Plastic products are everywhere in today’s world.  They may be convenient, but they have a large impact on the environment.  Plastics come from fosturtlesil fuels, most contain potentially harmful chemical additives, and many are difficult to recycle.  Plastic doesn’t decompose and litters the earth – a large section of the Pacific Ocean more than twice the size of California is now a giant sea of floating plastic trash.  Deciding what to do about plastics can be confusing.  Here are some answers to a few frequently asked questions about plastics recycling:


plastic baleNapa residents, schools, and businesses can recycle all rigid plastics, including bottles, jugs, buckets, tubs, bins and toys!  There is no need to look at the number on the bottom –  Click here for details on our single-stream recycling program.  Styrofoam, plastic bags, and plastic film/wrap are not accepted.  Businesses with a large amount of shrink wrap can call our office to set up special recycling services.  Also, please realize that many plastic items (pens, straws, lip balm containers, etc.) are so small that they can’t be picked out by our workers or fall through our recycling equipment…but we will successfully recycle the majority of the plastics placed in the blue cart.



There are virtually no markets for used Styrofoam – it is too light to transport effectively and has limited uses.  Large amounts of clean Styrofoam can be recycled at the El Cerrito Recycling Center or Dart in Lodi (where they are turned into picture frames, plastic lumber or insulation).  Styrofoam peanuts make a huge mess when dumped in recycling or trash carts – please check out reuse options on our Styrofoam page.

Plastic bags, film, and wrap also can litter the environment when placed in carts, and get tangled in the recycling equipment if they make it to our facility.  Napa’s plastic bag ordinance has dramatically decreased the amount of plastic bags entering the waste stream – make sure to use reusable bags whenever possible.  Click here for more info on Napa’s plastic bag ordinance.

We encourage you to avoid purchasing hard-to-recycle plastics and buy in bulk to avoid excess packaging.  Our “Buy Recycled” page lists ideas and links for environmentally friendly purchasing.

There are thoHDPE Baleusands of types of plastic, but we’ve now made it easier to recycle by accepting all rigid plastics, regardless of the number.  Wondering why the numbering system is so baffling?  A deli clamshell may be branded with a #1 (just like a water bottle), yet it contains different dyes, softeners, and other chemicals required to shape it into a tray. This mix of additives changes the properties of the plastic and can make it incompatible with the plastic used to make bottles.  To add to the confusion, the plastics industry’s use of the chasing arrows with its numbering system leads most to believe that any container with arrows is recyclable. The industry says it never intended the symbol to indicate that a container was recyclable or had recycled content, but simply used it as a catchy graphic to highlight the identifying number.  Recyclers requested that plastic container manufacturers change the graphic since it is misleading, and the industry is now making efforts to modify it.  We’ve now found a market for more of these plastics, but we still need to sort them into many different categories before they can be shipped of for recycling.  Interested in seeing how this happens…call for a tour of our Napa facility (at left – baled plastic bottles at our Napa facility).

Recycling and composting are easy and efficient methods to save energy and reduce the production of greenhouse gases.  Each year, 120,000 tons of materials are recycled or composted at the Napa Recycling & Composting Facility.  By keeping these valuable resources out of the landfill, we decrease carbon dioxide emissions annually by over 90,000 metric tons and use over 600,000 million fewer BTUs of energy. To put it in perspective, this is enough energy to power all the houses in Napa for three months! Additionally, these savings are the equivalent of taking 18,000 passenger cars off the road and conserving over 10 million gallons of gasoline, helping to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.

Plastic is made from oil, a finite resource that has contributed to global climate change.  Even though recycling plastic bottles helps, considLakeer the true environmental cost of manufacturing a plastic water bottle in the first place:  it generates 100 times more toxic emissions than manufacturing a glass bottle.  And unlike glass, paper products and metals, which are recycled over and over again, plastics are usually “downcycled” into non-recyclable materials such as plastic lumber.  So what can you do?  Here are some easy ways to help cool the earth:  drink tap water, purchase products made of recycled materials, start a backyard compost pile, use canvas grocery bags and recycle & reuse at home & work.


– Bring unbroken plant pots back to your nursery
– Recycle printer cartridges at local schools or stores
– Use reusable metal water bottles instead of buying bottled water
– Recycle your used Brita water filters
– Turn #5 plastics back into new products – drop off available at Whole Foods
– Remember your reusable bags when you shop – find helpful tips at
– Purchase items like yogurt in larger containers instead of single-serving size
– Reuse your plastic food containers for leftovers instead of buying new ones
– Encourage companies to take responsibility for their unsustainable packaging

The movie Bag It provides great info on the plastics problem – Napa Valley CanDo can set up a showing of the movie with your school or community group. 

Ecology Center also has tons of additional information regarding the plastics problem – check our their info here

NYCWasteLess has an interesting page on Bioplastics – plastics made from corn or other bio-based materials instead of from petroleum.