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Important Waste and Recycling Terms

AB 939 - also known as the California Integrated Waste Management Act. This state law requires each jurisdiction in California to divert at least 50 percent of its waste away from landfills, whether through waste reduction, recycling or other means.

Alternative fuel - energy source that burns cleaner (creates less harmful air emissions) than traditional fuel, such as diesel. Alternative fuels used by refuse trucks include liquefied natural gas (LNG) or compressed natural gas (CNG). Waste Management has the largest fleet of 100 percent natural gas trucks in the solid waste industry, with the heaviest concentration of natural gas trucks operating at Waste Management of Southern California.

Automated side loader (ASL) - a type of collection truck that has a mechanical arm that reaches out from the truck to retrieve, pick up and dump residential trash carts over the side of the truck.

Back-up alarm - the beeping sound that comes from a truck when it is backing up. Every Waste Management truck is equipped with a back-up alarm. Whether you are walking or driving near one of our trucks, if you hear this sound, be sure to move out of the way of the truck.

Bin - a large collection container for trash or recyclables typically used by restaurants, apartment buildings or offices. Commonly referred to as a Dumpster, it comes in various sizes.

Box - the enclosed container on the back of the truck where trash, recyclables or greenwaste are collected to transport to the post-collection site (landfill, transfer station, etc.).

Bulky item - any large item that is too big to go in your trash cart, such as furniture or appliances. We have a fleet of flatbed trucks with lift gates that provide bulky item service throughout the county - if you have a couch, bed or other large item that needs to be disposed of, contact us to pick it up.

California Redemption Value (CRV) - a deposit paid on certain items purchased in California that is then refunded when the item is returned to be recycled. Items with CRVs include beverage containers of carbonated soft drinks, wine coolers, distilled spirit coolers, beer, carbonated and mineral water, non-carbonated water, sports drinks, coffee and tea drinks, fruit drinks, fruit juices (smaller than 46 oz.), and vegetable juice (smaller than 16 oz.). CRV containers are labeled as such.

Cart - the containers provided to residences for trash, recyclables and greenwaste. Carts come in 35-, 64- or 96-gallon sizes.

Co-mingled - this type of recycling means you can put all of your recyclable materials into one container. It may also be referred to as "mixed recycling." The items are later sorted at a recycling facility.

Compactor - a type of roll-off container that includes a device inside that compacts or compresses the materials inside as it fills up. Compacting the trash or recyclables allows space for more items to be placed inside and reduces the number of times the container needs to be emptied. Many of Waste Management's trucks also have compactors - called packers - inside their boxes, where trash is collected.

Composting - a natural approach to recycling in which organic material such as leaves, twigs, grass clippings, and vegetable food waste decomposes into a nutritional supplement for your garden or yard. There are four basic ingredients for composting: nitrogen, carbon, water and air. Find out more at

Compressed natural gas (CNG) - natural gas that is stored in cylinders at pressures of 2,000 to 3,500 pounds per square inch in order to fuel a vehicle. It is a cleaner alternative to diesel fuel, helping to keep our air cleaner. Waste Management has the largest fleet of 100 percent natural gas trucks in the solid waste industry, with the heaviest concentration of natural gas trucks operating at Waste Management of Southern California.

Construction & demolition (C&D) - materials that are generated from construction projects, including new home or facility construction, demolition projects or remodels. Much of the materials, such as drywall, metal, concrete and lumber, can be reused or recycled.

Diversion - the act of keeping materials out of landfills through waste reduction, recycling, reuse, composting or incineration at a waste-to-energy facility.

E-waste - electronic waste, such as televisions, computers, computer monitors, cell phones, PDAs or stereos. E-waste cannot be discarded through the trash, but rather must be disposed of like household hazardous waste or at a special e-waste recycling center. Before disposing of e-waste, consider donating it or selling it to be reused - many electronic parts can be put to use in other products.

End markets - the purchaser of recycled products that turns the raw material into a new product.

Forks - the lifting device or "arms" that are attached to the front of a frontloader truck and are used to pick up commercial bins in order to dump the trash or recyclables into the truck's box.

Frontloader - a refuse truck that picks up trash bins from the front. The driver positions and utilizes the forks or lifting device attached to the front of the truck and inserts them into the collars located on the commercial bin. Once in place, the bin is lifted above the truck and the materials inside are dumped into the truck's box.

Grasscycling - the process of leaving grass clippings on a lawn after it is mowed. The clippings add beneficial organic matter to the soil, providing a natural fertilizer to produce healthy, green lawns. It also reduces waste by diverting the disposal of the lawn clippings. For more information about grasscycling, go to

Greenwaste - yard waste materials including lawn clippings, leaves, weeds, tree branches, shrubs, garden trimmings and sawdust. After being collected in your dedicated greenwaste container, the greenwaste is processed and utilized in manners such as creating alternative daily cover at landfills or compost for a soil supplement.

Household hazardous waste (HHW) - materials including used oil filters, oil, paint, antifreeze, batteries, propane tanks, pesticides, household cleaners, pool chemicals and sharps/needles. These items cannot be put into the trash bin and may be taken to a county collection center for safe disposal. We can't simply throw these items away like other household trash because if they are buried in landfill, they could potentially contaminate our groundwater with harmful ingredients. The same goes for dumping them in the storm drains or sewers - storm drains go directly to the ocean, leading to contamination of our coastal waters, and our sewer systems contain beneficial bacteria that treats our sewage, which some of the household wastes could kill.

Insta-bin - a temporary collection bin that is three cubic yards or smaller, which can be rented for special projects or events.

Landfill - the specially engineered disposal site where trash is taken and buried. Landfills are strictly regulated and monitored. Landfills usually have liner systems and other safeguards to prevent groundwater contamination.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) - natural gas that is cooled to minus 263.2 degrees Fahrenheit in order to turn it into a liquid. It is a cleaner alternative to diesel fuel, helping to keep our air cleaner. Waste Management has the largest fleet of 100 percent natural gas trucks in the solid waste industry, with the heaviest concentration of natural gas trucks operating at Waste Management of Southern California.

Materials recovery facility (MRF) - pronounced "merf," it is a facility that accepts, sorts and processes different types of recyclables. The intent of the MRF is to help achieve higher waste diversion goals by more thoroughly sorting and processing waste and recyclables.

Missed pick-ups (MPUs) - the occurrence when collection is inadvertently missed. Waste Management's service guidelines mandate that any missed pick-ups reported by 5 p.m. must be collected on the same day.

Municipal solid waste (MSW) - trash or garbage. In the U.S., we generate approximately 4.5 pounds of waste per person per day.

Packer - the device inside the box of a trash truck that compacts the trash or recyclables once it is dumped into the truck's box. Compacting the materials makes room for additional materials and lengthens the time between disposal trips.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) - protective items such as reflective vests, hard hats, steel-toed boots and gloves that our Waste Management drivers, helpers, sorters and facility personnel are required to wear when working or in the vicinity of work. These items not only make them more visible to others, but also keep them safe. In most, if not all operating districts, Waste Management is the safety leader, setting the trend for safety practices in the industry.

Post-collection - activities that happen after waste and recyclables are collected, such as transporting them to the transfer station or landfill to have the recyclables sorted and processed.

Rear-loader - a truck where waste and recyclables are loaded into the back.

Recycle - the process of converting waste into a form in which it can be re-used in the making of another product.

Reduce - the process of decreasing the amount of waste generated. Examples of reduction include buying in bulk in order to throw away less packaging or utilizing re-useable or washable products rather than disposable.

Refuse - trash or garbage.

Residue - contamination in recyclable materials, which turns the whole bin into trash. Co-mingling of trash and recyclables can also contaminate other materials if it is dumped into the truck meant only for recyclables. If it's not removed before it goes to the processing plant, the trash can damage expensive machinery used to separate recyclables.

Resin identification codes - the plastic recycling codes found on the bottom of plastic containers, with the small numbers surrounded by the recycling symbol. They tell you what type of plastic is used to manufacture the items, such as soda bottles, laundry detergent packages or milk jugs.

Reuse - the process of utilizing something over again in order to divert it from the waste stream. Reuse can include utilizing items that are not disposable or performing acts such as donating an item for another to use it rather than throwing it out.

Roll-off - trash receptacle for industrial customers, ranging in size from 10 cubic yards to 40 cubic yards, as well as specialized compactors. Roll-off bins can be utilized for trash or recycling services. Special roll-off trucks have a lifting mechanism that can hoist the bin onto the flatbed truck and secure it during transport, then lift it at a steep angle into the air in order to empty it.

SRRE - acronym denoting source reduction and recycling elements. It is a report required as part of AB 939, or the California Integrated Waste Management Act, which outlines the source reduction, recycling, composting and public education and information programs a jurisdiction will implement. Additionally, the SRRE identifies funding mechanisms and monitoring for these programs, and describes their integration into a comprehensive waste diversion program.

Scout or stinger truck - a small truck that can retrieve trash bins from hard-to-reach places, such as a narrow street or small enclosures, and pull it out for the regular waste trucks to service it.

Sharps waste - Medical waste such as syringes, lancets or needles. These items are typically used by self-injectors, such as diabetics, and must be disposed of in a special manner. Waste Management offer a MedWaste Trackersm program as a convenient and safe way to dispose of these items. Visit the MedWaste Trackersm website for more information.

Single stream - denotes one collection container for all paper, glass, metal and plastic recyclables. The materials are then separated and processed at a materials recovery facility (MRF) and sold to end-markets.

Source-separated - this type of recycling means that different types of items have to be put in separate containers to be recycled. For example, aluminum cans are kept together in one container and newspapers are placed in another container.

Split-body truck - a collection truck whose box (the enclosed container on the back of the truck) is split down the middle, with one portion for recyclables and the other for trash. This design makes it so that one truck can pick up both types of materials.

Sustainability - the concept of putting back more than you take out as related to use of natural resources. For example, implementing a process to generate energy to compensate for what you use and also contributing to the general energy supply. Recycling is a prime component of sustainability.

Tarp - a covering utilized on a waste or recycling truck to prevent items from blowing out.

Transfer station - a facility that serves as a processing point between waste collection and the landfill. Sorters examine the waste and retrieve recyclable materials. Recyclables are then processed accordingly and the remaining waste is loaded onto tractor trailers and hauled to the landfill. The public is also welcome to dispose of waste and recyclables at these facilities.

Waste-to-energy - facilities that produce clean, renewable energy through the combustion of municipal solid waste in specially designed power plants equipped with modern pollution control equipment to clean emissions.

Waste stream - the total amount of garbage and recyclables we generate, whether at home, work or in the community. Materials from the waste stream are reused, recycled, composted, incinerated or disposed of in a landfill.

Wet and dry waste - wet waste is typically generated by restaurants and contains damp materials that are heavy; dry waste is typically generated by manufacturers or contractors and contains materials such as wood or cardboard.