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Residential Services

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.

Mill Valley Refuse Warning

Dual Stream / Alternating Week Collection Method

For many years, Mill Valley Refuse Service operated a mixed — or single-stream — recycling service allowing our customers to mix all of their recycling materials in one cart for weekly collection. In August of 2019, after a successful pilot program was completed and with the support of our jurisdictions, we made the decision to switch to a dual stream recycling collection method for our residential customers which produces cleaner, higher-quality recycling material and cuts our carbon footprint by allowing us to drop off recyclables at the Marin Recycling Center in San Rafael.

At a Glance

  • Paper 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 brown Container Cart with the brown lid
  • Paper is picked up one week, and Containers are picked up the next on an Alternating Week Pickup Schedule (see 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
MVRS Recycle Icons

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 Tool

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.”

Proper Dual Stream Sorting Starts In The Home

We suggest:

  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.

The following items are accepted in the Paper Cart. (If it’s not on the list below, please trash the item.)
  • ​Office paper (any color)
  • Newspaper & magazines
  • Paperboard (like cereal & shoe boxes)
  • Junk mail and catalogs
  • Paper tubes
  • Paper egg cartons
  • Paperback books
  • Shredded paper in a paper bag
  • Cardboard – Flatten. Do not cut into small pieces. If cardboard does not fit in the cart, it must be packed in 2’x2’x2′ bundles or smaller and tied with twine or string (no plastic tape, please). Set bundles next to cart on pickup day.
The following items are not accepted in the Paper Cart.
  • Waxed or plastic-coated paper or cardboard
  • Paper towels or tissues
  • Wrapping paper
  • Food soiled paper
  • Juice, soup, soy, milk boxes & cartons
  • Paper cups
  • Mailing envelopes with plastic padding
Paper Cart No Nos

What Can and Can’t Go In The Container Cart

Mill Valley Refuse Container Recycle Cart

The brown cart with the brown lid 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.

The following items are accepted in the Container Cart. (If it’s not on the list below, please trash the item.)
  • Glass bottles & jars (clean; remove metal lids and leave loose in Container Recycle Cart)
  • Aluminum cans & foil (clean)
  • Plastic bottles, tubs & jugs (clean; okay to leave caps on)
  • Tin & bi-metal cans and food trays (clean)
  • Pressurized aerosol cans (empty)
  • Paint cans (empty)
Plastic Recycling at Mill Valley Refuse
The following items are not accepted in the Container Cart.
  • Styrofoam (with or without the triangle arrows label)
  • Compostable plastic (with or without the triangle arrows label)
  • Light bulbs and CFLs
  • Fluorescent light bulbs*
  • Plate glass, windows or mirrors
  • Ceramics, Dinnerware, Pyrex
  • Plastic bags
  • Juice bags & pouches
  • Metal hangers
  • Full or partially full paint cans (metal)*
  • Full or partially full pressurized aerosol cans* 
  • Propane tanks*

*These items are considered hazardous wastes and should be  disposed of properly. See our Hazardous Waste page.

What not to put in Container Recycling

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 with trash.

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.

The common contaminants listed on the violation notice are:

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

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

Recycling Videos

Recycling During Coronavirus

A note from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about recycling and PPE disposal during Coronavirus.

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