From a blue bin on your curbside, to a conveyer belt at a waste management transfer center, that is just the beginning of the journey for the things you recycle.
Most of the paper and cardboard gets loaded into shipping containers and hauled off to China.
"Well that is a surprise, I didn't actually know where it went," said local resident Pat Stein-Freer.
Stein-freer is like many in Sacramento and fills her bins each week with the usual things.
"Cardboard, cardboard boxes like Amazon and the plastic milk jugs, that's mostly what's in there. And junk mail," she said.
But it turns out many of the things people are recycling are now actually considered trash, said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste. The city says a big part of the contamination results from people who aren't cleaning out their recyclable items.
"Nobody in California wants this. Nobody in China wants this," Murray said.
China recently released new standards and no longer accepts things like plastic wrappers, plastic containers and even waxed and adhesive paper like Post-its or milk cartons.
"A lot of the stuff that the cities and the counties have been telling us to put in our curbside recycling bin is no longer being accepted by the overseas markets," Murray said.
Murray says that means shipping containers of recyclables could get turned away at a cost to Sacramento.
"For this, various materials was bringing revenue in excess of $1.2 million. Now the cost for the program, because the revenue has dropped, now the costs are exceeding $1.5 million," he told FOX40.
The city and county tell FOX40 they don't plan to pass that cost along to the public through fees but they do plan to run campaigns to help clear things up for the public and may even tweak their list of recyclable items.