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Waste Reduction and

Responsible Disposal

The basic facts about waste in the City of Tampa

Trash Talk!

On average, our trash carts contain: 30% Trash, 50% Compostables and 20% Recyclables! Diverting recyclable and compostable waste from our trash carts, can reduce their content by up to 70%! Read on for ways to prevent, divert and dispose of waste responsibly.

How You Can Help

The best way to reduce environmental impacts when it comes to waste is to prevent making it in the first place. Practicing waste reduction means diverting fewer materials to disposal methods or landfills. Not only does it lead to fewer items going to disposal, but it also reduces litter, saves resources, and saves money! Moving to a reduced waste lifestyle takes time and effort but is very rewarding. It is an ongoing process, and the transition can be made incrementally. We've outlined below four ways you can responsibly reduce, recycle or dispose of your waste. 


Waste diversion or landfill diversion is the process of diverting waste from landfills.


Composting is nature’s way of recycling. It is one of the most powerful actions we can take to reduce our trash.


Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects.

Hazardous Waste

Hazardous waste is waste that has substantial or potential threats to public health or the environment. 

Image by Joshua Hoehne

Often when we think of or talk about waste, we are referring to garbage or waste that is no longer wanted, usable or palatable–if we are talking about food. So why has preventing and reducing food waste become increasingly important today more than ever? We attempt to address the importance of preventing food waste with some interesting facts from the Food Waste Prevention Coalition.


Did You Know…?

  • Reducing food waste saves money:

    • Wasting food is expensive. Every year, Americans lose more than $218 billion on wasted food. In Florida alone, the average family of four throws out around $1,600 worth of food annually!

  • It protects the environment:

    • Reducing food waste is the #1 personal action we can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while at the same time, saving critical natural resources. When food is wasted, it goes into a landfill. In a landfill, it breaks down and emits greenhouse gasses, including carbon dioxide and methane.

  • It reduces hunger in our communities:

    • In the US, approximately 40% of all food grown and produced is never eaten! An enormous amount of food is wasted that could go to people that don’t have access to food. 1 in 5 people lack consistent access to healthy, nutritious food, while up to 3 million tons of wasted food a year goes to landfills.

  • For more information and for ideas on how you can personally reduce food waste by careful shopping and storage and ways to get involved, please visit the Food Waste Prevention Week Coalition website.


One of the first tenets of waste reduction is diversion. The 3 R’s of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle can be expanded to 6 R’s to include Rethinking what we purchase, Refusing unnecessary and single-use items and composting (Rot). See the diagram below for examples.


Mindset: We are responsible for the waste we create and where it ends up. Think about purchases and avoid unnecessary waste



Avoid: Single-use items like straws, cutlery, extra packaging and non-necessities. Say no to plastic bags



Lifestyle: Minimize everyday resources. Inventory the most waste-heavy and switch to reusables


Pause: Before you toss, repair, repurpose, or donate to minimize new material consumption and resources



Fact: About 40-50% of our current waste is compostable and therefore a potentially renewable, reusable resource


Why: Turning existing items into reusable products, reduces the need to strain existing raw resources



Processes: Where it all ends up. Garbage may still be used at an energy-from-waste recovery facility



Landfill: This is the last step in the process after the 7 R’s are exhausted and should be the last resort

Domestic Waste Bin

What You Need to Know:

  • To learn how composting helps to combat the climate crisis and for more information on the City’s program and to learn what is and is not compostable, click here.

  • The City of Tampa offers a free Backyard Composting Program. Residents only within the City of Tampa’s Solid Waste service area with an active solid waste account are eligible to take a free composting workshop.

  • Workshops are held once per month and registrations open in the prior month.

  • Upon completion of the required steps outlined in the workshop, residents will receive a free backyard composting bin delivered to their door.

  • The next City of Tampa Backyard Composting Program is on Friday, July 21 from Noon - 1:00 pm EDT. Online. Free. Register here.

  • The University of Florida's Extension Office (UF/IFAS Hillsborough Extension), also runs workshops both In-Person and on Zoom. For a nominal fee, Hillsborough County and City of Tampa residents will learn how to put everyday food waste and organic materials to work for them.

  • The next UF/IFAS Extension workshop is on Saturday, August 5 from 8:30 - 9:30 am EDT. In-person, Extension Office, Seffner. Register here.

  • Check out future composting workshop dates hosted by the UF/IFAS Extension Office here.

  • In addition, you may want to check out the Healthy Soils & Composting Masterclass, offered free online on Thursday, July 20, 2023 from 1:30 - 2:30 pm EDT.

Other Resources for Composting:

  • More information on starting your own compost can be found here

  • Some community gardens, such as Seminole Community Garden accept neighbors' food waste.

  • If you do not wish to participate in the City’s program, or live in an apartment or do not have space for a backyard compost bin, consider outsourcing your accepted waste to a private contractor. For a monthly fee, your compostable waste will be collected from your home or business.

  • More information will be made available in a later update.

Paper Recycling Bin
Recycling - The 3 R's
Current Recycling Program—Accepted Items 

So, Why Recycle?

Recycling is not mandated by Federal, Florida State, or Local Government Statues. Currently, it is a voluntary program available to residents and businesses. Although a voluntary program, throwing non-recyclables into the bin is worse because it pollutes the recycling stream, therefore if participating, following the guidelines IS required. Visit the City of Tampa's Recycling page for answers to your questions on all things recyclable. Here, you can access a Waste Sort feature to find out how to correctly dispose of an item, download the Tampa Trash and Recycling app for your Google Android or Apple iOS device, sign up for email collection reminders and more.


  • Recyclable items must be rinsed and free of food and liquid residue.

  • Large jugs, medium and small bottles, larger than the size of your fist only

  • No plastic food, take-out, or clam shell containers

  • Do not use the number or recycling logo stamped on the bottom of most plastics as a guide for recycling, many of these are not accepted in the City's current program.

  • Unbagged only. Plastic bags are the #1 problem that clogs the machinery and disrupts the recycling process and small items like bottle caps and top, shredded paper are too small to be captured for recycling.

Tips to Reduce Single-Use Plastics and Other Items:

  • BYOB - Bring Your Own Bag for groceries and shopping trips

  • BYOC - Bring Your Own reusable Cup or water bottle when on the go. Some stores such as Starbucks have a personal reusable cup program as part of their rewards program. Bring in a clean cup which the barista will use for your drink and receive a 10 cent discount.

  • Say NO to Straws or bring your own

  • Take food on the go in your own container and bring your own containers and utensils for take-out food.

  • Around the Holidays and heading into the Spring cleaning season, the City experiences an increase in waste. In March 2021, an increase of 22% was generated. Planning ahead to reduce waste before the season, will lessen this effect.

Recycling Program Rules 10 x 14 in poste

Accepted paper items

Dry & Clean Paper

No shredded paper

No photo paper


Dry & Clean Cardboard

Flatten boxes

No Styrofoam or packaging


Dry & Clean Paperboard

Unlined items only

No packaging or plastic liners


Bottles & Jugs only

Empty and rinsed

No caps


Cans & Bottles

Empty and rinsed

Food and beverage containers only, no reusable containers


Bottles & Jugs only

Empty and rinsed

No caps or lids

Unaccepted items

Plastic bags of any kind

Grocery garbage

Pet food

No dispensers

from plastic bottles

Lined milk & juice cartons

Plastic & metal kitchen utensils

Pots & pans


Yard waste


Plastic plates, cups, cutlery


Ceramic plates, dishes

Plant pots

Image by Vladyslav Cherkasenko
Additional Information and Resources:
  • For more information on the City of Tampa’s Solid Waste/Recycling Programs and useful tips for reducing and avoiding waste, visit the City of Tampa’s Waste Reduction page.

  • Download the City of Tampa app for collection days and more and follow them on Social Media.

  • Many grocery and other stores have bins for recycling plastic shopping bags.

  • Publix have an expanded recycling program, capturing certain types of plastics and foam for recycling. Check here for a complete list.

  • Take the Reduce Your Use Tampa Bay Pledge!

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