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The San Luis Obispo Recycling Guide

  • Posted on
  • By LynAnne
  • 7
The San Luis Obispo Recycling Guide

We just found out that receipt paper is not recyclable. We have been "wishcycling" those slips in our blue bin for years! This new found knowledge has lead us down a path to discover what other recycling mistakes we have been making.

Have you heard the term "wishcycling"? It is something you probably do it all the time. It happens when you drop in that un-numbered plastic in your recycling bin wishing it will end up being recycled. Unfortunately, placing un-recyclable items in our blue bins can cause problems for the sorters who are looking for the real recyclables. 


Here at HumanKind, we make an effort to re-purpose materials whenever we can (just check out our window display tree!), and recycle materials whenever possible. But sometimes we are surprised by the items that are not recyclable and we end up contaminating the recycling process. According to the SLO County Integrated Waste Management Authority, here are the top troublemakers that folks are throwing in the recycle bin when they shouldn't.


Top 12 Items That Should Not be Recycled

1. PLASTIC BAGS - Big bummer on this one. Those bags can get caught in sorting machines and cause major problems. Pro tip: Target will take your plastic bags to be recycled. You can drop them off at their store. 

2. FOOD SCRAPS - Have you been trying to convince your significant other to wash out those food containers before recycling? Well here is the authority on the subject: you are right. Recyclables do need to be washed first. Food scraps are not recyclable and food contamination cause problems in the process.

3. METAL SCRAPS - Small scraps such as wire and cables, and large metal objects like pots and pans, can damage sorting machines.

4. FROZEN FOOD PACKAGES - Though they are made from cardboard, they contain plastic for insulation which can't be separated out.

5. PAPER CUPS - Those coffee cups are lined with plastic or wax to keep them from getting soggy. That makes them un-recyclable. Just another reason to bring that re-usable cup to the coffee shop! (Note: the plastic lid and the cardboard sleeve can be recycled!)

6. DIAPERS - Are people really trying to recycle these?! Just put them in the trash, please. And check out our friends over at Eco Bambino for an assortment of cloth diapering options!

7. GARDEN HOSES - Long cable-like items get caught in sorting machines and cause safety hazards for sanitation workers.

8. SHREDDED PAPER - Shredded pieces are just too small to recycle. They literally fall through the cracks in the conveyor belts.

9. FOAM - We already have a ban on styrofoam in San Luis Obipso, so hopefully you are not getting much of it these days. It definitely cannot be recycled.

10. CLOTHING - Its not recyclable in our local facilities. But did you know that our friends over at Marine Layer are recycling t-shirts? You can drop off your old shirts at their SLO location just down the street from our shop. H&M also takes clothing and textiles to be sent to recycling facilities at all of their locations.

11. DISHES - Ceramics are made with different melting points, so it is not possible to melt them down to make into something new. Find ways to re-use them instead! (One idea: break them into pieces and use in the bottom of your flower pots to keep your plants well-drained.)

12. BROKEN GLASS - Let's keep our sanitation workers safe and not put hazardous broken glass into the recycling.


Recycling in San Luis Obispo County

Image courtesy of @canirecyclethis_slo.


So that list is pretty disheartening, right? What can be recycled? We created a handy guide for you! (Click here for a printer-friendly list to hang on your fridge!)


SLO County Recycling Quick Guide







Paper Bags

Office Paper


Pizza boxes (clean)

Cereal boxes

Paperback books

Paper egg cartons (clean)

Milk and juice cartons

Paper cups

Shredded paper

Hardcover books

Ice cream containers

Tissue paper

Paper towels


Wax-coated paper

Wax-coated cardboard






Plastic bottles

Plastic cups

Flower pots

Plastic jars

Plastic buckets

Plastics #1-5

Plastics #7

Plastic bags

Film wrap


PVC pipe

Garden hoses

Chip bags and candy wrappers

Small pieces (bag ties and bottle caps)

Hard clamshell packaging





Glass bottles

Drinking Glasses


Window glass

Light bulbs

Broken glass






Aluminum foil

Aluminum trays and pans

Food cans

Soda cans

Beer bottle caps

Aerosol cans

Aluminum chairs

Electronics and appliances

Propane tanks





Car parts


More Tips and Notes

SLO Recycling Guide

Print this list and keep it on your fridge as a quick reference guide! Find a printer-friendly version here.


This list is just scratching the surface of how we can better manage our waste. You can learn SO MUCH MORE from on the SLO County Integrated Waste Management Authority's website. It is easy to use and so informative! 


An AMAZING new Instagram account popped up recently called @canirecyclethis_slo. Follow them! You will learn so much! (Photos above courtesy of @canirecyclethis_slo.)


This information is specific to San Luis Obispo County. If you are outside of SLO, check out your local waste management for instructions on what is recyclable in your area.


  1. Jon D. Jon D.

    I wish it were not true , but NOTHING can be recycled in plastic bags(that they would process).

  2. HumanKind Shop HumanKind Shop

    Anastasia, thank you so much for the notes! Our city does accept food waste in the green bin! There is so much info here we didn't even get a chance to touch on the compost issue! As for the shredded paper, we took our info from our local waste management official website. But we will look into it!

  3. Anastasia Nicole Anastasia Nicole

    Two quick notes: first, although food scraps cannot be recycled, they can and should be composted by putting in your green bin. If you don't have a green bin, reach out to your city official to find out why not. Compost collection is mandatory throughout California. Second, shredded paper is recyclable, but not if it is loose in your bin. This is the exception to the plastic bag rule: you can collect shredded paper in a clear plastic bag, tie it off, and put it in your recycling bin. At the recycling facility (MRF), these bags of shredded paper are pulled off the line, dumped directly into a baler, and baled for recycling. (I'd love to show you a picture, but they don't allow photographs at the MRF).

  4. Jackie Parker Jackie Parker

    Gosh, I feel bad now for all the items I have "wishcycled." Thanks for a very educational post!

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