Residential Services: Illustration of a House

Residential Recycling Service

Mill Valley Refuse Service provides residential recycling service in Almonte, Alto, Belvedere, Corte Madera, Homestead, Mill Valley, Strawberry, Tiburon and several unincorporated areas of Marin County.

Visit our Residential Service Guidelines to learn more about our collection service.

At a Glance

  • Illustration of man putting recycling into the 2 different recycling carts MVRS offersPaper and cardboard are collected separately from containers (glass, plastic, and metal).
  • Paper and cardboard ONLY go into your brown Paper Cart with the blue lid.
  • Containers ONLY go into your all blue Container Cart (blue body & blue lid) or your all brown Container cart (brown body, brown lid) depending on which one you have. See details below. 
  • Paper is picked up one week, and Containers are picked up the next on an Alternating Week Pickup Schedule.
  • No room for the extra cart? It’s okay to use one cart. Click here to learn how.
  • Cart(s) must be at the street by 6:00 a.m. on your designated pickup day
  • IMPORTANT Contaminated carts (ones that contain any material other than approved recycling material) may be dumped and charged as trash.
  • NOTE ABOUT PLASTICS #1-7: Read this before you decide to recycle that item.

Alternating Week Recycling Pickup Calendar

We provide two recycle carts — one for Paper and one for Containers — and pick each up on an alternating week pickup schedule.

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

Proper Dual Stream Sorting Starts in The Home

1. Use two containers in your home for storing recyclables. These could be buckets or reusable bags as shown in the photo on the right.

2. Designate one bag for containers (cans, glass, & plastic) and one for paper products (paper, cardboard boxes, & mail).

3. When the bags are full, dump them into the appropriate outdoor cart.

Recycle Bag Example

What Can and Can’t Go In The Paper Cart

Mill Valley Refuse Paper Recycle Cart

The brown cart with the blue lid is for clean paper and cardboard material only.

Please keep paper separate from container recycling before placing in the cart to prevent contamination.

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

Container Recycling Carts are Brown or Blue

California is in the process of standardizing cart colors to make it easier to properly separate materials to recycle, compost, or landfill no matter where you are.

If you have an all BROWN cart (brown body, brown lid), please continue to use it for container recycling. As these brown carts become non-serviceable, we will replace them with the new standardized all BLUE carts.

New residential customers receive all BLUE carts for container recycling. 

Image of a brown and blue recycling cart.

What Can and Can’t Go In The Container Cart

The Container Cart is for containers only (i.e. glass jars and bottles, metal and aluminum cans, and plastic bottles). 

All items must be rinsed or wiped clean of food residue. 

Please keep containers separate from paper recycling before placing in the cart to prevent contamination.

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

Note About Recycling Numbers 1 -7

Don't Count on that Recycling Number

Plastic products are sometimes stamped with a number surrounded by the recycling symbol. These numbers only signify the chemical composition of the type of plastic the container is made of. The numbers have nothing to do with whether or not there is an actual market for recycling that type of plastic.

Regardless of the number, only bottles, jugs and tubs should be put into your recycle cart. If a plastic item falls outside that group of items, it should, unfortunately, go into the trash to avoid contaminating your recycling stream.

When in doubt, use our searchable “What Goes Where” online tool to determine if a material can be reused, recycled, composted, or disposed of in your trash.

Alternating Week Recycling Pickup Calendar

Recycle Contamination Policy

We know that it can be difficult to determine what materials are recyclable. Unfortunately, when in doubt, it’s better to throw it out (in the garbage) than to risk contaminating your recycling cart.


What is Recycling Contamination?

Contamination is the term used to describe anything that renders your recycled items non-recyclable. Besides ruining good material, contamination increases labor costs at processing plants as workers try to separate contaminated material from good material. Contamination typically occurs when:

  • Non-recyclable items are put in collection carts
  • Bags of recyclables are dropped into carts rather than dumping the recyclables in loose. Bags are NOT torn open at the processing plants so the bag and all its contents end up in the trash.


Common Recycling Contaminants

  • Plastic bags and Packaging (should go into trash)
  • Garbage bags (only garbage goes into garbage bags, do not bag your recyclables)
  • E-Waste/Batteries (see Hazardous Wastes)
  • Scrap Metal & Hangers (should go into trash)
  • Food (should go into your compost cart)
  • Styrofoam (should go into trash)
  • Diapers (should go into trash)
  • Clothing (donate or goes into trash)

Common Recycling Contaminants

How We Address Recycling Contamination

Recycle Carts will not be dumped if heavily contaminated.

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.

Recycling Videos

The Truth About Plastics

This video from the New York Times helps explain some of the issues around plastic recycling labeling.

Plastic Wars

Have efforts to solve the plastic pollution problem made it worse? Go inside the battle over plastics, recycling and what’s at stake with PBS’ Frontline: Plastic Wars.

What is Recycling Contamination?

Recycling Plastic Right

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