Navigate the world of recycling and composting

Whether you live, work and study on campus or only spend a few hours here each week, the way you sort your waste at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) is important. The CSU system has a goal of keeping 80 percent of our waste out of landfills this year, but as of 2018, our campus was only achieving a 40 percent diversion rate. This means we were landfilling 60 percent of our waste.

We have a long way to go before we achieve our goal of 80 percent diversion and an even longer way before we reach our long-term goal of becoming a zero-waste campus, but the good news is with a little bit of knowledge and effort, our small individual actions will go a long way toward making a huge impact.

Navigating the world of recycling and composting can be confusing and frustrating. The list of acceptable materials varies depending on the garbage hauler and the facility to which the waste is hauled. CSUMB’s recycling program has a larger acceptance list than most, but there are some general guiding principles that are universally applicable:

When in doubt, throw it out – if you aren’t sure whether it’s recyclable or compostable, put it in the landfill trash.
Make sure your recyclables are relatively empty, clean and dry. If recyclables have food or liquid in them, they contaminate the bin and cause the whole container to be processed as landfill waste.
Compostable disposable food service items MUST GO INTO THE COMPOST! They do not break down in the landfill and they contaminate the recycling. Check packaging for a compostable symbol or ask a Dining Services employee to help you decide whether the item should go in the compost, recycle or landfill bin.

Your actions have an impact! The more we educate ourselves about waste reduction, diversion and proper recycling practices, the closer we will get to our sustainability goals and really effecting change on a larger scale. Be proactive and start separating your recycling and food waste in your residence hall. If you live in the Promontory or on East Campus, you have food waste services available to you on site. Just email your resident advisor for more information on how to use it.

If you are confused about recycling, just ask somebody for help. Contact the GreenWaste recovery environmental outreach coordinator at [email protected] or visit the CSUMB sustainability page at

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