WasteWise Program

The WasteWise initiative was developed to counteract wishful recycling – often called “wishcycling” - which is recycling something because you want to do the right thing, even if you are not sure it is correct.  The initiative aims to educate County employees on what can and cannot be recycled through signage above three-stream bins in County facilities. County staff worked with the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and the Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA) to design accurate signage and ensure we were conveying the most up to date information.

Along with signage, staff gave a detailed presentation to the Public Works Department on what can be recycled in SLO County. This presentation demystified many common misconceptions about recycling, creating more informed community members.

How Recycling Works in SLO County

In San Luis Obispo County, your waste either goes to one of our three landfills or the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). At the MRF, recycling is sorted by people and machines, but 25% of what comes in is contaminated and sent to the landfill. This ends up creating even more waste than if the item was discarded in the first place. This is why it is so important for residents and businesses to only put ’what's recyclable in the recycling bin.

There are many common misconceptions about what can be recycled, and it is often tricky since what can be recycled is slightly different in every municipality. Luckily, there are a few key things you can remember when considering if something is waste or recycling.

  • Chasing arrows with a number inside on a package is a ‘resin code’ and does not mean an item is recyclable, it just indicates the type of plastic
  • Plastic bags are not recyclable
  • You should take off lids/tops from bottles/jars: metal in recycling, plastic in trash
  • Recycling is market based, meaning what is recyclable changes depending on the market and the machinery at the MRF
  • Buying products with recycled content helps bolster the recycling market, but buying products that are reusable is the best option for the environment.

Green Waste

All food scraps including meat, fish, bones, shells, dairy waste, eggshells, fruits, vegetables, peels, rinds, pits, pasta, rice, yard trimmings, leaves, and grass can all be composted.

You can get a free countertop green waste bin from the IWMA or use your own container and empty it into your curbside green waste bin.

Learn More About What's Recyclable


The IWMA website has a great guide to what can be recycled in the County, including a search function to find where you can dispose of any item in questions.

Learn where your waste goes, how landfills operate, and even plan a visit.

Learn how your waste is collected and what you can do to help get your waste in the right place for pickup.

Contact Public Works via web form, email, or call us at (805) 781-5252.