Updates on City of San José Services and/or Operations . (English | Español | Tiếng Việt | 中文)

What Happens to Your Recycling & Garbage

The Materials Recovery Facility

The Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) – pronounced “murf” -- uses a combination of technology and manual labor to sort different waste streams including material collected in recycling and garbage containers from residential homes, apartments, and condos in San José.

This diagram illustrates the flow of residential waste streams in San José, from collection through processing.


Recyclables from downtown, north, east and south San José (Service Districts A and C) are processed at California Waste Solution’s San José MRF, while material from west San José (Service District B) and apartments and condos citywide are processed at GreenWaste Recovery’s San José MRF. A system of belts, screens, electromagnets, and blasts of air separate paper, plastics, glass, aluminum, and other materials. Most of the sorted materials are made into big blocks called bales before being sold as resources for new products.

What’s better than recycling? Avoid single-use items in the first place. Visit our Waste Reduction page for information and tips.


To divert organics from the landfill, all residential garbage is sorted at the GreenWaste MRF. This is referred to as “backend processing” or “mixed waste processing” because the organics are sorted at the MRF and not by residents at their home. Food scraps and compostable paper are sent to the Z-Best composting facility to become compost used for landscape and median projects.

Even though San José residential food scraps are composted it’s still important to avoid wasting food in the first place. Get food waste reduction tips and tricks. Residents are also encouraged to try home composting to turn organic material into compost for their yard or garden.

Residential yard trimmings are also composted. Yard trimmings are collected and processed through a separate system and made into a high-quality compost, commonly used for local agriculture. It’s important to keep food scraps out to avoid attracting rodents. Watch this video to see how residential yard trimmings are transformed into compost.

Help protect MRF worker's health and safety

Many MRF workers separate recyclable and garbage materials by hand. Never place needles and medical sharps (either loose or inside a container), chemicals, propane tanks, batteries or other household hazardous waste (HHW) in your garbage or recycling containers. Needles and sharps often penetrate gloves and stick MRF workers while propane tanks and batteries can cause an explosion or fire. Please dispose of HHW for free through the County’s HHW Program.

Check out the video below to see the GreenWaste Facility in action!