The City of Torrance, population 148,000, has long been ahead of the curve with curbside recycling and foodservice packaging recycling. In 1992, it began a city-wide commingled curbside program that included foodservice packaging items among an extensive list of recyclables. In educational materials (flyers, brochures) and on their website, Torrance is inclusive and specific about the foodservice packaging items that the program accepts.
Torrance services 29,500 single-family homes, and recycles about 10,000 tons per year. Both the material recovery facility (MRF) currently processing the city’s recyclables, as well as its former processor for more than 10 years, touted the cleanliness of Torrance’s commingled recyclables.They attributed it to the city’s robust education program.
Torrance has not encountered any significant challenges in the more than 25 years of accepting foodservice packaging in their recycling program. Torrance keeps in regular contact with the MRF and recycling drivers to identify potential contamination issues.
Lessons Learned & Recommendations
“Go ahead!” is Torrance’s recommendation to cities thinking about adding foodservice packaging items to their curbside programs. Torrance is committed to ongoing resident recycling education and advises other cities to make the same commitment. In addition to its website guide, Torrance has a school education program, participates in events, and produces an annual newsletter and brochures. Recycling drivers communicate with residents through a flyer with checkboxes that allow the driver to note common problems. Once residents receive the flyer, they are instructed to correct the issue by the next pickup day.
Torrance recently implemented a successful communications outreach campaign about its new larger recycling cart program and included the distribution of door hangers. Before the door hanger campaign, the city tried running an ad in their local newspaper that resulted in 25 cart requests. After the distribution of door hangers to just one-third of the city, 470 households requested carts.
Foodservice Packaging Materials
Accepted in the recycling bin:
Clean fast food wrappers
French fry boxes
Clean paper plates and cups
Clean aluminum foil and trays
Plastic containers #1-7
Foam “to go” boxes
Foam items cup size or larger
*According to Torrance’s current MRF, “clean” is defined as all items listed as "acceptable materials" that are free of food or liquid of any type or quantity.