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The Complete Guide to San Jose Recycling and Waste Disposal

Where to Find Recycling in San Jose for All Your Tricky Trash

Recycling in San Jose is a well-established tradition. In fact, we have one of the highest recycling rates in the nation, with 73% of all household trash citywide recycled through the curbside program. But our city now has a much more ambitious goal: to achieve Zero Waste by 2022. This would mean that 100% of all San Jose trash is recycled in some way, with nothing ending up in the landfill. Achieving Zero Waste takes a multifaceted approach. It begins with reducing the amount of waste we produce in the first place, for example by shopping more strategically and selectively. At the same time, we need to increase the number of items we recycle, repurposing these items into new materials or converting them into a renewable source of energy.

While recycling is the key to making San Jose’s Zero Waste goal a reality, it needs to be done in the right way.  Different materials have to be handled using specific processes in a variety of facilities. If you’re eager to do your part to help us achieve Zero Waste, use this recycling guide to quickly determine where and how to recycle just about anything.

Automotive

America is a pretty car-obsessed country overall, but this is extra true for San Jose. In fact, we have the smallest number of carless households in the entire nation. This is unfortunate in terms of pollution and fossil fuel consumption, but it’s also a problem in terms of the sheer amount of automotive waste we generate. Most automotive waste contains substances that are toxic to the environment or require enormous quantities of scarce resources to produce. In many cases, they contain both. Automotive waste should never be thrown out without a care. To keep our city clean and healthy, you should look for recycling in San Jose for all your automotive debris.

Car Batteries

Car batteries contain a slew of poisonous substances, including lead and mercury. Nobody wants those substances ending up in our soil or water supply. But avoiding such contamination means doing our part to keep old car batteries out of the landfill.

Gasoline

We all know that the petroleum needed to produce gas is a nonrenewable resource, so it’s important that we curb our gas consumption. If you ever do need to dispose of gas that’s too old to use safely, it should never be thrown out with your household trash, poured down a drain or mixed with any other fluids. 

Oil & Automotive Fluids

All automotive fluids contain substances that are toxic to people, animals, and the environment. For the health of our community, including the wildlife we share it with, it’s extremely important to dispose of these materials properly. Don’t throw them in the trash, mix them with each other or pour them down a drain.

Tires

When tires end up in a landfill rather than being recycled, they can wreak havoc on landfill infrastructure. Over time, instead of compressing and decomposing, methane gas builds up inside a tire until it bursts, causing damage and releasing toxic gas into the air. Tires should always be handed off to the pros for disposal.

Construction & Remodeling Materials

Your home is your castle, and your castle should look exactly the way you want it to. Dig a moat, build turrets and install cathedral ceilings in your throne room. Just make sure your home improvements don’t end up endangering the kingdom. Construction and remodeling projects generate a lot of debris, and while most of it isn’t toxic, that doesn’t mean the landfill is the best place for it. Much of it can be reused or recycled, saving valuable landfill space for the stuff that really belongs there. Check the recycling guide below for the best options in San Jose.

Shingles

Old shingles aren’t toxic, but that doesn’t mean they should simply be thrown out. Manufacturing asphalt shingles uses up plenty of oil and other natural resources which should be conserved whenever possible. There are many options for recycling shingles in San Jose that should be considered above the landfill.

Carpets

Used carpet may not be hazardous to the environment, but that doesn’t mean it should just be tossed in the trash without a thought. If your old carpet is still in good condition, it could easily find new life sprucing up somebody else’s home. Even if your carpet isn’t in the best condition for donation, it can still be recycled in various useful ways.

Paint

There’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint to turn a tired-looking room into your new favorite spot in the house. But of you don’t dispose of leftover paint properly, your money-saving DIY project will end up costing the environment big time. Oil based paints contain many chemicals that can poison water and soil if they’re thrown in the trash.

Scrap Metal

Mining and refining the metals that appear in so many everyday products requires vast quantities of energy, fossil fuels and other resources. To lessen this environmental impact, we should recycle scrap metal whenever possible. Not only is it good for the planet, but you’ll likely end up with some extra cash in your pocket!

Electronics & Appliances

Living in the middle of Silicon Valley, it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that disposing of e-waste in San Jose is a major problem. In fact, throughout the country, electronic waste is now the fastest growing waste category, taking up ever more landfill space and posing ever greater danger to people and the environment. E-waste of all kinds contains lead, mercury and other toxic substances that are not only poisonous to plants and animals but are known to cause serious medical issues from cancer to brain damage. As technology continues to advance faster than ever before, thanks in no small part to San Jose’s own contributions to the field, we need to be sure we’re doing our part to dispose of e-waste responsibly. Below, you'll find e-waste recycling in San Jose for all your most common devices.

Computers & Cellphones

From the (often toxic) metals that go into CPUs, motherboards, and more, to the plastics that make up so many other components, constructing a computer or cellphone requires using up a significant amount of valuable resources. To mitigate that impact, it’s important to recycle or donate computers and cellphones instead of chucking them in the trash.

Televisions

Nobody can blame you for wanting to upgrade your TV—after all, we’re living in the “Golden Age of TV” and it’s easier to keep track of Game of Thrones deaths on a cinema-size screen. But TVs contain lead, cadmium and other heavy metals that can poison water and soil (and the animals that come in contact with it) when not disposed of properly. 

Refrigerators

Refrigerant, especially in older refrigerators, is made with chemicals (HCFCs & CFCs) that are very damaging to the ozone layer, contributing to global warming. Refrigerant is also very toxic to water and soil, making it essential that we let professionals in refrigerant reclamation handle refrigerator disposal.

Appliances

Appliances take up big chunks of landfill space that would be better reserved for more easily biodegradable substances. More importantly, appliances are made from significant amounts of plastics and various metals. To conserve these resources, appliances should be recycled or donated whenever possible.

Household Items

“Household Items" is a broad category that includes many very different types of materials. You deal with the items in this category more than anything else on this list, making it easy to overlook alternatives to the landfill. After all, when you need to get rid of something large or obviously hazardous, you’re automatically prompted to look for other options. But the odds-and-ends that fill our junk drawers and cover our closet floors? It’s easy to throw them away without a second thought. But that doesn’t mean a second thought isn’t worth it. There are plenty of options for disposing of these items that don’t require using up landfill space. Use our recycling guide to find the ones that work for you.

Mattresses

Mattresses take up an enormous amount of landfill space because the springs or foam they contain prevent them from compressing. In fact, just a single twin-size mattress can eat up 23 cubic feet of real estate. When mattresses are recycled, we are both conserving resources and helping prevent a need for more landfills.

Clothing & Bedding

Donating old clothing and bedding rather than tossing it in the trash is not only good for the environment but good for your fellow man. Save landfill space for actual trash and let your old clothes and bedding become a new wardrobe or source of warmth for a neighbor.

Medical Waste

When medicines aren’t properly disposed of they can contaminate the water system and harm marine life. Syringes, needles and sharps have an even greater chance of spreading disease or causing injury when not properly handled. No medical waste of any kind should be thrown out with your regular trash, flushed down the toilet or poured down a drain.

Food Waste

Unused food can be donated to help your neighbors in need, rather than thoughtlessly thrown out. Food scraps and foods that can’t be donated can be composted. Both options help us toward our Zero Waste goal while benefitting the community in many ways.

For Everything Else

For any items that can’t be donated or repurposed through recycling in San Jose, consult this list of landfills and transfer stations throughout the city and Santa Clara County. Note that most of these sites will not accept hazardous waste. 

San Jose Environmental Innovation Center

1608 Las Plumas Ave, San Jose, CA 95133                 

408-299-7300

Santa Clara County Household Hazardous Waste Program

1555 Berger Dr. #300, San Jose, CA

(408) 299-7300

Leo Recycle Transfer Station Dump

215 Leo Ave #10, San Jose, CA

(408) 647-1705

Zanker Road Resource Management

705 Los Esteros Rd., San Jose, CA

(408) 263-2385

Guadalupe Rubbish Disposal Co.

15999 Guadalupe Mines Road, San Jose, CA

800-963-4776

Newby Island Resource Recovery Park

1601 Dixon Landing Road, Milpitas, CA

(408) 945-2800

Kirby Canyon Landfill

910 Coyote Creek Golf Drive, Morgan Hill, CA

(408) 779-2206

SMaRT Station

7010 Auto Mall Pkwy, Fremont, CA

(510) 624-5910

Sustainable Success Stories in San Jose

As San Jose gets serious about achieving our Zero Waste goal, businesses are going to be key factors in whether or not we succeed. If citizens are doing their part at home, but the businesses we rely on for our quality of life aren’t joining in, then our hard work won’t go nearly as far as it could. Plenty of companies talk a big game about incorporating more eco-friendly business practices, but not all really follow through. The following businesses, though, are doing everything right to pave the way for a cleaner and more sustainable San Jose.

Bottling Up a New Way to Conserve: rePlanet Makes Recycling Pay

rePlanet’s mission is to turn every used bottle and beverage container into something else, putting money back in people’s wallets and lending a helping hand to charities in the process. So far, they’re doing a pretty bang up job. Partnering with supermarkets throughout San Jose, shoppers can bring their empty bottles and other beverage containers back to the market on their next shopping trip, trading them in for a voucher that can be redeemed for groceries or cash.

Shoppers also have the option of contributing the money they earned for their bottles to a charity they care about. With this simple but innovative concept, rePlanet has kept millions of bottles that might not otherwise have been recycled out of the landfill. rePlanet turns these bottles into sustainable aluminum and other packaging materials. These products are then sold to businesses like restaurants and markets, helping other companies along the path to greater sustainability.

Commode Commodities: Fireclay Tile Takes Toilets in a New Direction

Discarded toilets, tubs, and sinks, among other porcelain items, account for thousands of pounds of landfill waste every year.  Fireclay Tile takes those toilets (and much more) and processes them into porcelain dust, which can then be made into tile. This provides a much-needed alternative to traditional kiln-fired tiles, which require fresh clay to produce—complete with all the environmental destruction necessary to procure that clay.

Even better, tiles made from recycled porcelain are cheaper to produce than traditional varieties, and so far they’ve proved to be more popular with consumers too.Based on their porcelain success, they recently debuted a line of tiles made from 100% recycled glass. Fireclay Tile’s production process keeps thousands of pounds of waste out of landfills every year while benefitting consumers with lower prices.

Reading is Recycling: Recycle Book Store Changes the Reading Landscape

For many avid readers, the idea of throwing away a book is unthinkable. But because books aren’t accepted in curbside recycling (the glue in their bindings isn’t recyclable and can gum up the machines at the recycling facility), many that are no longer wanted by their original owners could end up in the trash. If it weren’t, that is, for Recycle Book Store. A San Jose fixture since the 1960s, Recycle Book Store is the city’s best-loved used book emporium. Customers can bring in their already-reads and trade them in for either cash or store credit.

Another major draw: Recycle Book Store’s collection of rare and out of print titles. Their selection is so extensive that people all over the country turn to Recycle Book Store for the hard to find gems they’ve been searching for. Finally, there are the store’s three resident cats--always eager to greet new customers looking for an eco-friendly reading experience.