Real Estate

Home front: good goo; clean your recycling

Also, sustainable garden tips

A roundup of home and garden events on the Midpeninsula, including information on what's compostable in Palo Alto, new restrictions impacting local cities' recycling programs and tips on growing a sustainable garden.

CLEAN YOUR RECYCLING ... The journey your recycled paper and cardboard goes on starts in your recycling bin. It may seem simple, but things just got a little more complicated. Recently, China, where a lot of U.S. paper is sent to be recycled, has cracked down on the "impurities" it will accept. China used to accept 4 to 5 percent impurities in bales of recycled materials. Now, it will only accept bales containing less than 1 percent of those impurities. With the paper mill industry declining in the U.S., Recology, which serves a portion of southern San Mateo County, has been shipping much of our baled paper to China, where it is made into cereal boxes and shipping cartons. The new restrictions also impact our cities' recycling programs financially. So, separate banana peels, coffee grounds and food-soiled paper so that they don't touch recycled paper. This keeps recycled paper dry and clean and helps comply with China's new quality requirements. Go to your city's recycling and sorting guides for a list of what goes where.

SUSTAINABLE GARDENS ... The city of Menlo Park has a whole web page dedicated to giving residents information on how to grow a sustainable garden. Among its suggestions are designing an edible garden, planting natives, reducing pesticide use and water runoff and controlling pests -- everything from cockroaches to mice -- in less toxic ways. The city's sustainability manager, Rebecca Lucky, can be called or emailed with questions. For more information, go to

GOOD GREASY GOO ... The city of Palo Alto wants to remind residents that greasy paper or paper covered with gooey food is still compostable in your green compost cart. Any paper that's gotten wet from water, coffee, milk or juice is also OK. Common soiled-paper items include: Paper trays, liners and pizza boxes; napkins, paper towels or paper plates gooey from sauces, melted ice cream or syrup; paper takeout containers with greasy or gooey food remnants; coffee and tea takeout cups and milk cartons. For more information, go to

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