Solid Waste

When waste produced by households, schools, and businesses are sent to landfills, that waste decomposes and produces methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere. In order to decrease these emissions, our plan seeks to reduce waste production, increase waste diversion, and achieve zero plastic waste in our community.

photo of the 3 available carts in Atherton - grey, blue, and green

Did You Know?

In Atherton, yard trimmings go in the green cart. All other organic waste is sorted and composted at GreenWaste’s facilities and should go in the mixed-compostable gray cart. 

What constitutes as yard trimmings? We're glad you asked! GreenWaste's guide will help you determine what can go in the green cart. 

Wondering how these all get processed? Learn more about GreenWaste's Z-Best Composting Facility.

GreenWaste Z-Best Composting Facility

Proper Waste Disposal

Mixed Compostables

Aside from yard clippings, organic materials which are compostable should go in the grey cart to be sorted at the waste facility. Organic materials include materials that come from living organisms and can decompose naturally. Some common examples of organic waste that belong in the grey cart include:

  • Food scraps: Leftover fruits, vegetables, peels, coffee grounds, and eggshells.
  • Food-soiled paper: Greasy pizza boxes, used paper plates, and paper food containers.
  • Plant-based fabrics: Cotton and bamboo fabrics are two examples of plant based fibers.

Mixed compostables are collected and transported to the GreenWaste San Jose Material Recovery Facility, a state-or-the-art high-diversion organics processing facility, where organic material is extracted for composting. This innovative facility diverts as much as 75% of material from disposal that traditionally would never be processed. 

After your mixed compostables are processed they are sent to the GreenWaste Z-Best Composting Facility where they are transformed into nutrient-rich compost. When organic waste decomposes without oxygen in landfills, it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Composting instead allows organic material to decompose with oxygen, avoiding these harmful methane emissions, and creates a nutrient-rich soil amendment that enhances soil health, boosts water and nutrient retention, and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.

In Atherton, yard trimmings go in the green cart. All other organic waste is sorted and composted at GreenWaste’s facilities and should go in the mixed-compostable gray cart. Perfect your sorting with this handy guide.

Your yard trimmings in the green cart are transported to the GreenWaste Z-Best Composting Facility in Gilroy where over a 14–18-week process, they are transformed into nutrient-rich compost used for regenerative agriculture and landscaping. During the composing process, yard trimmings are placed in aerated windrows where they are watered and turned to maintain optimal moisture and aeration. The final compost is Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) listed and can be used for organic farming. Learn more about the GreenWaste Z-Best Composting Facility and its composting process at

Properly managing and recycling organic waste, such as through composting, can help reduce its environmental impact and promote sustainability.

inforgraphic explaining where to put organic materials. food scraps can go in the trash bins!

Proper Waste Disposal

Recyclable Materials

Recycling all qualified materials is important to our efforts to reduce waste that enters the landfills. In Atherton, we have Blue carts for your recyclables such as:

  • Metals
  • Paper
  • Glass
  • Plastic
  • and more... for a complete list, see this guide from GreenWaste explaining what should go in the blue carts.

Remember that Recycle is the last 'R' in the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle slogan for a reason. The goal is to reduce the amount of single use plastics we are using, first and foremost. And when we can't avoid that, we must recycle as much of the material as we can that is not otherwise compostable/organic or reusable.  

image of pph containers which are recyclable now

Do You Know About Polypropylene?

Polypropylene (PP) can now be recycled in the blue cart! What is polypropylene? It's the synthetic material used in common plastic items like food containers (think tubs of butter, yogurt containers, etc.). You will know if a recyclable is made with polypropylene because it will have the PP under the recycle symbol on your container. 

Examples of Recyclable Items

What You Can Do

Producing Waste Sustainably in Atherton

Waste is inevitable but it doesn't need to be harmful to the environment. By making some changes to what we purchase, composting our organic materials, and sorting our recycling like a pro, we'll greatly reduce our emissions from waste. Remember, it's:

  1. Reduce
  2. Reuse
  3. Recycle

The order listed is the order of importance and impact. 

Apply free organic compost in your garden
Perfect your waste sorting
Be Foodware Aware at home and when getting take out
Find options for reducing, reusing, & recycling
Participate in the Town's Annual Waste Wise Event to recycle electronics

Next event is on April 8, 2024 at Holbrook Palmer Park
Three waste bins - green for yard waste, blue for recycling and gray for mixed compostables. Placed on curb outside a home.