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Where to Recycle Plastics

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Charity, Donations & Recycling > Where to Recycle Plastics

Getting rid of plastic household items

March 2008

We're trying to simplify and detoxify our world by eliminating many of our plastic products - tupperware, plastic toys, etc. We're got many, many items that are in perfectly good condition, but our personal choice is to move towards less plastic. On one hand it seems wrong to simply toss these things into a recylcling bin, but on the other hand it seems wrong to donate these item to someone else if our motivation is that we believe the chemicals in plastics are harmful to our family. Suggestions? dumping plastics

Personally, my vote would be for passing things that are still useful on to someone who wants/needs them, rather than putting them in the landfill or using up energy and carbon fuels to transport and recycle them. Many plastics, especially the kinds used for toys, tupperware, etc. are not recycled by our local waste management companies. (See the ''What can I recycle curbside?'' link for your city at Also, by letting someone use your things that are already manufactured, you will be saving the petroleum and energy needed to produce new plastic things (since not everyone will stop buying them like you have), helping you enjoy a cleaner environment outside your home as well as inside. And although it's great that you're choosing to eliminate these things from your life, many people have not made (or cannot afford to make) the same decision, and they would be happy to get more life out of your castoffs. For an enlightening read, see the Ecology Center's ''7 Misconceptions About Plastic & Plastic Recycling'' at Better to Reuse Than to Recycle
Hi, I totally feel your pain as far as wanting to eliminate plastic. I commend you for the commitment moving forward. As far as ridding your house of plastics, though, I would look at it a different way. Many people have not made the decision to lead plastic free lives. So just recycling usable plastics or tossing them is wasteful. Those people who do still choose plastic will go buy new items if they don't find used ones, and that is definitely more wasteful and contaminating than reusing an already produced item. I suggest you check out your local Freecycle network, it's a great way to share resources with the community. Michele
This isn't exactly an answer to your ethical dilemma, but the Oregon Environmental Council ( has some good information on both recyclability and toxicity of different plastics. Unfortunately, most of your plastics are not readily recyclable, but fortunately some of them are probably not as dangerous as you fear. Our choice has been to reduce our plastic use and to try to replace plastic with other materials as our current stuff wears out. less plastic
Yes, please donate them for free to some other family or preschool or day care, etc. As a general overview, the order of the pharase is ''reduce, re-use, recycle'' as that is the best order to do things in. First, buy less (and less will be produced). If you can't buy less, then re-use. If you can't re-use, then recycle. If you can't recycle, then dispose of responsibly so it doesn't litter or contaminate our environment (beyond the landfill). That means putting a given item either in the trash or bringing it to a household hazardous waste facility.

Look at your plastics and see which ones are in good enough shape to pass on to others. Ask one or more families/places if they would like the plastic goods. These families/places would likely buy them new at the store anyway, so you are saving someone/someplace in the community money, and you are keeping the plastic items out of the waste stream longer, and reducing the consumer demand or new plastic items. These things are all good!... or at least better than the alternatives.

If some of your stuff is not in good enough shape to be re-used by others, then by all means, find a responsible way to recycle them, and if you can't recycle it, then disposeof it in a way that they will end up in the landfill instead of floating in the bay.

For me, I find that it is best to let other families/places decide on their own how they approach the use of plastics and other env./health issues. Your giving or not giving a family/place plastics is not likely to effect whether or not they use plastics (just whether or not they re-use yours). Anon

Hi- Chances are few if any of these items are ''recyclable'' and would end up in landfill if you put them in said bin. You could see if a place like East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse would want them... Michael

Plastic Recycling Made Easy!

Oct 2007

I just discovered that the El Cerrito recycling center now accepts many kinds of plastic, including CD's, hard CD cases, all kinds of plastic bags and films, wide-mouth containers (all those plastic plant pots and yogurt cups!), as well as all numbered jars. It's conveniently located at the east end of Schmidt (one block north of Moeser). R.K.

Recycling plastic newspaper bags

April 2007

I get a daily newspaper delivered and, even when it's not rainy, it usually comes in a plastic bag. I can't bear to throw out the bags but I'm drowning in them! They served well for cleaning up after a dog but, alas, no more dog. What can be done with them? Please send me your alternatives to tossing in the landfill. Thanks!

I believe you can recycle plastic newspaper bags in the collection bins at Albertsons, Safeway, etc. along with your plastic shopping bags -- I hope that's still true, because that's what I've been doing with them. I think they take dry- cleaning bags there as well. JP
Andronico's stores (at least the University Ave. - Berkeley - one) have a barrel where you can put all kinds of plastic bags for recycling. recycler
You can call the newspaper and opt-out of bags on dry days. Also, the El Cerrito recycling center accepts plastic newspaper and grocery bags. -- good to know
The Berkeley Humane Society is always looking for doggie bags and are happy to take your newspaper bags. Great way to reuse the bags and help them out as well! Anon

Recycling plastic containers for plants

October 2006

I have a huge collection of empty 4'' pots, 6-packs, 1-gallon pots, 2- and 5-gallon pots, flats, and seeding trays from plants I've bought or seeded over the years. Where can I take these so they will be used again? Is there some place that is hankering for these things? Or can they be recycled? Alison

Berkeley Horticultural Nursery will take one gallon pots and up. Spiral Gardens on Sacramento may be able to use others. sunsol
Some local nurseries will accept emtpy planting containers for recycling - you might want to contact them
I'd recommend that you post an ad in the free section of I accumulate a lot of pots from landscaping jobs and have always easily gotten rid of them this way! vanessa
Berkeley Horticultural Nursery will take them. Check them out at Ruth
As I found out on the Parents Network a year or so ago, Berkeley Horticulture (across from Monterrey Market) will recycle plastic pots as well as those plastic trays you sometimes get at nurseries. You can just drop it all off outside the back gate. I don't remember the exact street names so you can call them for directions. Basically, if you're standing with your back to Monterrey Market, facing the back of Berkeley Hort, the back gate is at the corner to your right. anon
I've taken many many plant containers over to Spiral Gardens on Sacramento in Berkeley. They reuse them for potting the plants that they grow and sell as part of their mission. You can read more about them here: sofia

Recycling Yogurt Containers

Sept 2005

We go through a good number of plastic containers each month for yogurt, sour cream, etc. Berkeley's recycling program does not accept them and, according to the Ecology Center, many cities that do accept them are not actually recycling them. Is there a school, daycare, etc. around Berkeley that would be able to use these for projects and would accept them on an occasional but continuing basis? Most are 32 fluid oz. but others are smaller or larger. All have lids. David

The julia Morgan Center for the Arts can use those yougurt containers. They come in handy for holding small amounts of paint, water for watercolors, glue and separating collage materials. You can drop them by the theater Monday-Friday from 9:30am-5:30pm (2640 College Ave. between Derby and Parker in Berkeley). Also, you might contact MOCHA or the East Bay Depot for Creative ReUse to see if they will accept the containers. thanks! Beth
Some yogurt brands do use recyclable containers--I buy Nancy's and the tubs are marked type 1 plastic(1 and 2 are generally recyclable, higher numbers not, most brands use type 5). For other brands, the lids are recyclable but the container isn't. So in addition to finding a home for your current stash of containers, you could look into changing brands. I don't know which other brands use recyclable plastic, but some of the other natural/organic brands might. Another yogurt eater
July 2004

Since moving to Berkeley I cringe every week when the Ecology Center picks up our recycling and leaves the yogurt containers behind (I keep puting them out there in hopes that they start taking them).

I've started only buying 1 big one a week because I can't stand to see all the ''little' ones pile up in my trash, but they are still piling! Cottage cheese, grated parm, olives etc...

Does anyone out there know of a place I can take these Pete 5 (and Pete 1 I think) so they can be recycled? We can only think of so many art projects to use these for. drowning in plastic

I have taken wierd # plastics to West County Resource Recovery* 101 Pittsburg Avenue 510-412-4500. It is a little ways off the 580 right before the San Rafael Bridge. They will only pay for CRV plastics, but will accept wierd # plastics if you just want to drop them off. Call first though! Richmond Recycler
My son's preschool loves getting these things - for projects, etc. His school is in Oakland, but I'm sure a closer preschool would feel the same. Give some a shout and see what you find! Signed, kids love trash
I also feel awful about the number of quart-size yogurt containers we go through. I take them to the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse. They're happy to take them as long as I bring the lids, too. Someone more creative than I obviously has a use for them! DL
Reuse as many as you can. I find the small ones useful for my elementary school age kids' lunches, and storing leftovers, and I hardly ever use plastic bags. The rest -- try the Depot for Creative Reuse. I think that's the name. Seems like they take all sorts of things like that. You could also try preschools. Also, please let Ecology Center know your predicament -- they may have a suggestion, but also they should need to hear recycling desires -- hopefully they are trying to find a viable recycling option. Your concerns are mine too
Not sure if this is helpful or not... but I've recently started buying Spega yogurt at Trader Joe's, which comes in little glass containers. It's a bit more expensive than some -- I think about $2.50 for two small jars... but it's really good - and I love being able to recycle the containers. yogurt gal
I think a lot of schools and non-profits which do art with children might want to use them, you could periodically list them on this newsletter for free and see. Sorry I don't have the recycle info for you but I do think there is a recycling hotline listed somewhere in the phone book. anon
We too have been disappointed that yogurt containers aren't accepted by Berkeley recycling. We donate our clean containers to the East Bay Depot for Creative ReUse or re-use them (giving food away to friends/family). also drowning in plastic
Apparently these are difficult to recycle, and there is little demand. See David
A recommendation from a former employee of the Ecology Center is to make your own yogurt. Apparently it is easier that you think. I haven't tried it myself, but remember that my mom had a yogurt maker some years ago. eve
The Ecology Center, which contracts with the City of Berkeley to do the recycling in our city, has an explanation of why it doesn't accept these. There are many other types of plastic containers they don't pick up too. See their website

Unlike other communities, Berkeley picks up only the plastics that are "easily recycled" (1 and 2, but not all 1 and 2). Apparently the reason is that they don't want us to be "mislead" about the (non)ease of recycling plastics, which might encourage us all to buy more and more plastic.

While the Ecology Center website contains a lot of information about how irresponsible the plastics industry is, there is surprisingly little information about whether these things really are recyclable, and what to do with them if they aren't. If I follow the link on their website for "suggestions on what to do with unrecyclable plastics" I'm told why plastic is bad and why I shouldn't buy it. The solution, they say, is to contact manufacturers, and ask them to put their product in more easily recyclable containers! OK, will do! as soon as I get home from work today and make dinner for my kids and do a couple of loads of laundry!!! Sure, and I'll make the yogurt from scratch, too! Plenty of time for all those things, right? Do these guys have jobs and kids? There's some kind of disconnect here.

As far as I can tell, the problem is not that yogurt containers can't be recycled - other communities do recycle them. The problem seems to be that they are not as profitably recycled as other stuff like bottles and cans. The implication that they can't be recycled and there is nothing we can do short of not buying them is a bit misleading on the part of the Ecology Center. As I recall, until very recently, Ecology Center also refused to pick up any plastics at all, including the ever-popular and recyclable plastic milk jugs. If memory serves, the reason given was that picking them up at curbside would make it too easy for people to continue using plastic, thus supposedly encouraging more people to use more plastic. Of course not picking them up encouraged people to throw them into the trash. Only after the City insisted did the Ecology Center start curbside plastic pick-up.

I have the feeling that the current plastic policy is a follow-on to the previous one - not based on practicality but rather on financial and political concerns.

Come on Ecology Center, we do want to recycle, but we need practical advice, not lectures! Help us out here!

Recycling plastic grocery bags

Feb 2005

Despite my efforts to reuse plastic bags when grocery shopping and walking the dog, the damned things still accumulate. (I leave some at the local farmers' market, but it's frequently overstocked as well.) Is there any place in the East Bay, preferably Berkeley, to recycle plastic produce and shopping bags?

i live in rockridge, and i go to one of three stores for bag recycling: Safeway @ 51st and Broadway, Village Market @ Braodway Terrace and Clarewood, and the Albertson's in Montclair. At the Safeway i pull up and park in the red zone with my hazard lights on, and the recycling bag is just inside the door on the right. The Albertson's is an evening trip as its customer only parking during the day, and they tend to move their bag around.
Almost every supermarket (Safeway, Andronic's) has a collection bin outside for used plastic bags (clean, dry; some say ''light colored''). Of course, I have no idea if/where they really recycle them.
I know that the Safeway in Albany (mid-Solano Ave.) has a trash can outside--to the left of the front doors---that is specifically for recycling those pesky trash bags. Hope that helps. :-) marymacit
I look for bins to recycle plastic bags in grocery stores. I've seen them near the entrances at Berkeley Bowl and Safeway. Happy recycling.
You can bring them to Point Isabelle, an off leash dog park and put them by the other plastic bag posts. POint Isabelle is below Costco.If you keep going past Costco (as if you were going to the Costco gas station) you will get to Point Isabelle.
My Albertson's store has a bin outside where they collect and recycle plastic grocery bags, produce bags, newspaper bags and dry cleaning bags. I think most if not all Albertson's and Safeways do.
Most supermarkets have a bag recycling bag/barrel near one of the doors. (E.g. Berkeley Bowl has one inside near the phone at the right front door, Andronico's on Solano has one outside near the phone on the parking lot door, Safeway on Shattuck has one outside near the right door, Albertson's in El Cerrito Plaza has one inside near the middle exit.) You can simply bunch up the old bags inside each other, and they don't need to be reusable, just reasonably clean. I even heard of folks who walk dogs/animal shelters being happy about receiving old bags. Better yet, of course, is reusing your own old bags or reducing your need for plastic altogether by bringing canvas bags...
Tree-hugging grocery shopper too
Most major grocery stores have collection bins: Berkeley Bowl, Safeway, Andronico's.
D. Moran
You could try leaving them at the dog park for others to use. Also I think that there are bins for recycling plastic bags outside the Safeway on College and Claremont.
Haven't you heard that they are threatening to start charging $0.17 per bag in order to decrease waste? You might want to keep those plastic bags for the time being. Otherwise, I think all grocery stores have a bin for recycling plastic bags; just ask them where it is.
Most grocery stores have bag recycling. I know this can be a hassle, but have you tried taking them back and reusing them for another grocery run? Also, check with your local recycling company, but ours can go right in our bin with the rest of the recyclables.
I use to run into this problem as well. We use to always send our plastic bags over to Safeway, but then they stopped accepting them. We got so tired of the accumulation of bags, plastic and paper, that we decided to invest in good canvas bags to take with us everytime we go shopping. What a great decision that was. Canvas bags are so superior to plastic or paper bags. Not only do they last for many years, but they are so much stronger. And they hold more. You don't ever have to worry about the bag ripping. Now we have finally solved our accumulation problem in that category. The only trick is to remember to take them with you before you leave the house. The best place to store them is in your car. We have a routine of hanging them on the handle of the front door so we can remember to grab them on our way out to the car.
Canvas shopping bag lover
Grocery stores (like Safeway) often have bins out front where you can recycle plastic grocery store bags. Also, some stores (like Whole Foods) give you a nickel rebate if you bring your own bag to re-use. That way you won't keep accumulating more bags, and save some money at the same time.
Safeway on Solano has a bin outside the entrance for recycling plastic bags.
-Berkeley recycler

What to do with "unrecyclable" plastics?

Nov 2004

I find myself staring at an enormous bag full of non-recyclable plastic containers from Trader Joe's. It seems like more and more of their products are getting packaged this way (#5s and not #1 & #2). I'm considering the idea of organizing some kind of protest for which people would hold onto all these plastics and then bring them to TJs on a particular day to ask them to use #1/#2 plastic. That way it isn't just one cranky customer venting but a more organized show of the sickening volume of this stuff. Obviously I could stop buying some of the products packaged this way (which I've done a little) but I doubt that they really feel the impact of my action. Any thoughts?
buried in plastic

Sounds great! I wish more of their produce was less pre-packed, too. I don't have any specific ideas, but if you want to stage a protest, or a letter-writing campaign, let us know through Annoncements Newsletter! RK
You should check with your recycling provider as all plastics that are numbered can actually be recycled, if they don't accept them now, maybe you can start bugging them to. In Alameda they accept numbers 1-7. fellow recycler
Actually it's the Ecology Center you should be bugging, not Trader Joe's, assuming you live in Berkeley, that is. Other cities do recycle these plastics. The Ecology Center, which has the recycling contract with the City of Berkeley, is picky about which plastics it will accept. The plastics you are talking about are recyclable, just not as profitably as other plastics. The Ecology Center has the theory that if they don't accept the plastics that are not as easy to recycle, then this will discourage people from using them. Of course the reality is, the plastics that they don't accept, go into landfill. The only way to change this, realistically, is to let the City know we want the Ecology Center to recycle all plastics, not just some of them. Recycling mama

Where to recycle plastics with numbers 2 and up


Hi Parents, My question is about recycling plastics with numbers 2 and up. It seems that some of the most healthful foods our household enjoys are packaged in #5. I came up empty trying to find info on the Net about places to recycle these higher numbered plastics. Does anyone have info on this? Eric

San Leandro has curbside recycling of all plastic *bottles* (neck smaller than the body) of *any* type. Unfortunately, they don't take even #1 plastic cups, such as yogurt containers. I have occasionally struck a deal with a friend of mine here in Berkeley, where I'll save my yogurt etc containers and pass them on to her to recycle at the Berkeley Flatlands recycle center (corner of Dwight and MLK), and she'll send me all her non-#1 or #2 bottles. Doesn't catch everything, but it does help! And I'm not sure, but I think it's possible to deliver your plastic bottles directly to the San Leandro Dump for recycling. I'd call the City of San Leandro to enquire about it (number should be in your phone book under the government listings). Dawn
1) regarding the Berkeley recycle place on Dwight and MLK, when I took my bags and bags of yogurt containers there several months ago, they said they couldn't take them because a warehouse burned down somewhere or a road got blocked or something and they didn't know when they could take #1 and 2 plastics that did NOT have a narrow neck (they can still take milk jugs, shampoo bottles, soda bottles, etc.). Whatever the problem was, it was still a problem last week.

2) a few years ago I got really disgusted at all the plastic I couldn't avoid buying and looked in the yellow pages and also called some hotline and finally found a place in Oakland that would take ANY plastic from 1 to infinity. I think it might have been Smurfit. I have since given in and I just throw it away now.

3) As I understand it, Berkeley does not have a curbside recycling program for plastics because plastics are so bad one is not supposed to buy them in the first place. I don't find this to be exceptionally pragmatic. Sally

Re: plastics recycling - the old Urban Ore lot on 2nd at Gilman is a big big recycling center which has a number of plastics recycling bins - all labeled for which number. They also limit their take to only specific numbers, but I find that about 2/3 of the plastic containers we use qualify for the bins. And it's not as busy as the lot on MLK, which makes drop-off a lot easier. jean
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