Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve compiled a list of your most frequently asked questions. If your topic isn’t addressed below, contact us for immediate assistance.


How many containers should I have and what will go in each one?

Standard service is provided using a 3-cart system. Every home should have one blue cart for mixed recyclables, one green cart for organics (food/yard waste), and one gray cart for trash. A pail is also provided for the collection of food scraps in the kitchen. Click here for an alphabetical listing of common items that is color-coded to indicate in which cart they belong.


If I mix bottles and cans with paper, won’t the paper become contaminated?

If possible, lightly rinse food/beverage containers and let them dry before placing them in the recyclables cart. You can also limit contamination by putting paper products in a paper bag and dropping it into the cart for collection.


How often will my recyclables, organics, and trash be collected?

Garbage, recyclables, and organics collection is provided weekly on your regular service day.


Where should I put my carts out for service?

Standard service is provided at the street in the front of your property; next to the curb if you have one. Backyard service is available upon request. Alley-side service of trash is available in some areas, please contact us to inquire.


Do trash carts come in more than one size?

Yes. Garbage carts are available in 4 sizes: 20, 32, 64 and 96 gallon. The rate you pay is based on the size of the trash cart you select.


Do recycling and organics carts come in more than one size?

The standard size for recycling and organics carts is 96-gallon. Under special circumstances, smaller sizes can be provided. Contact us to inquire.


If I request smaller carts, will I pay less for service?

Recycling and organics service is provided for no additional charge. By reducing waste and making the most of our recycling and organics programs, the rate you pay will be kept down.


Can I have more than one organics cart?

With weekly collection service most residents won’t need multiple organics carts. But if you find that you do, contact us to arrange delivery of another one.


Can I increase/decrease service?

Yes. You can change your service level at any time. We will provide one cart exchange each year for no charge. Log-in to your account or contact us to request a service change.


Will Mission Trail service cans, carts, tubs or other collection containers they didn’t provide?

No. To increase efficiency, our service will be provided using automated trucks. These trucks feature a robotic arm designed to grasp and tip only the type of cart we provide.


Is on-premise or backyard service available?

Yes. Residents may subscribe to on-premise service for an additional charge. Or, we will provide it free of charge to any resident with a documented physical limitation. A form is required.


Will stink and slime accompany food scrap collection?

Not necessarily. Line your kitchen pail and/or wrap your food scraps in newspaper or a paper bag. A little paper will help absorb moisture and keep your pail and green cart clean. You can also use a bio-bag to collect food scraps. Please choose one of the products listed here.


Can I still get free compost?

Compost giveaways will be conducted as directed by the City. Please watch our newsletters and visit our website for information about composting at home as well as about any upcoming compost giveaways.


I’d love to make my own compost so I can use it in my garden. How do I get started?

You don’t have to give us all your yard trimmings and food scraps. Many gardeners and farmers transform those materials into high-quality compost. We invite you to do the same. Contact us to arrange delivery of a complimentary backyard compost bin and/or worm bin. Visit and for information on how to started.


Will you be providing collection services for large appliances and furniture?

Yes. Click here for details on our Cleanup/Bulky Item Collection Program.


What do I do with large cardboard boxes or other recyclables that don’t fit in the blue recyclables cart?

The cardboard must be broken down & bundled small enough to fit inside the recycle cart, because that is the only way the driver can get it inside his truck. The driver will empty the cart, then reloads it with the extra and then empties it again.


Will you collect household hazardous waste (HHW) including e-waste?

Click here for HHW/E-waste disposal information.


What are the measurements of your collection carts?

The 96-gallon is approximately 46″ high x 28″ wide x 34″ deep. The 64-gallon is approximately 43″ x 26″ x 30″. The 32-gallon is about 39″ x 19″ x 23″. The 20-gallon is shorter than the 32 with approximately the same size footprint.


What styrofoam/polystyrene products can I put in the recycling?

If the product is not food-soiled and is marked with the recycling symbol and a number 1-7, go ahead and put it in your recycling container. Packaging peanuts, styrofoam/polystyrene blocks, and styrofoam/polystyrene cups are not usually marked with the symbol and a number and should go in the trash. Note that you may be able to donate packing peanuts to packaging/mailing stores. Also note that peanuts should be bagged before being placed in the trash.


Is there a way to recycle more than the items Mission Trail accepts in the blue cart?

There might be! Try using the recycling search tool here.


How do I dispose of sharps?

The Los Altos Pharmacy, located at 255 2nd Street, collects needles & lancets. Program is free to local residents. Sharps must be inside an approved biohazard container.


Where can I take unwanted/expired medications?

Medications are considered hazardous and cannot safely or legally be placed in any Mission Trail cart. Medications can be taken to one of the free County Household Hazardous Waste drop-offs. For details, please call 1-408-299-7300 or visit Some pharmacies and hospitals will also take medications back, please call first to confirm.


What do I do with the caps to bottles and jars?

If possible, lightly rinse bottles and jars, let them dry, crush them if they’re plastic, and place the cap back on before putting in your recycling cart. Doing this will help keep paper recyclables from being contaminated with leaked food/beverages. Some caps will actually get recycled. Others will get filtered out during the recycling process.


How can I safely dispose of fireplace and BBQ ash?

Make sure to place fireplace, stove and barbecue ashes in a metal container with a tight fitting lid. Put the container outside and 10 feet or more away from your home and combustibles. Wet the ashes down. Once cold, ashes must be contained (so they do not blow away during collection) and then placed in your gray Garbage cart. For more information and additional fire safety tips, visit these websites:, and

Didn’t find the information you were looking for? Contact us.

Take a minute to watch our short introductory video:

Looking for general program info?

Check out our short instructional video:

How does the food scraps collection program work?