Los Angeles hosts the largest curbside recycling program in the U.S. while managing to have an exemplary waste diversion rate.

Background

Los Angeles (pop. 3,857,799) is home to the single largest curbside recycling program in the entire U.S. Each week, a fully automated collection system visits more than 750,000 households within the city — some 530,000 single-family homes and more than 220,000 small apartment buildings. The City of Angels uses 90-gallon blue bins for its program, amassing 979 tons of recyclables every day. A successful yard waste curbside collection program, which uses 90-gallon green bins, 1,783 tons of organic matter daily. Los Angeles recycling The logistics of a program this size are just incredible. After a pilot program yielded favorable results, LA debuted curbside recycling citywide in 1990. Back then, 14-gallon bins were sufficient. But, by 1997, with recycling rates spiking across the city, 90-gallon bins became a necessity. Today, LA diverts nearly 50% of all its solid waste through the curbside recycling program. Separate multifamily and drop-off programs raise this rate to 65%. LA’s recycling rate continues to be the highest among the country’s 10 largest cities. It is worth noting that this single-stream collection program accepts an astounding number of products, including many hard-to-recycle items like plastic bags and Styrofoam items. It seems Angelenos know a thing or two about going green!

Materials recycled

Paper All clean, dry paper (including office paper, ledger paper, wrapping paper, construction paper, junk mail, flyers, telephone books, notecards, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, blueprints, file folders, paper bags, sticky notes and envelopes), all cardboard and chipboard (including paperboard boxes, shoeboxes, toilet paper/paper towel rolls and flattened corrugated cardboard) and all paper-based food and beverage cartons (empty and rinsed) are accepted. Plastics Plastic items numbered 1 through 7, including plastic bottles, plastic jugs, plastic jars, tubs, planters, blister packaging, plastic clamshell packaging, plastic bags, plastic film, Styrofoam containers, Styrofoam block packaging, plastic hangers, non-electric plastic toys, laundry baskets and kiddie pools. Metals Empty aluminum cans, empty steel cans, empty aerosol cans (plastic cap removed), clean pie tins, clean aluminum foil, empty paint cans and wire hangers accepted. Glass Empty, clean glass bottles and containers are accepted (OK if broken).

Frequency

Los Angeles residents take recyclables to the curb every week, same day as yard waste and refuse. Bins must be at least 3 feet apart with handles facing the curb and at least 4 feet from obstructions (poles, vehicles, etc.). Bins should be placed curbside by 6 a.m. on the day of pick-up and must be returned to property no later than 8 p.m.

Other programs

Green yard waste bins are collected at the curb on a weekly basis as well. Grass, weeds, untreated wood, leaves, tree branches, fruits and vegetables are accepted in the 90-gallon bin. Christmas trees are collected every January. The can be cut in half and placed in the yard waste bin or they can be taken to any announced community collection event. LA residents can take household hazardous waste to any area SAFE (Solvents, Automotive, Flammables and Electronics) Collection Center. SAFE locations collect used motor oil and filters, brake fluid, antifreeze, all types of batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, computers, monitors, printers, radios, cell phones, propane tanks, heating oil, compressed gas cylinders, partially used aerosol cans, cleaners, fertilizers, expired medications, mercury thermostats, medical sharps, oil-based paints, stains, turpentine, glue and all types of pesticides. SAFE Collection Centers are located in downtown LA, Glendale, San Pedro, Sun Valley, West LA, Northridge and Playa del Rey.

More information

Visit the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation website for more recycling program info.