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Some still get it wrong when sorting out waste
• City reports that organics containers see most contamination
Garbage can separation chart
This chart details what contents are to be placed into the three containers of different colors. - photo by Courtesy of the city of Ceres

It’s been two years now since Ceres residents have been dealing with a third waste cart used to collect organic materials. But apparently there are many residents who are still not getting it right when it comes to the green can.

According to a report given to the City Council last week, there were 169 organic cart contamination violations issued in October.

The green can is for organic materials such as grass clippings, yard waste, leaves, garden waste, food soiled paper and food waste, including banana and other fruit peelings, food scraps from the plate, spoiled foods, out-of-date foods, meat scraps and fats.

The green organics cart is collected weekly at the same time as the black waste cart.

How does the city know when contamination is taking place? Bertolotti’s sanitation workers often catch contamination when dumping cans on their routes. And state law requires the city to occasionally go out and audit the contents. The city went out in October and randomly chose 100 cans throughout Ceres to check to make sure the proper contents were inside. Those who dropped in the wrong items were left a notice of contamination and informational sheet. 

“The only things that should go in the green cart would be yard waste and food waste essentially,” said Toni Cordell, an administrative analyst with the city, “or food soiled paper.”

Cordell said a common violation is dropping plastic bags into the green organics can.

Since January 2022, Ceres residents have been instructed to exclusively use the blue can for recyclables such as beverage containers, plastic bottles and jugs, paper, junk mail, newsprint, tin cans, glass bottles and jars and bottles. The blue cart is collected every other week.

The black (sometimes gray) cart is for all other household garbage which is collected each week.

A total of 14 residents were issued violation notices in October for placing leaves or limbs at the curb.

The city of Ceres only offers residential customers leaf and limb pick-up service between Oct. 1 and Jan. 9, on an every other week basis. Collection of leaf and limb debris occurs on the day after the residence’s scheduled recycling pick-up day. The service is not provided for apartment complexes or businesses.

Leaf and limb piles aren’t collected unless all of the following criteria have been met:

• Limbs must be no more than four feet in length and no bigger than six inches in diameter.

• Piles are at least a foot away from the curb in front of the residence.

• Piles cannot grass clippings, palm fronds, tree stumps, garbage, dirt or plastic bags.

The city has chosen not to fine violators to give folks time to get accustomed to the rules – but that may change soon.

“We’re at the point now where the state is really on us to do enforcement and that really kicked in on January 1st,” she said. 

During the off-season, residents should utilize their green carts for yard waste/organics disposal. All grass clippings must be placed in the green organics can, never in the gutter or street.

All organics waste from Ceres is processed at two locations – Recology Blossom Valley Organics in Vernalis or the city of Modesto Compost Facility on Jennings Road. State law requires the cities to buy back a portion of the compost which is offered to residents and farmers. Ceres is specifically required to buy 5,915 tons each year. That material is offered to residents for free at the Ceres Community Center.

“We also have a Farmer Compost Give-away program and that’s been wildly successful,” said Cordell. “We gave away over 10,000 tons … that’s a lot of compost.”

Also in October the city warned two residents about violating garbage cart storage law.

Since July 2021 it has been against the Ceres Municipal Code for residents to leave containers in public view – even on private property – unless they are set out for collection. Containers may be set out on the curb the night before collection but must be stored out of view by the end of collection day.

Enforcement is not a high priority of the limited Code Enforcement staff and is largely complaint driven despite widespread violations.

The city reported to the Ceres City Council the following information about the collection of waste for October.

The city’s contract refuse hauler, Bertolotti, picked up 1,267 tons of residential garbage, 470 tons of residential organics, and nearly 41 tons of bulky items, such as furniture and appliances, at 123 locations. Bertolotti also picked up 199 tons of residential recycling materials.

Illegal dumps continue to be a problem for the city with the Code Enforcement division initiating the clean-up of 26 locations in October that yielded 19.58 tons of waste. 

The city street sweepers picked up nearly 28 tons of material for the month.

Bertolotti took in 475 gallons of waste motor oil and 51 discarded oil filters during October.

The city is making residents aware of the second annual Free Community Disposal Day scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 3 at the Ceres River Bluff Regional Park from 8 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. City residents may dispose of large item and appliances for free, up to one truckload per utility account. A maximum of seven tires and four mattresses per vehicle will be accepted. No loose or bagged household garbage will be accepted at the event.

The free disposal event is funded by the Clean California program in partnership with Caltrans.


Deciding what goes into which of the three waste containers in Ceres can be a little confusing. Here are some items we asked the city about:

•  Glass jars? Blue can (if not broken); but broken glass glass goed in the black waste can. Same goes for wine bottles which have no CRV.

•  Styrofoam cups? Black can as they aren’t being recycled.

•  Wax cups? Black can.

•   Amazon and other cardboard boxes? Blue can, provided they are clean and not soiled.

•   Plastic jars like mayonnaise and peanut butter come in? Blue can but the city asks them to be rinsed out (yeah peanut butter can be tricky).

•  Thin cardboard boxes that Big Macs come in? Green can since the cardboard biodegradable.

•   Wood scraps? Black trash can.

•  Tin cans, including cat food cans? Blue container but try to rinse.

•  Used motor oil. Place in a sealed container with a cap and place it at curb side next to the blue can (every other week).

• Junk mail, telephone books, used office paper and newspapers all go in the blue can (unless soiled).

•  Soiled pizza boxes, paper plates and napkins? Green waste can.

• The bag of moldy bagels from Costco? Dump them into the green container but the bag in the black can.