Keeping Your Organics Container Free of Contamination

Waste and recycling professionals work hard every day to protect the environment for all of us. We’ve all seen the drivers who collect our waste and recycling, but there are many more workers behind the scenes. All of them deserve our thanks for the work they do.

Keeping Your Organics Container Free of Contamination

Practical Steps You Can Take to Better Manage Your Organics Waste


One of the most impactful ways of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and lessening the impacts of climate change is to participate in organics recycling. When organics materials decompose in the landfill, they create the third largest source of methane emissions. Keeping your organics container free of contamination can help reduce the amount of material sent to landfills.

A container is considered “contaminated” when unacceptable material is disposed of in the container, such as recyclables being placed in the trash container or food scraps placed in the recycling container. Follow these easy tips to help keep contaminants out of your organics container.

    • Knowing the basics of what is and is not acceptable in your organics container will help streamline how you manage your household waste. Spoiled and leftover food, moldy cheese, chicken bones, dead flowers, as well as food-soiled paper (100% fiber-based) are just some examples of perfectly acceptable organics waste. To further explore further what items you can include or should avoid in your organics container, visit
    • Twist ties, bread clips, rubber bands, and produce stickers are among the most common organics contaminants. These items are made from plastic and need to be removed prior to disposing your food scraps. In addition, most tea bags and gum contain some degree of plastic and are also considered contaminants. For a deeper dive on common contaminants, check out Athens’ Recycling Organics Waste at Home video. 
    • Spot greenwashing. Under California law, manufacturers cannot label any bioplastic product as “biodegradable,” “oxo-degradable,” “environmentally friendly,” “beneficial to landfill,” or any other form of these terms to prevent misleading consumers from untrue environmental marketing claims. Bioplastics, a foodware item that looks like plastic, but is made from plants or other natural materials, are not acceptable for composting by Athens. This is due to the required time it takes to process them in full and compost facility certifications that do not allow inorganic material in our compost. Dispose of these items in the trash container.
    • When it comes to disposing of organics waste into your outdoor green container, it is preferred to keep all contents loose. This helps team members at Athens’ composting facility easily identify and sort potential contaminants. If you prefer to line your food scraps container, consider using a paper or loosely-tied clear/translucent plastic bag. To learn more about Athens’ organics sorting process, check out our How Organics Waste is Recycled video.

By following these strategies, you will be on your way to becoming an organics sorting expert. For more tips on managing and sorting your organics waste, visit

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