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RecyclingCity Trash & Recycling

In Santa Barbara, the blue bin is for recycling.

Blue Bin Rules-of-thumb:

1. All items should be empty/clean, dry, and loose (not bagged).

2. No styrofoam or film plastics like plastic bags, plastic wrap, or bubble wrap.

Plastic Bags are Trash Flyer (English)

Plastic Bags are Trash Flyer (Spanish)

3. If you're recycling correctly, with no food or liquid contamination, your bin will always be clean with no need for a liner or bag. (plastic bags are not allowed in the blue bin anyway)

New Recycling Guidelines:

For a complete list of Acceptable and Unacceptable items, review the detailed table at the bottom of the page.

Other Tips:

  • All recyclables can be mixed together in the container.
  • Please flatten cardboard boxes.
  • Empty your recyclables of all of their contents.
  • Emptying and rinsing containers is required because it keeps your recycling bin clean and makes the containers more likely to be recycled. Learn more: "How Clean Do My Recyclables Need to Be?" 
  • It is not necessary to remove labels, rings, staples, paperclips or other items.
  • We DO NOT accept plastic bags in the blue bin and prefer you return them to a drop-off location or don't take them at all. Learn more about plastic bag recycling.

What Happens to My Recycling?

Here in the City of Santa Barbara, our blue bin recyclables are collected and brought down to Gold Coast Recycling and Transfer Station in Ventura County where items are sorted into material types by machine and by hand on a sorting line. These materials are then purchased by buyers from companies that recycle them into other products. In the near future, the City's recyclables will head to a new processing facility currently under construction by the County of Santa Barbara called the ReSource Center. Read more about the upcoming facility here.

Recycling markets have changed drastically over the last year, so our Accepted Items list has also changed. If there aren't buyers for certain types of low quality plastics, then they cannot be recycled.


  • All Metal
    No liquids or food
    • Aluminum cans
    • Aluminum foil and trays
    • Caps and lids from bottles, jars and steel (tin) cans
    • Paint cans (must be empty or dry)
    • Spray cans (must be empty)
    • Steel (tin) cans, scrap metal, metal parts
  • Rigid Plastics greater than 6" and Plastic Bottles
    No Styrofoam, plastic wrap,  or plastic labeled "compostable" or "biodegradable"
    • Any Liquid Bottles: beverage, shampoo, detergent etc. (emptied and it's recommended to put the cap back on)
    • Buckets (metal handle okay)
    • Large plastic tubs
    • Laundry detergent bottles (emptied)
    • Plastic Flower Pots and Trays
    • Plastic Toys (without cords or batteries)     
  • Most Paper
    No paper food and beverage containers. No cartons. Items must be clean, dry, and unsoiled.
    • Paper Bags
    • Books (Hardcover books need to have cover and binding removed before they can be recycled, Paperback books can go straight into the blue bin)
    • Cardboard (non-waxed)
    • Cereal boxes and Paperboard (remove plastic liner)
    • Computer and office paper
    • Envelopes (windows okay)
    • Junk mail and magazines
    • Newspapers
    • Packing or Kraft paper
    • Phonebooks
    • Shredded paper, but not crosscut  
  • All Glass Containers
    Must be emptied of any food and liquid
    • Glass bottles and jars (metal caps and lids too)
    • NO tempered glass like windows or kitchen glassware as this has been treated for heat which makes them hard to recycle


  • Paper Food and Beverage Containers: paper cups, cartons, "tetrapack", aseptic containers
  • All Plastic Bags and Film Plastics: saran wrap, pallet wrap, peel-away seals on food containers, food bags and wrappers, or any other type of flexible plastic wrapping
  • Pizza Boxes (even if the lid is clean)
  • Plastic Food Containers: clear plastic produce containers, yogurt cups, frozen meal containers, salsa cups, peanut butter jar, etc.
  • Common Disposable Items: coffee cups, plastic utensils, plastic plates/cups, "styrofoam", etc.
  • Any food and liquid contaminated materials: grease stained, filled with a lot of liquid, impossible to clean all the food out of, etc.

Other Items:

  • Batteries are acceptable in a sealed plastic bag placed on top of the blue bin (not inside) or in orange buckets for large apartment buildings
  • Cartons (dairy, soup, juice, etc.) go in the trash
  • Ceramic dishware or glassware
  • Clothing, linens and rags
  • Electronics
  • CD's, DVD's, CDROM & Cases (remove paper insert ) 
  • Foil-backed or plastic-backed paper
  • Food (residents can do backyard composting and businesses can sign up for our Foodscraps Program)
  • Glass mirrors and windows
  • Large items (furniture, appliances, etc)
  • Light bulbs: Incandescent, Fluorescents, CFLs, LEDs and HIDs
    Incandescent light bulbs can go in the brown bin to the landfill. Fluorescents, CFLs, LEDs, and HID bulbs contain mercury and must be disposed of as hazardous waste.
  • Plastic labeled "Compostable" or "Biodegradable"
    If the plastic says 'compostable' on it and you are a participant of the foodscraps program please put this material in the yellow bin. 'Biodegradable' is not a certified standard for any method of disposal. Please reuse these materials or put them in the landfill.
  • Soiled paper (paper cups, plates, napkins, tissues, towels, take-out boxes and greasy pizza boxes)
    If you are part of the foodscraps program please put these materials in the yellow bin.
  • Styrofoam
    We are currently unable to recycle styrofoam. You might see a recycling symbol on it, but it is not marketable.
  • "Tetrapak" lined aseptic cartons - these are shelf-stable products like soy milk and soup cartons
  • Waxed cardboard and paper
    If you are part of the foodscraps program please put these materials in the yellow bin.
  • Waxy paper milk or juice cartons
  • Window glass
  • Wine Corks
  • Wood
  • Yogurt Containers 


CRV Redemption

CRV is a State program that places a 5 or 10 cent redemption value on bottles and cans. Their website is

There are two official CRV redemption centers in the city of Santa Barbara:

Downtown Recycling "ABOP" Center— 132 Nopalitos Way

Santa Barbara Iron and Metal Recyclers— 709 East Gutierrez Street

For large quantities, these centers pay by weight, but a consumer has the right to be paid based on count instead of weight for up to 50 empty beverage containers of each material type.  This means you can bring up to 50 aluminum, 50 glass, 50 plastic, and 50 bi-metal California Redemption Value (CRV) containers in a single visit and request to be paid by count.

Last Updated: Feb 14, 2020
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