Organics, recycling, landfill… What waste goes where?

September 22, 2020

In the era of COVID, you may be home cooking and using personal protective gear more than ever before. With lifestyle changes come new waste disposal challenges. If you aren’t sure which bin to toss your parchment paper or disposable masks in, you aren’t alone. Sorting waste can be confusing, and new overseas regulations like the China National Sword have made it more important than ever for residents to properly sort their waste. To further complicate matters, many cities have different rules when it comes to sorting.

Below is a list of common items that end up in the wrong bin here in Hayward. For a list of other items that often cause confusion at the curbside, view the new Re:Source online sorting advice tool on Alameda County’s Stopwaste website. 

Film Plastic: Plastic bags, wraps, and films can't be recycled in your curbside recycling bins. But, you can take some of these items to local retail stores where they collect plastic grocery bags for recycling. If you can’t find a store to take your film plastic, please place it in the trash bin. Also, when placing your recyclables in the recycling bin, remember to dump them out of the plastic bag you may have used to collect them, and toss that bag in the trash.

Parchment Paper: Parchment paper is typically coated with silicone to make it non-stick, so it cannot be composted or recycled and must be placed in the landfill bin. If you use parchment paper, we recommend opting for an unbleached variety, as fewer chemicals are involved in its manufacturing. Still, parchment paper should always be landfilled after use. The best way to reduce waste associated with parchment paper is to ditch the disposable paper altogether and instead work with reusable silicon baking mats.

Masks and gloves: All disposable masks and gloves should be placed in the landfill bin. The best way to reduce waste associated with masks is to use your own reusable mask (health and profession permitting).

Clothing and textiles: If you’re cleaning out your closet, clothing and textiles must be placed in the landfill bin. If your items are in good condition, consider donating them to keep them out of the landfill.

Food: All food scraps, including eggshells, coffee grounds, meat, and bones, go into the green organics bin. You can also discard food-soiled paper, napkins, paper towels, pizza boxes, egg cartons, and yard waste in the organics bin. Need a kitchen compost pail? Contact Hayward’s local Waste Management office at 510-537-5500 to schedule a time to pick one up for free.

Reusable Bags: Per the Alameda County Public Health Department’s recent Shelter in Place Order (20-14c, Appendix A), customers are now permitted to bring their own bags, mugs, or other reusable items from home if they do not require handling by employees. When bringing reusable bags to the store, you should place them in your cart and/or basket and plan to bag your own groceries.  

For a more comprehensive list of sorting dos and don’ts, view Waste Management’s new recycling guides for residents and businesses. Questions and requests for additional information may be directed to Hayward’s Sustainability Specialist, Nicole Grucky, at