Tips to Green Your Halloween

Halloween is a fun-filled holiday for kids and adults alike, but from candy wrappers galore to discarded pumpkins to throwaway costumes, it can also be a waste-filled holiday. In 2016 alone, Americans spent over $8 billion on Halloween items. That adds up to a scary amount of trash!

Just because Halloween colors are black and orange doesn’t mean the holiday can’t be green. Try these easy tips to help!


Instead of buying a brand new costume each year (that may never be used again), use one of these tips for repurposing old clothes and costumes:

  • Shop for costumes at local thrift stores.
  • Recycle costumes from past years into new ones by mixing and matching pieces, adding different makeup or accessories, or passing them down from older children to younger children.
  • Make costumes out of clothing you already have. By adding makeup and accessories you can easily turn regular clothing to turn it into a costume. You’ll limit how much you need to buy, and avoid wearing the bulk of your costume only once.
  • Get inventive! Create a costume out of items you have lying around the house, such as cardboard boxes. You can check out Pinterest for DIY cardboard box costume ideas.
  • Share or exchange costumes with friends! A Halloween costume exchange can be a fun activity for friends or children of similar ages.
  • Don’t toss your costumes — save the ones you know you can reuse or repurpose into new costumes, or donate them to local thrift stores or theater programs. If a costume is no longer usable, dispose of it with other clothing and textiles.


  • Opt for natural decorations, such as pumpkins, gourds, leaves and pinecones. These make great accents and table centerpieces that are also biodegradable.
  • If you’re decorating with pumpkins and gourds, remember that they can be composted! You can also toast and eat the seeds, or put dried seeds outside for birds and squirrels to eat.
  • Make your own Halloween decorations from newspaper and scrap paper, which can be recycled.
  • Choose decorations that can be saved and reused from year to year, instead of buying new ones each season.
  • Avoid plastic decorations such as fake cobwebs and plastic rings that are messy, easily lost, or quickly discarded. Plastic decorations like these are also not recyclable, so make sure they end up in the trash when they’re no longer wanted.


  • To collect candy, have your kids use pillowcases or reusable bags instead of store-bought plastic buckets. (The pillowcases will hold more candy, anyway.)
  • Be sure to toss all candy wrappers — they are not recyclable!

Happy Halloween!

Help Combat Hunger on World Food Day

World Food Day, celebrated on October 16, honors the day the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was founded. The FAO is an agency in the United Nations that works on fighting hunger internationally.

Across the globe, 815 million people suffer from chronic hunger. And even though chronic hunger is a world issue, it’s also a problem faced by every community.

This World Food Day, consider donating food to a local food bank. Maybe you have some boxed or canned food in your cupboards that you’re not sure you’ll eat, or maybe you’re willing to spend a little pocket change for a good cause. Either way, it only takes a small action from each of us to help feed the hungry families in our own backyards.

Find a local food bank here, or learn more about World Food Day and how you can get involved.

Don’t Dump Mattresses & Box Springs — Here’s How to Get Rid of Them

Never dump mattresses and box springs where they don’t belong. It’s illegal, it can harm the environment, and it’s expensive for public agencies to pick them up. Instead, drop them off at a landfill, or dispose of them through a mattress recycling program.

Thankfully, it’s relatively easy to recycle mattresses in California. California state law adds a small fee to the sale of mattresses and box springs that is used to fund their collection and recycling. California residents will receive a $3 reimbursement when they recycle mattresses and box springs at participating facilities.

Also, if you are buying a new mattress, check with your retailer regarding their pickup options. They may provide you with a free pickup of your old mattress at the time of delivery for no additional cost.

Here are the disposal options in Ukiah:

C&S Solid Waste Systems
3515 Taylor Drive, Ukiah, CA 95482 | (707) 234-6400
Map & Directions

To find other disposal and recycling locations, visit Bye Bye Mattress’s website. Learn more about getting rid of mattresses and box springs here.

How Paper Is Recycled

In the United States, we use 71 million tons of paper each year. That’s about as heavy as 195 Empire State Buildings. Ever wonder how it all gets recycled? Watch this video to find out.

Top 10 Most Littered Items

This year’s World Clean-Up Day will be held on September 15. Each year for the clean-up, volunteers from around the world pick up litter in their communities. In conjunction with the U.S. National Clean-Up Day and the International Coastal Clean-Up, millions of people from 150 countries unite through small local actions against illegal waste.

From streets to forests to beaches, litter is everywhere. It’s also expensive — Keep America Beautiful has estimated that litter costs local communities and businesses in the U.S. at least $11.5 billion each year in clean-up and prevention.

To make matters worse, litter often leaches pollutants into the environment, and it harms wildlife, as well. Litter is often carried by wind or rain into rivers and storm drains, where it pollutes our waterways. Recent research from the Netherlands indicates that over 550 marine species have been affected by plastic litter, either by becoming tangled in it or eating it.

Since this year’s clean-up is right around the corner, let’s take a look at some of the most commonly littered items. Here are the top 10 items picked up by Ocean Conservancy volunteers last year:

1. Cigarette Butts
2. Food Wrappers (Candy Wrappers, Energy Bar Wrappers)
3. Plastic Bottles
4. Plastic Bottle Caps
5. Plastic Grocery Bags
6. Other Plastic Bags
7. Straws
8. Plastic Takeout Containers
9. Plastic Lids
10. Foam Takeout Containers

To join this year’s World Clean-Up Day, find a clean-up group near Ukiah.

How China’s Trade Policies Are Affecting U.S. Recycling

For over a decade, recyclables and scrap materials have been one of the United States’s largest exports to China. Plastic, paper and other materials from household recycling across the U.S. have long been shipped across the Pacific for China to turn back into raw materials. In the past few years, however, China has been attempting to regulate the materials they accept as part of a policy called Operation Green Fence. The imported materials have often been contaminated — sometimes by hazardous waste — which means they can be impossible to recycle, dangerous to work with, and detrimental to the environment. As a nation, China has also been producing enough of its own waste in recent years that it doesn’t need American recyclables to generate a supply of raw materials.

In 2017, in response to the contamination and their reduced need for imports, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection declared new standards for imported recyclables. For items such as paper and scrap plastics, the contamination rate must be lower than 0.5 percent. In other words, in a shipment of paper, less than 0.5 percent can be unrecyclable paper or another material all together. China has also banned 24 types of solid waste from import, citing “protection of human health or safety” and “protection of the environment.”

How They Affect Us

The new regulations, which went into partial effect January 1, 2018, and went into full effect as of March 1, 2018, are impacting the recycling industry across the globe. In the U.S., we have long relied on China to buy our recycled materials and ensure that recycling is a profitable business. With the absence of the Chinese market, household recyclables are piling up at transfer stations and landfills with no one to buy them and nowhere to go. At least 22 states have reported a noticeable or heavy impact so far, including the following:

What We Can Do

What does this mean for the future of recycling in our nation? As things stand, we have two possible responses: improve our recycling process so we can achieve the 0.5 contamination rate, or create new markets for recyclable materials.

The first step is to ensure that our recyclables are less contaminated. For waste companies, this may entail slowing the sorting process at recycling centers, hiring more workers, and building more facilities. Cities may need to enforce stricter residential recycling policies, and the industry as a whole would benefit from investing in technological advances for sorting machine capabilities.

Second, the U.S. may need to change the way we handle the waste we have been shipping overseas. Narrowing the types of materials we sell could help us develop domestic markets for recyclable materials. The process of turning consumer goods back into useful raw materials is hindered by the wide array of materials types — think of all the kinds of plastic you encounter on a daily basis. To make this process efficient enough to be profitable, it would help to have fewer materials in larger quantities. Manufacturers may also need to take responsibility for the materials they produce and sell, instead of passing the burden onto retailers, consumers and the government.

Ultimately, if we don’t have better systems in place to deal with our trash, we will inevitably be stuck with it. You can do your part by looking up if an item is recyclable before tossing it in the trash or recycling, and making sure your recyclables are empty, clean and dry. Even better — reduce how much trash and recycling you create in the first place. Ukiah Recycles can help by giving you easy tips on how to avoid reducing each type of waste. Simply search our Recycling Guide or our browse our latest Tips, News & Events for ideas.

Don’t Wash Your Car in Your Driveway

Washing your car in your driveway is bad for local water. Why? Everything you wash off your car — soap, road muck, traces of exhaust residue, motor oil and gasoline — will run into the nearest storm drain, and storm drains flow unfiltered into local waterways.

This isn’t bad only for water quality. Car residues contain heavy metals, hydrocarbons and other chemicals that are toxic to aquatic wildlife. A little pollution adds up quickly across whole cities, and even gentle soaps can break down the protective layers on fish and their gills, impairing breathing and making them susceptible to infection.

Wash your car at a car wash instead, where the water is collected and treated so that it can be safely reused.

If you are going to wash your car at home anyway, follow these tips:

  • Use nontoxic, biodegradable soap.
  • Wash your car on a lawn or other absorbent surface, so there is less runoff.
  • Wring sponges or rags into a bucket, and empty the bucket down an indoor drain.
  • Create your own car-washing kit with this guide from Only Rain Down the Drain.

To learn more about protecting local water supplies, visit our Clean Water page.

The Next Time You Go Camping, Skip the Trash — Here’s How

There’s nothing like a trip into the great outdoors to help you unwind, reset and reconnect with Mother Nature. Unfortunately, a camping trip can also create a lot of waste, which isn’t so good for her.

In Yosemite National Park alone, visitors generate 2,200 tons of garbage annually. That’s the pound-for-pound equivalent of about 15 blue whales.

The good news is that you don’t have to give up on your time in nature to reduce the waste you leave behind. Instead, try these tips to reduce your footprint the next time you’re venturing outdoors — you’ll even save money in the long run.

1. Leave excess packaging at home. Bring as little packaging on your trip as possible. Toss as much as you can before you leave home — this way, you won’t risk accidentally leaving it behind as litter. You can also reduce the amount of packaging waste you generate in the first place by avoiding single-use items such as water bottles, and opting for products that come in bulk or that use minimal packaging to begin with.

2. Refill as much as you can. Bring reusable and refillable items on your trip instead of disposable ones. Reusable bags, travel mugs, cookware, food containers and utensils will all save on waste. You can even refill cooking gas canisters. Find a retailer such as Ace Hardware or REI who will refill your gas canisters through the Refuel Your Fun program.

3. Recharge as much as you can. Choose electronics that run on rechargeable batteries instead of ones that require disposable batteries. Lanterns, flashlights and headlamps tend to come in both varieties, and it’s easy to pack portable chargers to keep them running instead of relying on fresh batteries that will soon need to be tossed.

4. Pack out trash. This is easier said than done. A lot of folks are tempted to leave some item or other on the trail or in the wilderness that won’t biodegrade quickly — or ever. You can avoid this by packing a couple of bags to collect your trash and recycling, and remember not to feed leftover food to wild animals.

5. Dispose of items correctly. Rules for recycling and disposal are different in every area, so either check for information on a local website or look for clear signage at disposal bins. Otherwise, you can always bring your waste home with you to dispose of correctly there.

6. Donate unwanted gear. Some people will leave unneeded gear roadside when they don’t need it after a camping trip. Even if there are items that you can’t bring home with you due to flight restrictions or other reasons, consider donating them to a local organization instead of abandoning them outside. You can avoid this problem in the future by renting gear you don’t want to keep instead of buying it.