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Apartment Compost Service

Mill Valley Refuse Service provides apartment compost service in Almonte, Alto, Belvedere, Corte Madera, Homestead, Mill Valley, Strawberry, Tiburon and several unincorporated areas of Marin County. Visit our Apartment Service Guidelines to learn more about our collection service.

It’s the law: California multifamily dwellings with five or more units that generate four or more cubic yards of solid waste must subscribe to an organics recycling service (i.e. compost service). Learn more.

At a Glance

  • For food scraps, food-soiled paper & yard waste only.
  • Collected weekly.
  • IMPORTANT Contaminated carts (ones that contain any material other than approved compost material) may be dumped and charged as trash.
Mill Valley Refuse Service Compost Service

California’s Organics Recycling Law

California law, SB 1383, aims to keep food and other compostable materials out of landfills by requiring all generators of waste (businesses, public entities, and single/multifamily residents) to properly sort their waste, by either placing organics in the compost cart or self-hauling to a composting facility or program. Residents must also place recyclables (paper, cardboard, cans, and bottles) in the recycling cart. Good news: compost service is part of your residential service package with Mill Valley Refuse!

What Goes Where?

Not sure how to properly dispose of something? Search our What Goes Where tool to find out if a material can be reused, recycled, composted, or disposed of in your trash.

Tip: This tool works best if you search for categories instead of a brand name or very particular product. For instance, rather than “Coffee-mate container” search instead for “plastic beverage bottle.” Instead of “cottage cheese container” search instead for “plastic tub.”

Cartoon of man above the 4 carts offered by MVRS for residential customers: 2 for Recycling, Compost, & Garbage

What Can and Can’t Go In The Compost Cart

Mill Valley Refuse Compost Cart

The green cart is for compost material only.

It is important that we do not contaminate our compost with hazardous or non-biodegradable items. Please be careful to insure that only approved organics go in the Compost Cart.

Below are guidelines about what can and cannot go in your Compost Cart, but we suggest using the What Goes Where tool above to look up specific items.

Sorry, No Compostable, Biodegradable, or Bio-Plastic Items in the Green Compost Cart

MVRS Biodegradable Bags
Compostable Utensils and Cups

Just because a product label claims it is compostable or bio-degradable, if it is not recognized by the US Department of Agriculture as feedstock for compost used in organic farming, WMearthcare/Redwood Landfill (the company that composts the materials collected by Mill Valley Refuse Service and other Marin and Sonoma County haulers) cannot accept them.

Bio-Plastic Food Ware

  • Some bio-plastics may contain harmful chemicals such as PFOs and PFAs.
  • When non-compostable bio-plastics enter compost processing facilities, they contaminate the waste stream.
  • Bio-plastics do not always break down during the composting process.
  • Bio-plastics look a lot like their plastic counterparts during the composting process.
  • When bio-plastics end up in oceans and bays, they behave similar to regular plastics in the way they decompose, potentially harming marine life.

Compostable Bags

Even though BPI-certified compostable bags meet a laboratory test for compostability, this standard is not recognized by the US Department of Agriculture National Organic Program, which certifies compost for organic farming application. What’s more, compostable, biodegradable and petroleum plastic bags are indistinguishable in the 500 tons of material Redwood Landfill processes a day.

Instead, try transferring contents from your food-scraps pail into a paper bag to carry out to your Compost Cart. This offers the benefit of a carbon source, odor reduction and moisture-absorbing container!

Compost Contamination Policy

Compost cart contamination occurs when a non-compostable item is placed in your green compost cart. Besides potentially ruining good organic material, contamination increases labor costs at processing plants as workers try to separate contaminated material from good material. California’s SB 1383 Organics Law requires all generators of waste (businesses, public entities, and single/multifamily residents) to properly sort their waste.

Common Compost Contaminants

  • Dirt or Rock (if you aren’t able to reuse, call our office to determine if the amount warrants extra pick up or a debris box)
  • Pressure Treated, Painted, or Stained Wood (see Hazardous Waste)
  • Pet Waste (should go into trash)
  • Plastic Bags (recycle at your local supermarket or put in your Garbage Cart)
  • Compostable Plastics/Bags (should go into your Garbage Cart)
  • Diapers (should go into your Garbage Cart)
  • Dead Animals (small dead animals <10 pounds should be wrapped securely in a plastic bags and placed in garbage; for larger animals, please contact public works in your area)
  • Cardboard (should go into your Recycling Cart)

How We Address Contamination

Compost Carts will not be dumped if heavily contaminated with non-compostable materials.

Instead, our driver will leave a Violation Notice (click on image at right to see a bigger version) on the cart handle describing the contaminant observed in the cart, and providing an opportunity to clean out the cart for pick up the following week. Or you may opt to request a special pickup (for a fee) after cleaning the cart.

When a cart is tagged, a sticker that describes a number of the most common contaminants will be placed on the cart lid as a permanent reminder of what should NOT be put in the cart.

If you receive a Violation Notice and want to schedule a special pickup, call our office at (415) 457-9760.

Mill Valley Refuse Compost Cart

Compost Cart Odor

Try layering dry yard waste and wet food waste to contain odors. When you don’t have yard waste, putting a layer of newspaper or shredded documents at the bottom of the cart, and bagging food scraps in a paper shopping bag is an option. Keeping the lid closed at all times holds odors in, even if the interior smells between pickups.

MVRS Kitchen Compost Pail

Free Compost Pails

To help you collect food scraps, we provide countertop food waste containers (one per unit) free of charge to our apartment customers. Have your apartment owner or account holder call our office for more information at (415) 457-9760.

It’s the Law

Apartments in California are required to recycle and compost organic waste. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

The Benefits of Composting

Methane Cause by Organics in Landfill

Diverting Organic Material from Landfill

When organic waste (or compost) such as food waste, green waste, landscape and pruning waste, food-soiled paper, and non hazardous wood waste is sent to landfill, it decomposes anaerobically (without oxygen) which creates methane — one of the most potent greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere. Methane is a short-lived climate pollutant that is 84 times stronger than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. NASA recently captured satellite images of California landfills and published an inventory showing them as super emitters of methane.

Diverting organic waste to recycling is an integral part of the state’s climate change program and can significantly reduce the impacts of climate change in our lifetime.

What Happens to your Organic Waste 

Food scraps and food-soiled paper make up about 23% of Marin’s residential waste stream, and as much as 40% of all food harvested is wasted in one way or another (see the short videos below to learn more). When you compost in your green Compost Cart, your organic waste will be diverted from the landfill to create a rich and nutritious soil amendment that can be put back in the earth, closing the “recycling loop.”

How Compost Works

  • Collect food scraps and food-soiled paper items in kitchen pails, bowls, or bins and then transfer the food scraps to your Compost Cart along with your yard waste.
  • We empty your Compost Cart once a week and transport your organics to The Redwood Landfill and Recycling Center.
  • Food scraps, food-soiled paper and yard waste are processed into Homegrown Compost, a premium, affordable compost which you can purchase directly from The Redwood Landfill’s WM EarthCare™ Center in Novato.
  • Gardeners and farmers apply compost to soil to improve moisture retention and nutrient value of soil. Plants grow… and the cycle continues!

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