50 with what they pull out for recycling and what is left over as garbage.

  4. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    Thanks for this information. It seems that I’ve been messin’ up with the pizza boxes.

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      Evidently the grease in the box gums up the machinery. I tear off the box top, put it in the blue can, and put the bottom in the gray can. As to the window envelopes question, I just wrote to the author this article for an answer.

  5. Avatar Russell K. Hunt says:

    Very little of the material is recycled. China doesn’t take our plastic anymore. Paper is trucked to the paper mill and most of it is buried. Steel cans are crushed but not recycled. Glass has little value and is rolled over and buried. If you don’t believe this get the vendors names and go see for yourself. A complete façade.

  6. Avatar David Ledger says:

    China has stopped taking most recycled plastic and paper because most of the imported recyclables had to many impurities in it. Redding still has markets for their recyclable products as it is cleaner according to the Redding Solid Waste Department. Europe now has shortages of recycled plastic and it now costs almost as much as virgin polyethylene shipped from the US Europe will soon require 30% recycled plastic in most plastic products.

    Steel cans currently sell for $0.30/pound in the United States and there is a good market for it. Because of the high heat melting steel, impurities can be burned off. None of it goes to the dump unless you don’t sort your recyclables.

    The current price for baled corrugated boxes is about $100 per ton. According to corrugated industry trade groups, about 90% of corrugated boxes are recycled. It is much cheaper than virgin paper and it would be extremely hard to find a corrugated box that was less than about 40% recycled content. I sold corrugated boxes wholesale for 27 years and many are 100% recycled.

    Some paper, (not from Redding) does go to land fills and that is because it is poorly sorted and produces a low grade paper. China’s refusal to take the worlds impure and poorly sorted recyclables will work out better in the long run, because it will make trash collectors better sort their materials and most can be used. As it was, China had to resort its recycled imports and then bury the impure recyclables.

    Keep recycling, and if you want to tour the Recycling Center with Shasta Environmental Alliance, contact David Ledger at Our website is