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South Central Solid Waste Authority News

Posted on: October 7, 2022

Let’s talk contamination!

SCSWA Reycling

Caption: This is what recycling should look like: Clean, dry, and the right items.

When we recycle, we want what goes into our blue recycling bin to be recycled. However, sometimes a whole recycling load can be lost due to contamination. This contamination happens when dirty or unaccepted items end up in the bin. Sometimes recycling can be sorted out, but food waste often attracts rodents, cords and plastic bags tangle the machines, and too much trash cannot be separated out.

“Recycling contamination is an issue because it inhibits our move to a more circular economy - where items we use can be reused or repurposed – and results in more items ending up in the landfill that don’t need to be there,” said South Central Solid Waste Recycle Education Coordinator Brandi Misquez.

Here are some of the most common recycling contaminants seen at the Amador Transfer Station:

  1. Set it free so it can be recycled easily: Bagged recycling cannot be sorted and often goes to waste. Plastic bags and other soft plastic wrapping cause problems by wrapping around machinery at the recycling facility. Think: plastic grocery bags, zip lock bags, produce bags, bubble wrap, and any flexible wrap that food items may come in.
  2. Paper towels, napkins, paper plates, paper cups, and tissues: These items can be composted but not recycled.
  3. Tanglers: Water hoses, wires, chains, and electronic cords. Like plastic bags, these items jam recycling machinery and create hazards for sorters.
  4. Styrofoam packaging: Think to-go containers and packing peanuts commonly used in moving boxes. Since Styrofoam cannot be recycled and is not biodegradable, it is best to avoid using this whenever possible.
  5. Food and liquids: Recycling must be rinsed, cleaned, and dry. 
  6. Pizza boxes:  It’s surprising because while the hard cardboard might seem perfect, the grease contaminates it making it non-recyclable.

“It’s time that we all take an active role and do everything we can to reduce the impact on our planet,” said Misquez. “Recycling correctly is as important as doing it in the first place.”

South Central Solid Waste Authority manages solid waste and recyclables for residents and businesses throughout Doña Ana County. Contact SCSWA at (575) 528-3800 or visit

By: Cassie McClure

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